The Israeli-based dance troupe Batsheva Ensemble is renowned for its distinct style and dynamic movements. But for this week’s performances, politics have unfortunately taken the lead.
If you had not received the warning messages from the theatre, you might have thought you were attending a demonstration. Activist groups supporting both Israel and Palestine sang and chanted out front. Padded policemen guarded the entrance, while a queue backed out to Angel courtesy of a thorough bag check.
Once inside, we breathed a sigh of relief. At last we could watch what we came for — impeccable dance. The group of 18-24 year-olds known as the junior Batsheva Dance Group did not disappoint. Performing to artistic director Ohad Naharin’s most loved segments from the last 20 years, the young dancers took the re-hashed material and ran with it, literally.
The first half opened with all 40 performers confidently moving to Naharin’s coined ‘Gaga-style’ of explosive, yet agile, rhythms. Simple formations gave way to intricate partner sequencing, while bigger sets interchanged with softer pieces, such as a beguiling duet to the emotive music of Vivaldi. The section concluded with an Indian-themed modern dance-off that was so infectious, everyone wanted to get up and join along.
And as it so happens, the second half began with an engaging set where select audience members were brought on stage to shake and shimmy. This was followed by a beautiful arrangement of lifts and split leaps that nearly brought the house down in tears. The finale concluded with more Indian fun – this time with contemporary grooves and a feisty flavour. We were left wanting more, like a child in need of just one more treat.
Some describe Deca Dance as a mosaic in motion. Each work is individual, yet pieced together as a definitive whole. From entertaining to passionate and even sad. And while politics is not something that Naharin likes to discuss, it is something nonetheless that cannot be avoided. This point was proven when the show was briefly stopped three times because of anti-Israeli supporters shouting political diatribe.
Batsheva Ensemble – Deca Dance is at Sadler’s Wells concludes this evening, Wednesday 21 November at 7.30pm. Tickets are £12-£32.