Tag Archives: Batsheva

The Body is Beautiful. Get Used to It.

The Body Is Beautiful. Get Used to It.

This has been one of our catchphrases this season—you’ve likely seen it on flyers, our website, and, if you’re regularly walking around UCLA, dotted on light poles across the campus. (More on our other two catchphrases in forthcoming entries)

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It’s a sort of rallying cry that we have applied specifically to enhance and encompass this year’s dance performances. But, when you sit with it for a minute it’s also a unifying sentiment that can be applied to life in general.

And this sentiment kept cropping up in my mind again and again as we interacted with the artists and artistry of Batsheva Dance Company. Our first dance performances of the weekend centered around this extraordinary group of artists as they celebrated 50 years in existence.

For much of that time (since 1990) Ohad Naharin has been the artistic director and many times over the course of multiple interactions with students and audiences while Batsheva was in residence  with us, he made me think about that phrase.

As I listened to him speak and encountered his work and the artists he works with, it was clear that Ohad essentially embodies the aforementioned rallying cry.

At every opportunity, Ohad talked about why there are no mirrors in the studios or rehearsal rooms in Batsheva’s home complex in Tel Aviv, and why the company covers up mirrors wherever they travel.

Mirrors are great for some things, Ohad said, speaking to a room of UCLA World Arts and Cultures students, they’re essentially important for your dentist to use for example, he said with a chuckle.

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But they serve no purpose for dance, he said. He trains his dancers to develop a powerful perception and ownership of their own bodies in space and time, and instead of checking their form in a mirror, they instead are seeing their fellow dancers more wholly.

A few days later, speaking to the crowd who would soon be viewing Sadeh21 in Royce Hall and who had just experienced a new work from former Batsheva dancer and now L.A.-based choreographer/performer Danielle Agami, he reiterated this statement, even more strongly.

“Mirrors are destroying our souls and really slowing us down as artists,” he said. “This is not an opinion, it is a fact.”

Ohad also responded to a question from a student about what kind of “body style” he looks for in dancers.

He said he does not look for any certain body style. “Body style cannot tell you about a person’s creativity, their passion, their generousity…body style is not important.”

This elicited applause, in the form of students snapping their fingers, which piqued Ohad.

“Why did you do that? Why do you snap your fingers?” he asked, genuinely curious.

“It means we’re agreeing with you, ” one student replied.

Ohad then revealed that he asks that students or participants do not clap at the end of a Gaga class, instead, if they’re feeling inclined to celebrate the moment with sound he has them snap their fingers.

Gaga, the incredibly free and freeing movement style that Ohad developed as a training tool for dancers and which he has subsequently extended to invite participants from every walk of life all over the world.

I participated in a Gaga workshop for the public, led by one of the current Batsheva dancers, the incredible Bobbi Smith,  who, it became clear as the practice progressed, is a being of pure light and love. (If you saw the performance of Sadeh21, she was the red-leotard-clad dancer who executed an extended headstand while writhing and twisting her legs above her in perfect control.)

As I moved among the varied people gathered in the Royce Hall rehearsal room, mirrors covered by black velvet curtains, as we all moved with our own kind of abandon, following Bobbi’s simple instructions that led us to investigate movement in parts of our bodies in ways we might not otherwise instigate, I thought of our unifying sentiment:

The Body is Beautiful. Get Used to It.

No one is allowed to passively watch or photograph a Gaga session. If you want to be there, you must participate.

The Body is Beautiful. Get Used to It.

As I looked around the room of strangers, some dancers, some not, some performers, some not, I feel like we were all embodying that rallying cry.

Several of the dancers from the aforementioned Ate9 Dance Company were part of that session. It was interesting to move among them in this way, after being a silent observer of their craft and skill the night before on the Royce Terrace.

Sometimes wild and frenetic, other times ruminative, other times sharply punctuated, other times chattering non sequiters, or simply picking up chairs and handing them to unsuspecting watchers  Danielle Agami’s dancers moved through the crowd. We moved with them, as a sort of serpentine organism seeking to turn its head toward the light.

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The Body is Beautiful. Get Used to It.

It was a really special moment. The Batsheva dancers, just before they were about to take the stage themselves, perched atop a brick structure on the terrace, watching the dancers shapes and movement continually shape and re-shape the audience itself.

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Other people have spoken more eloquently about the Batsheva performance  of Sadeh21 itself. It left me personally very moved and feeling like, this company, this moment in time, this expeirence was the perfect way to set the tone for our sentiment about dance and the body.

