“You could endlessly debate the symbolism here [...] Whatever its meaning [...] the piece is breathtaking for the extraordinary dancing by the Batsheva dancers, and the way Mr. Naharin can evoke states of pleasure, pain, madness and a kind of animality — a sheer state of being in the body — through his movement” (Roslyn Sulcas, The New York Times). After Sadeh 21, Decadance Paris, and Naharin’s Virus, in 2017 the Batsheva Dance Company returned to Paris’s Théâtre national de Chaillot for its artistic director’s most recent creation, Last Work. Premiered in the company’s home city of Tel Aviv, this exciting and enigmatic ballet mirrors its creator Ohad Naharin. It also highlights his innovative “Gaga” technique, which features disjointed bodies and explosive agility, and has made an indelible mark on the international scene.
The ballet opens on a lone woman dressed in a long blue dress accompanied by a slow electronic drone: a musical collage by Maxim Waratt, a pseudonym of Mr. Naharin’s. The woman is running, and she will continue to do so through to the end of the performance. On both sides of the stage, two rows of screens function as the set. Dancers then slowly emerge and begin to move. Long periods of slowness and immobility follow, with solo and duo sections interspersed among larger group choreographies. Near the end, mysterious figures appear toward the back of the stage: a masked man waves a white flag, another throws a sort of baton, a third polishes a pistol with his back to the audience, a fourth pulls on a tape tying the dancers together. As the woman continues to run, the seated dancers facing the public place their hands on their heads, and the lights go out.
The Tel Aviv-based Batsheva Dance Company is one of the world’s most avant-garde contemporary dance companies. It brings together 34 dancers from Israel and around the world and maintains an intense rhythm of 250 performances with a total of around 100,000 spectators every year. Ohad Naharin, its artistic director from 1990 to 2018, is one of contemporary dance’s most important choreographers, and his strong artistic vision transformed the company to make it the international powerhouse it is today.
A film by Christopher Nupen