Move over, Russia and England, some of the best dancers in the world happen to live in Tel Aviv, Israel, and they’re coming to Los Angeles this month. The Batsheva Dance Company will stop by the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA on November 1 and 2 as part of its 50th Anniversary Tour. Named for its founder Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild, the Batsheva Dance Company is considered one of the best contemporary dance companies in the world.
The Baroness was born in London and raised in Paris, where she enlisted in the Free French Forces during World War II to be part of the landing force for the Battle of Normandy. After the war, this adventurous noblewoman moved to New York to study dance before settling in Israel in 1962. She established the dance company in 1964 and also opened a school while continuing to dance professionally until her death in 1999. As Israel’s biggest dance company, boasting a roster of 34 dancers, the Batsheva performs over 250 shows a year all over the world for approximately 75,000 spectators. Its current show “Sadeh21” (“sadeh” being the Hebrew word for field, as in field of study) is divided into 21 parts.
According to the CAP at UCLA, “‘Sadeh21’ is an explosive physical journey rich in sensations revealed through a succession of solos, duets and group ensembles that are in turn delicate, athletic, slow or twitchy, reflecting the many different ways to exist in the world.” The show is choreographed by Ohad Naharin, who has been with Batsheva since 1990 and is seen as one of the world’s preeminent choreographers. While Batsheva is highly revered, it’s not without controversy. The Israeli dance company’s appearance at the 2012 Edinburgh International Festival was met with a boycott due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. Dance Director Lloyd Newsom refused to participate in the protest, stating, “I accept the right of all people to protest peacefully against what they find objectionable … but I am extremely wary of artists calling for the banning of other artists, except in exceptional circumstances where, for example, the work itself directly incites violence against an identifiable group of people.”
In addition to the Batsheva performances, the CAP at UCLA will host two dance workshops taught by Batsheva dancers on October 29 and November 2. Free and open to the public, the first workshop is for dancers at intermediate or higher levels, while the second workshop is open to all levels. Called Gaga Workshops, participants will learn about “gaga,” a movement language developed by Naharin.
The Batsheva Dance Company will perform at the CAP at UCLA on November 1 at 8 p.m. and November 2 at 4 p.m.