A Dancer’s Form is not Shaped by Gravity
We are aware of the connection between effort and pleasure, we are aware of the distance between our body parts, we are aware of the friction between flesh and bones, we sense the weight of our body parts, yet, our form is not shaped by gravity… We are turning on the volume of listening to our body, we appreciate small gestures, we are measuring and playing with the texture of our flesh and skin, we might be silly, we can laugh at ourselves. We connect to the sense of “plenty of time”, especially when we move fast, We learn to love our sweat, we discover our passion to move and connect it to effort. – Ohad Naharin
Last week, About a month ago, I saw Sadeh21 by the Batsheva Dance Company at the Kennedy Center. I’ve seen many classical ballet performances from various companies over the past year including the Washington Ballet, ABT and the Mariinsky Ballet. I’ve attended a few musicals, a local dance festival and even hosted one myself! However, I could not claim that I went to a contemporary performance by a contemporary dance group in some time. I was drawn to Batsheva Dance Company because the description stated, “The magnetic performance creates a thick emotional resonance that echoes throughout the work.” It talked about grit, sensuality, and humor.
The performance was absolutely fascinating. A true study in the movement of the human body. At times the Batsheva dancers were very deliberate and subtle with their movements. Blink and they quickly moved on to staccato and almost frenzied dancing. It was an interesting juxtaposition between those two types of expressions: hard and fast in tandem with soft and slow. There were points where the dancers seemed as though they were moving through a viscous liquid that inhibited their body from truly moving freely and other times where you were sure you were watching a seizure happen on stage.
This performance was incredibly different from ballet where there is usually a distinct story or plot line. There was no plot or scenario that I could really discern. At first, it was honestly a bit distracting. We have been conditioned in the dance world to expect a distinct story. This is clearly pronounced in classical ballet, however just think of So You Think You Can Dance. The intro clip seen before the dance is as much about getting to know the dancers as it is about giving the audience an opportunity to understand the piece. How many times have you heard the judges use the critique they didn’t feel as though the story came across effectively? Once I accepted there was no explicit story and that the entire performance was more a showcase of movements and expressions, it was much more enjoyable.
The movement these dancers were highlighting stems from the dance form Gaga. Gaga is the movement language developed by Ohad Naharin, the artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company. It seeks to connect the conscious and unconscious movement. It is about accessing the emotions of the body and making them physical. While there is apparently no emphasis on form or technique, it is stunning clear that the professional dancers in the company have an abundance of both.
The first video is actually a collection of moments from Sadeh21. In this clip, you can really see the range of motions, emotions, and pace that I was referring to earlier. Also, while it may seem as though parts of this video have a bit of slow motion editing, I assure you it does not. There were times in the dance when I thought to myself “Are they moving? What is happening??” As I researched more about the style, I realized that was completely natural and in fact, whether they appear to or not, the dancers are always moving. The second video gives you a bit more insight into Gaga from the company dancers and artistic staff.
Yours truly, DancePundit