An Evening with Batsheva’s MAX
I’m sitting here in my room right now, my mind absolutely reeling. I can’t believe what I just saw. And I wish I could go back in time and see it all over again.
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We begin with all the dancers onstage, the men standing and the women in a painstakingly perfect grande plié. For a while, nothing happens. The anticipation is so thick that it’s almost like watching a horror movie; you never know what’s going to happen or when. Suddenly, with perfect timing, all the women lean onto their left knees. And thus begins a thrilling hour of flailing limbs, devastating falls, breathtaking recoveries, and chilling balances. Their timing is exquisite, each dancer moving at exactly the same time. I remembered an article I’d read a few months back about how they use verbal cues through earpieces to achieve this incredible effect. Knowing that kind of felt like being backstage at Disneyland. But at the same time I was relieved to know that the dancers of Batsheva are human beings who need cues and not superheroes blessed with the magical ability to dance perfectly in synch.
The only way to describe Ohad Naharin’s choreography is to call it mind-unraveling. I felt my brain cells melt and separate until I was completely hypnotized. The only thing better than Naharin’s choreography is the way his dancers perform it. They move deliberately with the utmost virtuosity and it’s absolutely incredible to watch. They have stunning technique, and are able to go from ridiculous, comical thrusting to perfect ballet lines in a split second. Their performance left me breathless.
There were a few parts of MAX in particular that stuck out to me. The first being the multiple times throughout the piece where they sat in a pyramid formation and exploded in a flurry of gestural movement. It manages to be both breathtakingly intricate and bluntly simple at the same time. Another part that I can’t get out of my head is when a series of crashing sounds explode through the speakers and the dancers slammed into different positions with heart-stopping precision. Their stops were so exact that it was as if someone pressed PAUSE. Then came a hypnotizing accumulation series, set to what sounded like counting in another language (I originally thought it was Hebrew, but discovered it wasn’t after further research). One. One, Two. One, Two, Three, and so on and so forth. Each number corresponded with a single crisp movement that built and built with each cycle. This repeated over and over and over again, until I almost felt like I could count in whatever language it was myself even though I have never studied it. It may sound maddening, but I honestly could have watched it all night. Then finally, just when you think the dancers have nothing else left, they get back into that pyramid formation and, at the top of their lungs, scream the lyrics of an earlier song. Blackout. I’m left sitting in my seat, completely dumbfounded by what I just saw.
Ever since I first heard of Ohad Naharin and Batsheva, I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what it is about his work that affects me so. After watching MAX, it hit me. I feel like Naharin’s work is the choreographic equivalent to saying what everyone else is too afraid to say. Others keep their mouths shut to avoid ruffling feathers, while Naharin flies in the face of such thinking. His choreography says what everyone is too afraid to say. And I love that. It’s not only thrilling to watch, it’s also refreshing. And I’ll never get sick of it.