Batsheva Dance Company - Hora
Gaga dancers showcase their inventive style
This article is from 2012.
For many years Israeli-born choreographer Ohad Naharin has been developing his own language of abstract dance with the suitably eccentric name 'Gaga'. In Hora a grass green box provides the backdrop for his cast of 11 to exercise their Gaga flexibility, flipping surprises at every turn, a wide squat becoming a seductive twist which becomes an athletic leg lift.
The depth with which the cast feel this movement is extraordinary. Curves travel deep within the small of a dancer's back, changes of direction lick fast through their bodies. Intriguing designs are created on stage; the cast plié while one man slithers on his belly; coyly, they beetle around to a high-pitched rendition of the Star Wars theme while one of them bashes his hand against his head.
But it does sometimes feel a little too alienating. For the first twenty minutes no connections form between the dancers who wriggle and orbit in their own little worlds. Later on, duets that take place are fleeting, underpinned with brittle force, sometimes seeming more like martial arts battles or stand offs -- as if they represent our failure to grasp hold of an opportunity for tenderness when one is presented. Couples embrace then instantly push away. One couple mirror each other with one hand and make frantic rubbing gestures over their groins with the other. Naharin's language often feels deliberately ugly, designed to subvert either our expectations or the music. It works well when the mood is playful, but jars in the score's softer moments.
More interesting is his use of Wagner, a composer who is unofficially banned in Israel due to the Nazis' appropriation of him as their cultural mascot, and so taboo that two venues pulled out of hosting a Wagner concert in Tel Aviv earlier this year. If there is a subtle message against artistic censorship for political reasons -- in a work that is interrupted three times by protesters calling for a boycott of Batsheva due to their financial and cultural endorsement by the Israeli government -- this is it.
Edinburgh Playhouse, run now ended.