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Effortless display of smooth moves
MIKHAIL Baryshnikov once hailed the Batsheva Dance Company dancers as "the best dancers in the world" and Singapore saw why, when the Tel Aviv-based company performed its acclaimed Deca-dance here in the Esplanade's Da:ns Festival.
Deca-dance is a collage of works choreographed by the award-winning Ohad Naharin from the time he was appointed as the artistic director of Batsheva in 1990. The company was founded in the 1960s by Martha Graham and Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild and is Israel's foremost contemporary dance company. Deca-dance had its world premiere in 2000, as a way to show excerpts of Naharin's creations in a decade, but now Deca-dance also includes newer pieces that the choreographer created in the last 16 years.
The night started with the pulsing Echad Mi Yodea with the dancers sitting on chairs placed in a semi-circle. Dressed formally in shirt and jacket, the dancers exploded into action from the chairs and fell back into them with the end of each line of the traditional Jewish verse they sang as a chorus. It was grounded and rhythmic - setting the pace for the rest of the night that saw excerpts taken from some 10 works - to showcase all the superlatives of what the Batsheva Company dancers are: amazingly athletic and in full control of every muscle twitch and extreme extension of their bodies.
They could be stamping their feet, beating their chest, jerking around as if electrocuted, or executing a perfect balletic jump. The dancers were strong and flexible, and switched between calm grace and sporadic twitches in the blink of an eye.
With Naharin's choreography, the most quotidian and mundane of movements could be and was translated into dance and the flow was always there. That, one supposes, is what his now-famous Gaga philosophy generates - as he trains dancers to forget whatever dance styles their bodies have been trained in and reconnect to all aspects of movement and to the scope of sensation.
Naharin has even brought Gaga to Parkinsons' patients - as he takes the democracy and joy of movement out of the disciplined dance stage. The Singapore audience got to experience that as they were invited to dance with the dancers in one of the segments. It must have been intimidating but the individuals did a great job - showing what fun can be had with simple movement.