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Batsheva Dance Company

Presented by San Francisco Performances

Batsheva's "Third" - A Stormy Experience on a Cloudless Night

by Rebecca Hirschman

October 26, 2006 -- Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Batsheva Dance Company, one of Israel’s premier modern dance companies (and originally founded in part by Martha Graham in the late 60s), returned to San Francisco after a 2-year hiatus, and as its last visit had been hyped to oblivion, I was psyched to see the company. Not quite high school cheerleader “P-S-Y-C-H-E-D” psyched, but still, I felt as though I was walking on clouds prior to the performance. Unfortunately, by the end of the night, these clouds had turned into patches of light fog and drizzle, yet in metaphor only. Outside the weather was warm and the sky star-filled.

The evening’s program consisted of Artistic Director Ohad Naharin’s 70-minute “Three,” which explores the three themes of beauty, nature, and existence. Technically, the company’s dancers performed admirably, with long, lean limbs, beautiful extensions, and an adept ability to grasp quick gestures with gritty realness. But while there were moments of choreographic genius – such as the first solo, which incorporated spot-on timing with insightful and at times gripping movement, and for that much, the entire first movement, which combined everyday pedestrian-ness with artistic flair – much of the rest of the work looked to still be in the editing stages. However, as this work premiered early last year in Tel Aviv, I knew this not to be true, and I left feeling like someone had punched my brain in the stomach. Is this even possible?

The entire second section consisted of the company’s women dancing in unison. For the entire (approximately) eighteen minutes. At a very, very dulling pace. Accompanied by the music of Brian Eno. Luckily, the dancing of Daniel Agami, Ia’ara Moses, Adi Zlatin, and Gili Navot kept me awake and somewhat interested, but I felt transported back to grade school, where everyone danced together while following the pacing of the front dancer, and my mom would be sitting somewhere in front ready to pick out which unitard-clad dancer (the one with the curls and massively thick glasses!) was hers. Sigh, the good old days.

The third section definitely was an improvement on the second, but again, it felt static and unfinished while focusing on some amateurish moments, such as black-outs with no real purpose during a potentially promising duet. Later, when the dancers mooned the audience and provided flashes of frontal nudity (hello, pubic hair!), all I could think of was “Huh?”

On the technical side, the lighting by Avi Yona Bueno was bright and airy, complimenting the white dance floor and grey block-like set frame while providing an additional “realness” to the dancers’ every movement. Bueno created lovely shadows while playing up the stark contrast between the dancers and their large space. Costumes by Rakefet Levy, though, left something to be desired. The J. Crew, tank top, polo shirt, capri, cargo short look is fine, but not if the dancers look like they just grabbed whatever was lying on the floor that day (really, a hot pink short-sleeved turtleneck, several different muted-color tank tops, and an orange polo shirt a costume design does not make).

“Three” will most likely not get the editing or make-over it needs to transform from a body of ideas to a statement of art, but hopefully when the company next returns, it’ll provide a little more thunder and lightning to accompany the R-E-S-P-E-C-T it likely deserves.

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