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    Ia'ara Moses and Chen-Wei Lee in Batsheva: Hora
    Photo by Stephanie Berger
    Ia'ara Moses and Chen-Wei Lee

    The Height of Community

    Batsheva Dance Company comes to BAM


    Subtle is not a word I've associated with Gaga-inspired choreography, so it is startling that "subtle" is the first word to describe Batsheva's Hora show at BAM. From the unobtrusive and unexpected opening to the soft and seamless ending, nothing feels overwrought. The gentle hands of the dancers seem more notable than any big leaps or serious speed. The Batsheva dancers are a diverse but cohesive dream team, exquisitely perfect for what Ohad Naharin asks of them.

    Choreography by: Ohad Naharin.
    Dancers: Shahar Biniamini, Matan David, Iyar Elezra, Chen-Wei Lee, Doug Letheren, Ia'ara Moses, Rachael Osborne, Shamel Pitts, Ian Robinson, Bobbi Smith, Adi Zlatin.
    Music by: Ryoji Ikeda/Isao Tomita.
    Sound design by: Maxim Waratt.
    Set design by: Avi Yona Bueno.
    Costumes by: Anna Mirkin.
    Lighting design by: Avi Yona Bueno.
    Bench design: Amir Raveh.
    Brooklyn Academy of Music
    March 7-10, 2012

    As the originator of the growing dance language Gaga, Naharin makes much richer and deeper work than his imitators, if Hora is a good indication. Dramatic movements are sprinkled throughout, but they feel incidental; they serve more as flashes of exuberance, sheer energy bursting spontaneously out of charged-up humans. It is the quiet intensity in group unison sections that stands out: the slow, deliberate walk from backstage bench to forestage that begins the evening; and crossed-wrist hands flapping against the chests of all in a sort of spirit-summoning or group catharsis are two of the most memorable.

    There is a good mix of male and female energies as well, each taking turns at prominence in an organic pendulum. Sexual tension lurks but never sparks; again, subtle is the word. A lone woman, belly to floor, begins to move slowly forward by lifting her hips and undulating. It seems only natural that this brings all the men onstage, intrigued or simply reclaiming the space from her sheer femininity.

    Shahar Biniamini (front) and Ia'ara Moses (behind) in Batsheva: Hora  
    Photo by Stephanie Berger  
    Shahar Biniamini (front) and Ia'ara Moses (behind)
    Small, sharp Shahar Biniamini makes the opening solo his and then melts into the group, and Chen-Wei Lee does similar as the dramatic female "lead." There are no obvious leaders, of course, and all take turns at being remarkable, but these two stick in mind more than most. All share an unusual combination of high flexibility and high explosive power. And the women, by combination of costume design and genes, have hips. A seatmate even thought of Mad Men women or '60s swimsuits, and both are possible allusions.

    Allusions abound, especially in the soundtrack. For effect or for comedy, the Star Wars theme, "Ride of the Valkyries" and the theme song from 2001: A Space Odyssey each make appearances, and every piece of music chosen for this seamless medley has similar notoriety and multiple associations. The most striking movement allusion in Hora is the dramatic swooning fallback move popular in street dance; in the midst of everything else going on, it seems hilarious.

    Batsheva Dance Company in Batsheva: Hora
    Photo by Stephanie Berger
    Batsheva Dance Company

    Much is left unexplained and unexplainable, naturally, but themes of oddly limp hands and feeble punching are mystifying. Are these impotent violence, extreme relaxation as combat technique or simply movement that feels good? It is no surprise that actual violence has no place here, though. The strong sensation of Hora is that community is essential and that diversity and free expression are actually conducive to harmony. There is no big arm-in-arm circle dance or any specific allusion to wedding or even celebration, but none is necessary.

    Wikipedia gets the last word, because this description of "hora" seems to also describe Gaga exactly:

    "In the past, the horo dance had a social role in [...] society. It was mainly for fun, as a contest of skills, or for the show, leading to the development of the variety of horo dances. There are hora for people with little skill that can be learned in five to ten minutes, but there are also very sophisticated dances that cannot be learned unless one is fluent in many of the simpler dances."

    MARCH 12, 2012

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