choreography by Ohad Naharin
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Cedar Lake Theater
New York, NY
June 16, 2007
[Performances continue through July 1st.]

by Susan Reiter
copyright © 2007 by Susan Reiter

If New York had not yet taken significant notice of this young venture, now completing its second year in its well-appointed Chelsea headquarters, the Decadance" program has definitely put it on the map. Acquiring this generous and fascinating full-evening of choreography by the always idiosyncratic and venturesome Ohad Naharin, and having the luxury of performing it over four weeks, was a wise choice. The dancers’ immersion, over several months, in Naharin’s “gaga” movement style, in addition to the actual rehearsals of the choreography, resulted in bold, juicy performances of a program that offers both an overview of what Naharin has been up to over the past two decades as well as an intriguing opportunity to contemplate his recurring imagery.

Although it is comprised of 15 selections representing nine different works (and a musical excerpt from a tenth), “Decadance” flowed seamlessly, thanks to savvy staging and fluid lighting design. Two complete shorter works were incorporated amid the excerpts from longer pieces, several of which had been presented locally in their entirety by Batsheva Dance Company, which Naharin directs, in recent years.

What provides a thread for the evening is the wholeheartedly committed, robust dancing and the vibrant communal energy with which the sections for large ensemble pulsate. Naharin has gotten these dancers to move from their heart and their gut, with a wonderfully instinctual approach, free of any veneer of
performance mannerisms. They look us in the eye — and, during the “DWA Excerpt from ‘Zachacha’” draw audience members, with quiet insistence, into the dance.

Naharin’s choreography celebrates individuality, the beauty as well as the ungainly attributes of the human body. In the riveting opening “Arab Line Excerpt from Naharin’s Virus,’” they resemble mannequins in their odd yet sensual costume of ochre unitard overlaid with thigh-high stockings. Lined up across the very wide stage, lit so that their faces are barely discernible, they burst into sudden flinging movements, jerking and torquing their bodies abruptly at assigned moments that come at us with the force of a surprise explosion. Every now and then they magically come together in moments of unison fist-shaking. The tension between stillness and activity is exquisite, and the eye has almost too much to take in. The rich, rhythmic Arab music is ideally chosen, as are all Naharin’s scores during the evening.

Several excerpts feature the dancers in black fedoras, black suits and white shirts, a uniform that blends sophisticated allusions and ironic distance. Who are these mysterious, quietly sensual figures, who brim with suggestive promise and dangerous secrets? It is in this guise that they bring selected (and quite willing, even eager) audience members on stage for a sequence that allows express themselves to a cha-cha version of “Hooray for Hollywood” and engage in some close dancing to “Sway.” The birhgt splashes of color worn by the non-professionals stood out amid the black and white, as did the variety of approach; one guy couldn’t wait to cut loose and assert his own choreographic agenda, while others more timidly tried to pick up the general vibe of what to do next. Prompted by whispered instructions, they returned to their seats until one woman remained standing in the center as the dancers flopped onto their backs.

“Zachacha", a 1998 work, also provided the extended solo which the amazing Jon Bond performed during the intermission. One moment, he was a wistful marionette, the next, a suggestive manipulator. Slippery and suave, evoking both childlike innocence and come-hither sophistication, this lithe dancer masterfully dared us not to watch him.

The two complete works performed were “Black Milk,” a ritual fantasy for five men who smear their faces and torsos with grey paint, and “George and Zalman,” a quietly intense sequence of repeated accumulations for five women in black tops and short skirts, performed as a woman’s voice calmly intoned an accumulating sequence of suggestions (“ignore all concepts and possibilities”) and the
heartbreaking circular melody of Arvo Part’s “Fur Alina” played. The first is the earliest work included, while “George and Zalman,” from 2006, is the most recent.

Naharin’s juicy, thrilling compilation evening both entertains and disturbs. It opens up expansive possibilities about how and why the human body moves, poses questions about how we watch and relate to moving bodies, and reverberates long after it is over.

Top, "Black Milk" from "Decadance" by Ohad Naharin. Dancers (clockwise), Nickemil Concepcion, Riley Watts, Jon Bond and Matt Rich. Photo: Paul B. Goode
Bottom, Ana-Maria Lucaciu and Jessica Lee Keller in "Decadance" by Ohad Naharin. Photo: Paul B. Goode

Volume 5, No. 25
June 25, 2007

copyright ©2007 by Susan Reiter

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