On November 1st and 2nd at Royce Hall, put on by The Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, Tel-Aviv based Batsheva Dance Company performed the U.S. premiere of Sadeh21, as part of their 50th Anniversary Tour. Sadeh21 utilizes variations in solo and ensemble movements, music, stage design, and costuming to reflect the human experience and the many different ways one can exist in each moment.
The Hebrew word “Sadeh” translates to field in English. So, as its title suggests, the performance was divided into 21 different fields or sections, each representing a different way of being. Naharin used variations of solo, duet, and group pieces to represent different human relationships. The movement vocabulary of the company was at once athletic and pedestrian. One moment, a dancer would be running across the stage, or holding her leg above her head, and the next she would be simply walking or standing next to another dancer. This dichotomy helped to establish a portrayal of the range that one can exist as in each moment. In my opinion, Naharin’s choices in instrumental music and spoken word revealed some political and social messages about the nation of Israel, although that is just my interpretation. I was most impressed by Naharin’s ability to make this piece aesthetically pleasing and intricate, while also choreographing such an accurate picture of the human experience. Intense, complex, sad, hopeful, radiant–Naharin manages to accurately convey human experience while also leaving audiences room for their own interpretation.
As a dance student here at UCLA, and Batsheva being one of my favorite dance companies, this was a huge privilege. Me getting to see Batsheva perform would almost be equivalent to my Dad getting to see Led Zeppelin in concert (almost. Led Zeppelin is way cool/maybe the most successful band of all time and I know that). While I was so enthralled and entertained just by the performance itself, I also enjoyed the moments before and after, where I got to see how non-dance audiences anticipated and reacted to the performance.
While exiting the theater, I couldn’t help but overhear the man in front of me rave about the performance. His friend that he attended with was also impressed, but not quite as enthusiastic as he was. Looking for a fellow audience member to discuss with, the man eagerly asked what I thought. We then talked about the performance for about 20 minutes in the lobby of Royce Hall. I introduced myself, explaining what a big deal this was for me as a dance student. His name was David, and had never really seen a concert dance performance before. It was as if Sadeh21 had manifested itself into my conversation with this stranger, a human interaction choreographed as a post-show performance. My favorite part about my interaction with David was when he said, “I’m fat, 60 years old, and know very little about this. But I think I want to dance now.”
As exemplified by David, instead of distancing the gap between dancer and audience as non-commercial dance performances can, Sadeh21 brings the audience closer. Naharin’s use of pedestrian and technical movements causes viewers to simultaneously admire the pure athleticism and technique of the dancers while also sympathizing with their more pedestrian movements– deriving meaning by recognizing their own movement within the dancers. Moments filled with tension, like when a tall, masculine man spoke in a high-pitched voice, forced the audience to think about how the music, movement, lighting, and even costume made them feel. To me, that is the power of dance as an art form: to effect audiences with no words. Music has lyrics, poetry has verse, paintings have a canvas. Dance performance does not have this–it exists and then not at all. It is difficult to be affected by an art form in which its instrument, the body, can be disconnected from the mind. But, from what I observed, Sadeh21 left audiences with intrigue, a desire to understand, and even to dance. I look forward to witnessing how Batsehva will change society’s perspective of dance as an art form in Los Angeles. Immediately proceeding the show, my instinct was to want more. More shows like Sadeh21 and more companies like Batsheva to continue a dialogue between dancer and audience. If we can bring more performances like Sadeh21 to UCLA, Los Angeles even, then dance can completely evolve into a more widely understood and appreciated art form as a way to reflect and talk about the human experience.
by: Allyson Adams
To learn more about Batsheva Dance Company’s 50th anniversary tour, visit their website here.