It is rare that a dance audience has to run the gauntlet of protesters but Israel’s Batsheva Ensemble couldn’t have chosen a worse time for their London debut. Increased tensions in Gaza and calls for a cultural boycott meant there was almost as much activity outside the theatre as inside. And not all of which was part of the performance.
A scene from Deca Dance at Sadler's Wells, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Like NDT2, Batsheva Ensemble is the junior arm of the veteran company and the average age of their dancers is 20. Youth, then, is on their side. This is a programme of a newly revised fragments of past work and it comes across like a ‘Best Of’ sampler rather than a fully realised work. Under the circumstances, with three disruptions during the performance from pro-Palestinian protesters who had smuggled their way past the heightened security at the theatre, it was probably just as well.
They can do funny, sexy and energetic. But apart from one pas de deux set to an early music song, they don’t do intimacy.
What they have is a collective enterprise that delivers amazing ensemble works such as the line-up at the front of the stage in which each individual shakes it all about in their own way before snapping into a synchronised fist-shaking gesture; better still, the final sequence, danced on a semi-circle of chairs employs a repeated Mexican wave of movement that forms the spine of the piece, broken only by the last man who keeps flinging himself to the floor.
The segment in which the cast come down into the audience and collect a partner each to dance on stage is an obvious crowd pleaser.
Musically diverse, they mix cheesy lounge music with heavy techno covers of traditional music, Dick Dale’s surf guitar version of Hava Nagila with Dean Martin, Goldfrapp and Vivaldi. The Gaga movement system developed by the group technique may allow for a greater sense of individual expression but the fundamental principle is controlled youthful energy channelled into structures that are short, sharp and frequently thrilling.