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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

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Batsheva troupe returns to Toronto

Tags: Arts News

TORONTO — Israel’s celebrated Batsheva Dance Company, founded by modern dance legend Martha Graham and Baroness Batsheva De Rothschild, returns to Toronto after a long absence.

 The company performs during the Luminato Festival for three shows from June 14 to 17, at 8 p.m. at the MacMillan Theatre, University of Toronto.  The group will present the North American première of Sadeh21, which was co-commissioned by Luminato and choreographed by Batsheva’s artistic director, Ohad Naharin.

Sadeh21, literally translated, means “Field21.” It premièred at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem in 2011. A full-length work that runs an hour and 15 minutes without intermission, Sadeh21 features a large company, including 18 dancers from around the world. It shows the complexity of human emotions through a unique movement language called “gaga,” which Naharin created. He said gaga is connected to explosive power, strength and stretching.

 “Gaga is the movement language that is our daily training and also has a lot to do with how and why we dance,” said the Israeli-born artistic director, who came to dance late in life, starting formal training at the age of 22 after completing his army service. The experiences he brought to dance from his youth include sports, gymnastics and folk dancing. 

Naharin joined the Batsheva Dance Company as a dancer in the 1970s – the company was founded in 1964 – and also spent 10 months dancing with Martha Graham’s company in the United States. 

 “Gaga is a workout that allows us to identify places of atrophy in our body and change our moving habits and enable us to connect our efforts with pleasure,” Naharin said. “It brings to people a new awareness about delicacy, form and helps to give us the ability to laugh at ourselves, because it is about the virtue of being silly and bringing you to a higher place.”

Naharin is passionate both about his dancers and their interpretation of his works – wanting them to go beyond what is familiar.

“Sadeh21 is a lot about the tension between elements, the explosive power, and the sublimation of sensuality, volumes, exaggerations and understatements,” he said. “Sadeh21 is, to me… the idea when watching a performance is a multi-layer task – it is not about isolating elements from the whole. If you pay attention to the details, you should always connect to the whole. And, that you don’t let a point of reference, of what this piece reminds you of, disturb you from having a fresh moment,” Naharin continued.

 “I think it is a lot about delicacy, something that is not always in your face. It is the ability to see texture, flow of energy, and to identify something beyond the connotations. What I would like to communicate to someone is a very private experience that comes from my language, my passion, my imagination and my skills, and it is all put into what I think is a coherent offering. My wish is people will recognize it in order to feel what they can feel.”

The June 14 performance of Sadeh21 is a fundraising gala for the Koffler Centre of the Arts ( For information about Luminato, visit The Batsheva Dance Company’s website is at

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