Batsheva at the Joyce – Male Cast

Friday night took us to the Joyce to go see Batsheva perform Ohad Naharin’s Project 5, but this time with an all-male cast. The show is billed as an evening-length work but it is really more like a sampler of earlier works pulled together into a program that is almost exactly one hour long.

Originally the pieces were set on five female dancers but for this engagement the performances alternate with an all-male cast, which feels a bit like a publicity stunt.

The evening started with George & Zalman, a quintet set to a text by Charles Bukowski and minimalist composer Arvo Pärt’s “Für Alina,” created in 2006. This was my favorite piece of the evening, maybe because of my fondness for Bukowski and the unlikely pairing of his poetry with choreography. A duet, B/olero, came after the quintet – it is the only work created specifically for Project 5. This was followed by Park (an excerpt from Moshe), which is a trio created in 1999. The evening concluded with another quintet, Black Milk, which was created in 1985 and revised in 1991.

The evening is enjoyable but a bit slight. I saw Max at BAM in 2008 and that was truly an evening-length performance that really displayed the full range of Naharin’s choreography. Project 5 feels hastily assembled – even though it world premiered in 2008- while each individual piece is engaging enough, there doesn’t seem to be an overall arc to the evening. I always love watching Batsheva dancers. Naharin’s movement style – Gaga – is very expressive and intense. The dancers always seem to be incredibly focused and disciplined while embodying a kind of freedom of movement that comes from a very alive center. But I suppose its meaningful that while it was pleasant to watch in the moment, very little of the imagery stuck with me. A few things here and there were momentarily arresting, but overall the evening came and went without any major fireworks.

A few years ago I was in Tel Aviv and I happened to have the good fortune to be invited into a Batsheva rehearsal at the Suzanne Dellal Center. It was fascinating to watch them warm up and have Naharin put the moves on them (as it were). Gaga is all about expressiveness and watching the dancers discovering the ways their bodies moved was riveting. Part of what makes it so alive in performance is that the movement is really culled from core experience and is meant to vibrate and shimmer with aliveness. At its best it is breathtaking. But Project 5 was kind of “by-the-numbers”, a good, light introduction to Batsheva for those who haven’t experienced the work before, but its not the strongest overall.

Batsheva’s Project 5 continues at the Joyce through October 3rd. For more information click here.

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