To think of Batsheva – The Young Ensemble as a second company is to represent inaccurately the power of this group as interpreters of Ohad Naharin’s movement. During their stint at the Joyce this week, their take on Decadance, a medley of Naharin works from 1990-2011, has refreshing rawness. His Gaga has not yet fully monopolized their choices yet; they have impulses that come from a place all their own.
Decadance is somewhat of a highlights reel for Batsheva. Many sections are familiar, but they are all difficult to commit to because they never last long. They shift between light and dark, overstimulation and simplicity at the right moments, but no feeling has time to settle or resonate.
Naharin’s habits emerge when bits of his works are shown side by side. Surprise moments of unison or stillness. Relying on the energy of the music to build the piece. Structuring improvisation through spatial patterns. Building movement sequences as they repeat over and over again. Though these tendencies – striking when used sparingly in most of Naharin’s works – lose their power when they occur so frequently, they are what make his work so visually assaulting. One habit does stand out as a disagreeable one. Naharin tends to make rigid divides between men and women. Why do this, when the movement itself so often feels genderless? A tango between two men presents a more agreeable option, but one that is not embraced nearly enough.
The young performers occasionally lack the ferocity that we are accustomed to seeing in Naharin’s work. Never Korina Fraiman, though, a tiny but wild mover. When the company comes to choose their victims for the crowd-pleasing section where audience members are pulled onstage, it is particularly clear that they are somewhat new at this. It is easy to forget how young they are when they are dancing, but up close, they look like children trying on their fathers’ suits.
Their lack of reservation, though, particularly in improvised sections, brings welcome dimension to Naharin’s sometimes formulaic work. Though his technique has begun to seep into their physicalities, there is still room for freedom, individuality.