Dance Review: ‘Max’

March 10, 2009 Updated: March 10, 2009

LOS ANGELES—To watch Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company is to perceive a new vocabulary of movement. It is evocative and raw, brave and compelling, honest and powerful—much like Israel itself in many ways, its complex and sensual home.

The agitation and angst that seems to often characterize modern dance, expressing the alienation and discord of our contemporary society was not absent in “Max.” It was performed at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Feb. 28 and March 1. The exceptionally talented and athletic dancers, took us on a journey of the human experience with such profound originality and technical proficiency, it was nothing short of riveting.

Founded by Martha Graham and Baroness Batsheva De Rothchild in 1964, the Tel Aviv based company, is comprised of an international cast of dancers, both from Israel and abroad. All participate in a creative process steered by Ohad Naharin.

Naharin, the innovative, award-winning artistic director since 1990, has helped establish the reputation of the 40 member/two troupe company. It is among the most inspirational and sought after companies within the global community of performing arts.

Naharin has developed a unique form of dance that he has coined Gaga, which he explains, is more like a language than a technique. It was born out of a severe back injury that left Nahrin searching, through study of physiology, for ways to heal and restore mobility. He understood that his discoveries would not only benefit his dancers, but could also more effectively communicate to them his vision .

“My dancers learn how to connect to their bodies in more efficient ways, understand their weaknesses and find within themselves multidimensional movement,” Naharin told the Los Angeles Times.

Gaga is also now taught in popular workshops in Israel for dancers and non-dancers alike, attracting hundreds of followers and enthusiasts.

“People come in heavy and depressed and come out energetic and aroused,” said Naharin.

Naharin has addressed the concerns of those who voice their objections over political and social issues in Israel by protesting outside the dance venue. Naharin offers, “I totally forgive and totally understand the people that want to fight for human rights. They see the injustice that is sometimes happening in my country and they want to protest about it,” Naharin told straight.com, but suggested that boycotting a dance troupe was not a productive response.

“The boycott [of Batsheva] is just preventing something that is good to come out of Israel, something that actually opposes the violence.” Naharin continued, “I oppose the violence, and in my work I teach for something else… I think artists represent something that is usually missing in politics, which is the search for new solutions.”