We’ll be exploring this concept and more throughout the season as we begin work with the incredible Deborah Hay, on a project titled “Re-writing the language of dance.” With Deborah’s help we will work across broad artistic and community territories to explore the Los Angeles dance ecology and develop strategies for increased involvement and synergy.

All of this begins in two weeks, with a special event titled “Reorganizing Ourselves,” a conversation in three parts about perception, consciousness and the connection between art and science with Deborah,  Berkeley professor of philosophy Alva Noe and dance curator dance curator Michèle Steinwald.

We’re curious and excited to see what reveals itself as we reach out more cohesively than ever before to our local dance community. We want to know what people are thinking about the body, what role movement and art as exhibited bodies in motion is playing in our immediate arts culture, and how we can harness the potential of contemporary dance to push our culture ever forward.

The body, is in fact beautiful. The sooner we all get used to it, and perhaps revel in it, and support those who celebrate it…the better.

 

 

Celebrating Batsheva

It’s been a whirlwind October, beautifully concluded by an extended series of performances and events in honor of Batsheva Dance Company’s 50th Anniversary celebration.

We’re very grateful to all our members for your support of and participation with this company. It is a huge undertaking to present international companies, one that requires bringing all our resources and energy to bear, weathering unexpected and uninvited surprises such as a back up at the customs dock here in Los Angeles. The Batsheva set arrived in the nick of time, but only after much rallying and hoop jumping by the company and us as the presenter.

If you attended the performance, you know just how important that set was. The final images of those beautiful beautiful dancers, perpetually climbing the back wall, facing us, driving toward us, then flinging themselves away with abandon and strength, only to march forward again….the memory of that will stay with me. It spoke to me of effort and release, of striving and accepting, of work and gratefulness.

Many thanks to Roslyn Holt Swartz for hosting an In Conversation event with Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin  for Artist Circle members and above. He was generous with his time and spirit and brought an acute and inspiring perspective of his craft. We’re lucky to have been able to share some time with him over the course of the presentation.

For those of you who were able to join us for our Batsheva post-show reception, thank you for helping us congratulate, receive and celebrate this extraordinary company.

It was a very special way to launch our season of dance, and it was an opportunity to lay some groundwork for our commitment to building demand for dance in this city. We will be relying on our members to help us in this effort as we seek to galvanize the Los Angeles Dance community around ideas and possibilities for dance here.

Here are some highlights of the afterparty. We’ll see more of you soon!

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Batsheva Dance Company 50th Anniversary: ‘Sadeh21’ Royce Hall Nov. 1-2

The unsigned editorial from the evening’s program notes.

Performative movement, the practice of dance, or even just standing up from a chair, can be about collapse as much as precision. Training his dancers to collapse into the abilities of the body and using bodies in movement to reveal and to convince is a constant in his work, Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin told a group of students, faculty and staff in a special artist talk on campus this week.

He also broached the concept of echo, and how he as a choreographer likes to explore movement that embraces and refines echo, which has the potential to be unleashed and
expressed so uniquely by any given individual body in motion.

The body can echo. The concepts and ideas behind a work of dance can echo through us as the audience long after the performance has ended.

And indeed, the legacy and influence and artistry of one of the world’s greatest dance companies certainly echoes— across languages, lineages, cultures, geographies, and tonight throughout this hall and within each of us.

We are extremely proud to be part of the 50th Anniversary celebration of Batsheva Dance Company. The impact this institution has had on the world of dance is profound, and called for a series of programs and moments to create additional echo throughout our local community of dance artists and audiences.

We were fortunate to spend some time earlier this week on campus to hear Ohad speak about his background and aesthetic, and hosted two Gaga workshops open to students and the public.

The dancers performed Sadeh21 andanswered questions from local high school students in a Design for Sharing demonstration performance, making an impact on young emerging arts lovers and potential artists.

Part of tracing the echo of Batsheva for us also involved connecting with Danielle Agami, former Batsheva dancer and founder/director of local company Ate9. Danielle created a beautiful installation work in honor of Batsheva for the Saturday night program.

We also took the presentation of this influential company as an opportunity to start building a deeper dialogue with dance practitioners from across Los Angeles, with a special “Dance Gathering” preview performance at which we hope to begin forging new connections and inspiring new conversations about dance in our city.

For now, this weekend we celebrate Batsheva with the U.S. premiere performances of Sadeh21, a piece that serves as a wonderful introduction to the company for those who may have never seen Batsheva perform before, but also embodies the rich history and tradition of an institution that has reached a major milestone in the art of performance.

Welcome Batsheva, and welcome to you all.