Batsheva Ensemble's Deca Dance is a celebration of the company's back catalogue since the time Ohad Naharin assumed the role of Artistic Director in 1990.
As with all venues so far for this UK tour, protestors were present to raise awareness of issues affecting the Palestinians, in light of the Batsheva's connection with Israel as a state-funded company. With one temporary halt to the performance to rid the auditorium of determined saboteurs the performance carried on as intended - and was a thrilling evening of dance.
Tonight's performance was given by the junior company, which cultivates dancers from the age of 18 - 24. The company was founded in 1964 by the Baroness Batsheva who enlisted the help of Martha Graham as Artistic Advisor and was the first company outside of Graham's own to perform the legendary choreographer's routines.
This is Batsheva's UK debut and what they should be remembered for is the overwhelming talent, complexity and sheer stamina that they showcase in this reflection on two decades of work. What they offer is an exciting and fresh contemporary collection that evokes every emotion. There are moments of complete stillness, tender and beautiful contrasting with sharp, fast-paced exhilarating choreography.
There is one routine in which the entire ensemble make their way into the auditorium and select members of the audience to join them on stage. There begins a humorous partner dance of the company's 'Gaga' dance style in which some members of the audience were more than willing to show off their moves. This part of the evening connected both the audience and the ensemble and there was an overriding feeling of strength as the divide between Batsheva and the public was fused.
By the end, a highly-charged dramatic climax there was definite celebration. The support from the audience was clear that this gift of a performance from the young dancers was very much appreciated.
An after-show question and answer session gave the majority of the audience who stayed behind an insight into the life of a Batsheva dancer. It is a real shame that unlike other state-funded dance companies that Batsheva's art cannot be seen separately from the political associations of their country. One of the dancers described the protests and show interruptions as very emotional. "We want to give the audience the best show that we possibly can and it is not an easy thing to be on our stage. It is a shame for a dancer to get this kind of violence when you are trying to give the gift of dance to the people. The interruptions differ by day and by venue but every time the support of the audience out weighs the opposition and the audience take away something special."
The special 'Gaga' style of dance is named for want of a better term. It was formed way before the rise of Lady Gaga and is the choreographer's own style of movement language that is easy for anyone to say. The dancers described it as a very personal means of dance communication and is accessible to dancers of any age. It is an exploration of different bodily sensations and is a research method in which the dancers discover how their brains and body can work in tandem. They aim to multitask movement through Gaga and consider it an exciting challenge for the mind and body. Each dancer has freedom to interpret the direction in a way that connects with them. Gaga is a meaningful and passionate dane language.
The company work six days a week, 10am - 5pm and a full-length show such as Deca Dance takes about one month to rehearse for. The piece is constantly being improved and is never "ready". But if you are ready for a challenging but thoroughly spectacular evening of contemporary dance do consider the incredible young dancers of Batsheva who are to be highly commended for their dedication to dance and to their company.
Deca Dance has only one more performance at the Birmingham Hippodrome and tickets can be booked for Wednesday 14th November 2012 here: http://birminghamhippodrome.com/whatson_focus.asp?showid=1739