The miles between Tel Aviv and Brooklyn seemed few on Thursday, when New York-based, Israeli-run LeeSaar The Company and Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company performed at the Prospect Park Bandshell. It would be easy to interpret the night’s short program as an origin story: first we see work by Ohad Naharin, Batsheva’s artistic director and the creator of Gaga technique, then we see LeeSaar, a collaboration-based company directed by Israeli-born Lee Sher and Saar Harari, whose movement lineage traces straight back to Naharin. And yet it doesn’t feel that way, mostly because Naharin’s B/olero is nearly substance-less, and LeeSaar’s Grass and Jackals is rich and filling.
This is not the first time that New York has seen B/olero, and it is unsurprising that we see it again: it is a short, crowd-pleasing duet — easily transportable across oceans and cultures. Naharin’s use of the overused tune is forgivable because he captures what makes the piece of music so appealing, and yet his movement is completely unfamiliar. But the unfamiliar, or at least the uncanny, is standard for Naharin, so this is no real feat.
Grass and Jackals possesses what B/olero leaves wanting. Oversized eyebrows painted on each dancer transform them from a group of seven women to a tribe of darker, more dangerous creatures. They are already more than human though, a casual backwards flick of the leg sends the foot inches away from the back of the head, and when they stampede across the stage, the speed and power of their steps are Olympian.
But the women of LeeSaar work in subtlety too, writing furiously on airborne scripts, rotating in slow circles with their pinkies pointing outward, as if they are trying to detect some small shift in the universe. They are often funny, never tongue-in-cheek. When in B/olero the dancers take turns coming downstage to stare down the audience it reads as overly pretentious, but when the women of LeeSaar similarly sprawl out downstage, staring, the music sings “I’ve seen it all” and we believe it.
They are unabashedly sexual, alarmingly violent, share long, tender hugs and mutate into conjoined twins. They are pageant girls, strutting slowly across the stage with painted smiles on their faces, flippantly tip-toeing with their hands on one another’s shoulders. They shake vigorously, as if they must clear off layers of dust coating each of their organs. There are multitudes within and between these women.