BATSHEVA YOUNG ENSEMBLE
July 12, 2018
We live in a political moment where language seems meaningless and truth is almost impossible to discern. Ohad Naharin's "Naharin's Virus" throws this alarming fact in our faces with over an hour of both explosive and subtle dancing and provocation, accompanied by intermittently spoken text (written by Peter Handke), and music from Arab folk music to Samuel Barber. One of the dancers, dressed like a politician and standing at a microphone high up on a wall, speaks phrases that make it abundantly clear words mean nothing, or anything you want them to mean, while the dancers below dance with rage, sensuality, extreme individuality but also unity, virtuosity, precision, and fearlessness.
To think about our current crisis of language - a preoccupation of Western artists and intellectuals throughout the modern era - in a theatrical dance work has a fascinating and revelatory effect. Through repeated spoken references to us - the audience - we are forced to contend with our reality and our perceptions; our bodily functions ("you become aware of your sweaty hands" and "the air you inhale and exhale"), and our expectations ("before you came to the theater, you prepared for something..."), while entering the contained, complete, word-less world before us.
One dancer faces the wall, clad in a white long-sleeved white leotards and black tights that make her legs sort of disappear, and slowly traces a line of chalk around her body. As others enter, in the same uniform, their interactions make them seem human but also strangely other. As we watch a series of solos and various groupings that move with languidness or extreme violence, the dancers form community but also build to a chilling visualization of conflicts wrought through insults and misunderstandings -- the way language effects groupthink, the extreme dangers of empty rhetoric and conformity.
The Batsheva Young Ensemble dancers are wickedly intelligent, blatant at times, subtle at others, delivering fierce sequences of liquid movement or shrill flailing with delicious control and deadpan humor. They are a unique species, and to experience their world rewards us with an experience of dance that is a clear and powerful alternative to words, simultaneously stunning art and call to action.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson