Next Chance to See: decadance
decadance is an unforgettable montage of several dance pieces created by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. He left his Batsheva Dance Company last spring just long enough to share his choreography and famous ″gaga″ method with the Prague dancers.
As current Czech National Ballet Artistic Director Petr Zuska writes about Israel and its artists, in the performance’s excellent program notes (in both Czech and English):
″… It involves a sort of earthiness and animalism, on the one hand, and concurrently a refinement, a sensitivity, and a sense for the tiniest detail. It is imbued with a peculiar aroma of exotic ritual and fatefulness in combination with the absurd, as well as an accurately weighed humour. And, above all: an exceptional energy and charisma.″
And this precisely describes the foundation of Mr Naharin’s decadance. It is something just a little different.
Cha Cha Cha
Mr Naharin does not arrive as a guest choreographer with his suitcase and a minutely-scripted instruction list for his works. Instead, as he says, he takes a piece of this choreography, a bit of that one from his previous works and reconstructs them in a new/old way to fit the specific dancers.
Clearly, a lot of his work involves improvisation teamed with his ″gaga″ method encouraging the dancers to listen to their own bodies for clues about how to explore sensation and how to move.
For the June 5 performance, when the audience arrived, Marek Svobodník was already fervently locked in a very physical, exhausting solo to cha-cha music. Although the stage lights are on full, and the curtain is drawn completely back, it takes some audience members several painful moments to stop greeting, chatting, gossiping; the performance begins with them, without them, or in spite of them.
The Pesach (Passover) song provides the framework for a very powerful piece, ″Illusion vs Beauty.″ With dancers filling the Nova Scena stage on a semi-circle of chairs, each dressed in white shirts and black suits and shoes, they perform a kind of ″Rockettes″ seated kick line – as each dancer leaps up from the chair into an excruciating back-bend, it looks as if they’ve been kicked, so explosive is the movement.
At the end of each rotation only the last dancer falls forward instead, with full body force onto the bare floor. The song builds and builds, and the dancer continue the same routine relentlessly, shouting the chorus words. The result is that you wish to stand up and shout with them.
Pas de Deux with a Twist
The Prague dance scene has provided many centerpieces of dance, the pas de deux, expressing the relationship between Man and Woman, with woman as object, as a dancer’s prop, as victim, nurturer, dominatrix. But here the dance with two men says more about the subject than many other performances before – rising above the snickering, editorializing, or campiness you might expect.
Mr Naharin has said that ″every person should dance. … There are more similarities than differences between the most thrilling professional dancer and the people in the street … human beings have more in common than we are aware of. And this sharing a lot is precisely why I can dance with anyone and anyone can dance with me.″
But Mr Naharin has created one of the finest moments of audience-performer communication about dance that we’ve seen on the Prague stage.
decadance, like all dance performances, will change, evolve, and adapt with each performance, and with each alternating cast.
So what you will see at The New Stage may not precisely match what is described here – which is a good reason, in addition to the powerful dance and the excellent dancing, to see decadance more than once.
Note: As of this writing, seats are still available for the Nov 15 and 17 performances. If you miss these, you’ll have to wait until April for the next shows.
– Mary Matz, Opus Osm editor
Photo Credits: Top: Martin Diviček; center, Hana Smějkalová; bottom, Anna Rasmussen