Thursday, February 2, 2017

Batsheva: "Last Work" at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House

Above and below:
Batsheva Dance Company
performs Last Work
by Ohad Naharin
(photos: Gadi Dagon)

Last Work, performed in its New York premiere aBAM by Israel's Batsheva Dance Company, runs for about 65 minutes. And so does Rani Lebzelter, placed upstage right, her royal blue gown flowing around her shins for that entire time as she pumps away on an unseen treadmill. Her look at once heedless and heroic, she comes to represent a figure of privilege and athletic glamour. Never once does she break stride or even turn her head to gaze at her fellow performers who, after all, stay hellabusy for that same hour-and-change creating an entire Ohad Naharin fantasy world and all that implies. At one point, a blob of these dancers congeals center stage right, obstructing the audience's view of the Lebzelter's body. You can see only her disembodied head continuously bobbing above them.

She's Naharin's ostinato. A few times, the soundscape fades, allowing the perfect, rhythmic clopping of her shoes to resound. She is ground and context--even visually, the watery blue against the stage's dark surround, a pop of color amid other white and skimpy costumes, dark, monk-like cloaks, grey, accordion-like screens rigidly guarding the wings. Avi Yona Bueno's lighting makes the stage and all its creatures look like pricey abstract art in motion.

After Naharin first introduces this vision of Nakamura, another dancer advances from center stage left, hunched over and pedaling across on bent knees. To be sure, nothing as silly as a simple walk will ever do. This is the famous Gaga. More and more dancers accumulate, all with untamed bodies that have long figured out how to do things their own way. The contortion and force of it will often look uncomfortable, reckless, much less than human. But it will also mesmerize. That first man, for instance, takes his sweet time demonstrating a deep, repetitive undulation that flows from one raised knee all the way through the shoulder on that side of his body, sometimes slow, sometimes speedy. It's a sensuous yet deceptive seduction into a world where you will probably find yourself alarmed and repelled.

 A scene from Last Work
(photo: Gadi Dagon)

As it develops, Last Work comes across the most as a dire warning--and, hence, political and timely. (Naharin has openly criticized policies of the Israeli government and, I'd bet, would not look kindly on our own mess in Washington.) The community he builds and reveals in this dance is less unruly than you might first think, more likely to mold itself into tight, locked groups, engage in reassuring rituals or--and this is where the women dancers' bodies carry the heaviest symbolic burden--throw itself wide open for the taking.

It's all heading towards dubious celebration. An orgasmic barrage of rifle shots. A burst of metallic confetti. The rippling satin of a huge, white flag of.... Of what? Of national purity? Or is it, ultimately, a flag of surrender?

Affixed to their spots and firmly connected to one another by packing tape, the once hyperactive dancers come to a standstill. Not our runner, though. She wears the tape and now grasps that gleaming flag in one hand but, somehow still unaware of what has happened, keeps running in place.

Batsheva Dance Company

William Barry
Yael Ben Ezer
Matan Cohen
Omri Drumlevich
Bret Easterling
Hsin-Yi Hsiang
Rani Lebzelter
Eri Nakamura
Ori Moshe Ofri
Rachael Osborne
Nitzan Ressler
Ian Robinson
Kyle Scheurich
Or Meir Schraiber
Maayan Sheinfeld
Yoni Simon
Bobbi Jene Smith
Zina (Natalya) Zinchenko

Lighting design: Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi)
Soundtrack design and edit: Maxim Warratt
Original music: Grischa Lichtenberger
Stage design: Zohar Shoef
Costume design: Eri Nakamura

Last Work continues nightly through Saturday, February 4 with performances at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn

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