The Hole and/is Ohad Naharin’s Great Mind
Updated: Apr 5, 2019
One of Israel most appreciated creators Ohad Naharin, who is now the former Artistic Manager of Batsheva Company, has re-exhibited one of his most talked about performances “ The Hole”, first out on 2013.
I have heard about it for a while from several people and they all had the similar reaction of taking a long relieving breath, then say :“ A must see “!
So I did.
Little did I know that an evil virus will catch up on me and bring me down for days, but
it didn’t stop me from attending the show. Fever or not I had to go.
And so, all drugged up I drove to the Suzan Dallal Center, where the performance took it place at the Varda Hall. The reason I mention this, is that the Varda Hall, is where Gaga People classes usually takes place, and yours truly participates in those classes with the mentoring of Ohad Naharin for the last two years or so, and I was very eager to see how the place will turn its skin.
For whom doesn’t know- Gaga is the dance language Naharin has developed, and the company practice this method since he created it back in the 90’s (Not sure about the exact timing) when he started as the company’s Artistic Director, and changed the company to the core.
The way I get the method, from what Ohad explains during the class, and from interviews I’ve watched, is that he wants his dancers to forget what they learned in ballet and dance classes about how to move correctly, but to listen and thus, control the muscle to the point that you decide which texture you want it to provide.
That sounds easy, but believe me, it’s far from it. It means you need to be in full contact with yourself, listen to your body- not your head, body! It means every muscle (Your skin and bones too) has its own life and purpose. All are parts that combined into you, and you are an animal, and you should be the animal that you are. Do it when dancing, then do it when you walk in the street, when you speak to a stranger or a friend, and soon you’ll become the animal that you are.
This idea was very appealing to me and was the main reason I wanted to join his monthly classes. Well that, and the fact that I love dancing and wished I was a dancer.
Back to night of the show…
Walking up the stairs to the hall, I already felt different from the last Batsheva performance I went to this year ‘ Venezuela’ at the Israeli Opera Hall, while that was a great hall, with many seats, and many people, here, the hall is much, much smaller- I think it can contain up to100 people or so. So immediately I felt a sense of intimacy, right from the entrance and all throughout the show.
Stepping into the hall I was in awe! I couldn’t recognize it for it has changed completely ! What used to be a wide studio turned into an octagon dark purplish room. In its center an octagon natural colored wooden stage, lightened by warm yellow, orange spotlights. Around the stage were the metal seats for the audience, placed in three raws for each sector. Front raw close to the stage, Third raw close to the wall behind it, so that the audience is seated between the wall and the stage. It reminded me a church like feeling, or the Rothko church if you will, for there was no vibe of holiness in the sense of “god” but something that contains a mediative atmosphere that both combined and clashed with the strictness of geometry.
That sense followed me through the rest of the show.
We all set down, lights slowly goes down to complete darkness, the music starts as the lights turn on the walls surrounding us, for us to find a female dancer standing, facing the stage, backed to the each of the octagon walls.
A minute or so afterwards the male dancers charged the stage wildly.
I won’t go into details on every segment, but will tell you that most of the work contained the male dancers dancing as group on stage, sometimes in perfect order and sometimes in perfect chaos. Gentle movements that lead to bursting power. The Dancer the got my attention was Billy Barry, who just like a frog cat, seems to stretch all over the stage, then jump almost to the ceiling with his long strong legs. His facial expressions are remembered to me from “Venezuela“, where I wasn’t sure if it was part of the show or if it’s just him. Now I was sure, Billy almost speaks while dancing, but an unknown, un earthly kind of language.
The female dancers are almost staged to the walls, making strong yet somewhat restrained movements.
An intense moment arrives when all of a sudden the females starts counting in strong voice in Hebrew : “ One! Two! Three! Four! “, and the males follows. The music starts to get louder and more intense, and after having a short moment of synchronization between the two groups, they split again as the females turns the Hebrew counting into Arabic, the males stubbornly continues counting in Hebrew, while their bodies seems almost to loss control over the sound of the females’ Arabic. This movements reminded me a cartoon watch that had all its springs burst out then switched in again as if going insane, painted by a control freak cartoonist.
The females stops their count and dance what seems like a seductive dance, and all of a sudden the lights on the walls go down, and they disappear.
That leads us to be focused on the stage, when up until now our eyes ran all over the place in order not to miss a thing.
The males dance, sometimes as a group of fish that swims together, then some are parted into smaller groups or as solo.
At one point there a thought came to my mind that there’s something there that refers to the Nazi army, or that in someway, it spoke about the development of Israel as a country, but I wasn’t sure about it, still not sure, for in most of Naharin’s works I’ve seen so far, things are never one dimensional.
Things goes on stage, and then one by one the females begins crawling out of a tube in the ceiling to a heavy iron netting that gives little room for their bodies between it and the lightings and ceiling itself. They all crawl until each is laying with her back facing the stage floor.
At some point they all starts pulling down to the floor holding only by their hands, hanging.
It reminded me a conversation I once had with a friends when she spoke about how for ages women were taught to sit quietly and get what they want only by being serpents like. I couldn’t help but think of how many subjects this saying goes to, basically every person oppressed in this world, and when I found out later on that on each performance the female group and the male group switch roles, it kind of made sense.
One female decides to leap down to stage.
That dancer is the magnificent Nitzan Ressler, with her royal beauty, and incredible abilities both in body and soul.
Now I really don’t want to go further on in my description, as I don’t want to spoil anymore than I already did, but I will tell you that when I thought of writing about the Batsheva, I had in mind the first time I saw it, when I was only a teenager living in Eilat. It was a school “trip” to the theater which I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget how in those trips the teachers usually fought with the students to sit down and watch something without entrapping it, and how when we all set to watch Batsheva performs one of its most iconic work “ Ehad Mi Yodea”, everybody was in to it! And how I, a teenager with body image issues, caused by several things that one of them was Ballet classes and later Gymnastics I took as a child that made give up on dancing- made my feet burn with desire to dance dance dance!
The same was with “ Venezuela” when I watched them dance to the sound of Rage Against The Machine, and when they were skipping all over the stage, I wanted to skip with them.
I was sure that if I would love the current work, it’s because it made me want to dance!
And at times it did, but mostly not.
Mostly it drowned me into a hole, and I loved every minute of it.