Israeli Dance Troupe “Batsheva” in Town This Week

A Dance Troupe co-founded by Martha Graham back in 1964 is on it’s way for a series performances at the Yerba Buena Center For The Arts Oct Oct. 26-29. Batsheva, currently directed by the charismatic & controversial Ohad Naharin, is a troupe that has attracted critical acclaim & star international dancing talent, while performing to a variety of music ranging from J.S Bach to Brian Eno.

Long since moved on with the times, the troupe has found new creative spark over the few years under Naharin, and has included use of live percussion, audience interaction, video images and even mud to liven up up the oft gracefully irrelevant old lady pleasing art form of “modern dance”…

More info on the troupe, tickets and showtimes is available after the jump

While founded by Martha Graham and her leading patron Baroness Bethsabee (Batsheva) de Rothschild in 1964, Graham left and there was soon some creative controversy. By the 1970’s Baroness de Rothschild had decided to establish another troupe in Israel named Bat-Dor; while Batsheva, managed to carry on with government support. Reportedly it languished for a long time, but has come back into the creative fore with Naharin behind the wheel. However, while supported by the Israeli Government, the troupe has attempted to remain independent creatively, and Naharin has tried to stay out of the political froths that threaten to sink his tiny creative ship.

The difficulty of being creatively independent reared it’s head most famously in 1998 during Israel’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations. Naharin was forced by conservative religious elements in Jerusalem to put more clothes, on his dancers, initially he balked and then agreed but resigned during the ensuing brouhaha. The dancers then refused to dance in the suggested longjohns.
But the show must go on…

“The day after the Jerusalem gala, he agreed to return as director because of expressions of support from Mayor Roni Milo of Tel Aviv, members of parliament and his board. ”

— Ny Times

Naharin returned to Batsheva and soon created more buzz in his homeland with the 2001 debut of a performance called “Naharin’s Virus,” in which dancers scribble graffiti about Palestine on a wall, with music by an Arab composer named Habib Allah Jamal.

Naharin has himself made comments that have put his funding in precarious position before such as these made to Dance magazine in 2002 describing how he runs Batsheva

“It is structurally amazing and totally opposite from what is going on in Israel. We have a society in Batsheva of people who respect human rights. People who work here are generous, intelligent, and willing to listen to each other–everything that I see outside in my country right now is quite opposite.”

Creatively the works interpretitive bent seems angled towards expressing peaceful resolutions, and historically the troupe has not featured exclusively Israeli citizens, or even all Jewish dancers.

Naharin,born in Isreal, is an American citizen since 1991, a former dancer with the troupe, who became the current artistic director in 1990. Since assuming the head choreagrapher role he’s put more of his personality into the troupe, and in 2004 told a writer in Paris that

“There is absolutely nothing left of the original troupe except the name”

This time around Batsheva have 30 dancers, and a varied repertoire for each cit while they’ve been on a cash raking US Tour that’s seen them play NY’s Lincoln Center and even Iowa City this fall. While in SF they will be performing “Three”, a compilation of pieces exploring Beauty, Nature and Existence….

Aside from himself, Naharin also finds important the

“the joy of movement; dance which means going beyond limits, and working with talented designers, collaborating with composers, and recycling ideas to find a new angle”.

Batsheva Dance Company performs 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26 through Saturday, Oct. 28, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St. (at Third Street), S.F. Tickets: $27-$44. For more information, call (415) 392-2545

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