Ohad Naharin is Turning Over the Reins at Batsheva

Ohad Naharin in rehearsal with members of Batsheva Dance Company. Photo by Gavi Dagon, Courtesy Daniels Murphy Communications.

It's difficult to imagine a Batsheva Dance Company without Ohad Naharin at the helm. The provocative choreographer has been the Israeli troupe's artistic director since 1990, during which time the company, its lead choreographer and his movement language, Gaga, have become more or less synonymous. But changes are afoot.

Batsheva quietly announced on its website this weekend that Naharin will be stepping down from his post as artistic director in September 2018. Taking over the top job is former company member Gili Navot, a master Gaga teacher and choreographer who has also staged Naharin's work. In a release following the announcement, Naharin praised Navot's "outstanding leadership qualities necessary for management."

Not to worry, Naharin fans: The enigmatic leader isn't going far. He'll continue to serve as the company's house choreographer. Of his decision to step down, Naharin says, "When I arrived to Batsheva 27 years ago, the company was in a deep identity crisis. As artistic director, I was committed to a dramatic change. We had to change the way we thought, the way we trained and why we danced, to change our artistic values, production values and work ethics. These vital changes enabled me to be at my best as a creator. Today...Batsheva operates at the highest level. This enables me to resign from my role as artistic director and dedicate myself to creation, to the dancers and to Gaga research."

So while things are changing, the company's identity isn't likely to undergo too drastic a makeover, especially with an artist so steeped in Gaga as Navot. We are curious to see how much the new director will choreograph on the company (she participated in the Batsheva Dancers Create platform multiple times during her company days), not to mention what guest choreographers she'll bring in.

We're wishing Batsheva, Naharin and Navot all the best as they navigate this transition over the coming year.

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