This week marks Batsheva Dance Company’s two-week return to The Joyce Theater after nearly twenty-seven years. The Tel-Aviv based company is presenting artistic director Ohad Naharin’s Project 5 (a New York premiere) with separate casts – one all-female and one all-male. As Naharin mentioned in a post-performance chat on Wednesday evening, “Dance is not about gender.” The all-female cast last night showed wonderful clarity, intention, and texture throughout the four varied sections of the piece. I’ll write more about the performance after also seeing the male cast next week. For now, I’ll share some of the memorable moments from Naharin’s post-performance discussion and Q&A with the audience.
The conversation, moderated by Joanne Robinson Hill, Joyce’s Director of Education, focused on Gaga (Naharin’s movement language) and the development of Project 5. After Naharin explained that he enjoys observing the dancers’ interpretation of movement and their individuality, an audience member remarked that he found the performance to be completely lacking in individuality. He went on to say that the performance seemed highly choreographed and synchronized. Calmly, Naharin responded, “I cannot teach you to see.” So simple, so true. After a bit more back and forth interaction between the two in which the audience member said he saw no differences among the dancers (which, to me, was startling since the performance was filled with striking, beautiful idiosyncrasies in their movement), Naharin replied, “I can almost close my eyes and see the differences.” With Naharin’s insights fresh in mind, I’m looking forward to seeing the male cast next week.
On a separate note, it was very disheartening to see protesters in front of the Joyce before the performance began, encouraging the public to boycott Batsheva’s performances. Individuals should not project their dislike for a country’s government on its artists, cultural institutions, or their contributions to the arts.