Fields of dreams, fields of anguish, fields of play – Ohad Naharin and the dancers of the Batsheva Dance Company gently lead the audience through their landscape with joy and passion. The dancers sculpt their movements from the inside out, taking us on an emotional journey.
The company, founded in 1964 by Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild and American dance pioneer Martha Graham, is based in Tel Aviv and was last in Adelaide in 1996, when it presented two works – Anaphase and Mabul.
This piece, Sadeh21, means “field” in Hebrew, as in a field of study. It is made up of a series of movement studies, with projected titles announcing each new sadeh.
Naharin developed a movement technique called Gaga when he was recovering from a back injury. He was looking for a technique that worked with the body, rather than against it. In collaboration with his dancers, the result is a dance vocabulary that leads to a more relaxed and easy physical fluidity, no matter how complex the movement pattern.
The choreography sneaks up on you. The first sadehs introduce individual dancers, followed by couples and contrasting emotional scenarios: a group of three walking slowly in a circle, holding hands, gradually joined by other dancers, while one person is writhing in isolation upstage.
Relationships are formed and then founder; at times these are overtly sexual, at times comedic. Naharin plays with the audience by introducing the next title as Sadeh7-18, then pulls the piece into focus in Sadeh19 with the line-up of male dancers performing a surreal version of the old chorus girl “kick line” before speeding into a march that becomes a terrifying display of power.
The final act recalls eloquently the myth of Sisyphus, with dancers climbing and falling ad infinitum. There is no curtain call.
Sadeh21 is subtle, it’s frantic, at times political and definitely passionate. Naharin and his dancers are masters of their art and certainly sculpting a new shape for dance.
Batsheva Dance Company’s Sadeh21 is being performed at the Festival Theatre until March 8.
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