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    Absurdly divine

    Batsheva enthralls audiences during the Lincoln Center Festival 2003 with exquisite energy and illusion in artistic director Ohad Narharin's 90 minute spectacle "ANAPHAZA".


    The human body grows and regenerates through a process called cellular mitosis. This means of cell division that we all share, that unites us biologically, is also one that continuously separates us at a microscopic level. Ohad Naharin's ANAPHAZA is named after a phase of mitosis in which the very essence of what defines us as individuals, our chromosomes, shifts to opposite ends of the nucleus in preparation for division. An Israeli grown dance company, Batsheva is intimately acquainted with how it feels to be internally divided. ANAPHAZA investigates this theme in an explosively engaging tour de force comprised of high-powered dance and no small bag of tricks.

    Choreography by: Ohad Naharin.
    Dancers: Eldad, Ben-Sasson, Jeremy Bernheim, Caroline Boussard, Stefan Ferry, Kristin Francke, Youshifumi Inao, Roi Itzhak Halevy, Luc Jacobs, Gili Navot, Inbar Nemirovsky, Chisato Ohno, Rachael Osborne, Maya Weiser, Inbal Yaacobi, Arkadi Zaides, Noa Zouk, Yaniv Abraham, Matan David, Florencia Lamarca, Talia Landa, Shi Pratt, Guy Shomroni, Gavriel Spitzer.
    Costumes by: Rakefet Levi.
    New York State Theater
    20 Lincoln Center
    July 23-26, 2003

    Live drums open the show with a bang only to be surprisingly dwarfed by a pyrotechnic thunderclap. The dancers appear as if by magic standing with chairs that form a large arc spanning the stage. The sheer number of dancers is impressive, all identically dressed in traditional orthodox uniform, black suits and black hats. Almost always in unison, a vigorous gestural repetition ensues broken only by a body wave that dominos down the line of chairs. Amidst the drumming, the dancers begin to rise up in chorus singing a traditional Passover song while stripping off, piece by piece, their outer garb. Overt rejection of convention permeates the evening.

    A lone man suspended sideways instructs us on the illusion of reality and the precariousness of our perception of it. The cast undresses to reveal industrial leotards, a type of rubber corset that exhouds a rough and tough vulnerability. Darkened eyes make the dancers look like eerie corpses that are alive still. Slow, wirey movement transfixes the audience into a hypnotic show of drugged marionettes. A surrealistic underworld emerges constantly surprising with unforeseen interruptions.

    Mr. Naharin appears in a long red dress and black top hat. His voice reverberates as deeply as his electric guitar as he sings and speaks at a lone mic, nightclub style. Out comes a bald, towering MC in a gown of silver sequins. House lights come up and with total deadpan, the MC requests the audience to stand and sit according to different criteria. The proscenium has been breached but not broken. Yet.

    Everything about ANAPHASA has a dualistic quality. The movement is twisted yet engaging, indeed mesmerizing. The performers maintain a strictly serious demeanor even while being outrageously funny. Nothing is as it seems. Is this legitimate art or a freak show?

    Just when the show threatens to burst at the seems, however, the energy is cut with expert authority. Naharin is a master of pacing and feeds the audience one tantalizing tidbit after another. Two exceptionally beautiful female solos are worth mentioning. The first begins when a lone woman rushes the stage with arms outstretched circling loftily like a bird in flight. She lands into a delicate string of supple movements that ride the piano and violin accompaniment with grace and serenity. The second involves a suspended video projection that slowly lowers to reveal a woman in space. The projection ripples and sculpts itself onto the contours of her naked form. Nature scenes, crowds of people, and intricate geometric patterns paint themselves vibrantly on a living canvas in an exceptionally beautiful interlude.

    Without fanfare, Naharin forges a great reunification. The cast unceremoniously crosses the divide of illusion into reality by stepping off the stage into the house. Like clockwork, as if normal performance etiquette, each dancer chooses an audience member and twenty-four tremendously good sports suddenly find themselves on a stage many trained performers spend their whole careers trying to attain. With deceptive ease, the audience members are incorporated into the framework of the piece. At once innovative and charming, this dance with the audience is one of the most moving of the night.

    Naharin boldly challenges convention to attain the unexpected. Nonlinear by nature, ANAPHAZA fits together like an intricate jigsaw puzzle, piece by piece forming an exquisite canvas of absurd and divine.

    JULY 30, 2003

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