Batsheva Ensemble: At home with the Ensemble by Catherine Bell

Batsheva trip photo montage

Montage of photos from visit to Batsheva Ensemble

Images from L – R
1st row: View into rehearsal, Batsheva, Class
2nd row: The courtyard, Filming at night, golden eve in Tel Aviv
3rd row: Interview with some of the dancers, view from the studio
4th row: Techincal rehearsal on-stage, Interview with Adi Salant
5th row: Restful afternoon in Tel Aviv, Kites near the beach and city blooms

Last month I went to meet Batsheva Ensemble, in their natural habitat: Tel Aviv. The Ensemble are the newest addition to the list of international dance companies we tour around the UK.

Mission: To touch base with the directors and dancers of the company and gather video and images ahead of their UK tour.

After a very early start from London I finally arrived in Tel Aviv, 2 hours behind, shed my unsuitable, UK attire, and took a winding stroll through the city, along the sea front towards the Suzanne Dellal centre: home to Batsheva.

In true British style, despite light clothing and the Mediterranean freshness blowing up from the sea, it was really a rather hot walk and introduction to the city. (Naturally it wouldn’t be until my return home 2 days later that the gradual acclimatization process began in my body. This was the Middle-East after all.)

In this contradiction of a city; look in one direction and the middle eastern aspect could be incredibly apparent; shisha smoke tumbling from a pipe on the grassy mound, where circles of arabic families relaxed together, then turn a corner and all traces could vanish; replaced with speedos and European skin tones, spin around again and you saw it all merged together in another vista, having melted quite  suddenly into this pot of cultures: East and West.

I entered the Suzanne Dellal courtyard, moving into something unexpectedly tranquil. It was framed by three, cool, stone archways, which gave way to open spaces; where local art hung or was painted onto walls. Dancers, identifiable by their loose clothing which hung beautifully from their sculptural limbs, drifted amidst the hazy sunshine, or stretched and chattered under the shade of the ubiquitous fragrant orange trees, and children splashed barefoot in the fountain nearby.

Considering the grey climes of London I had left only 8 hours before I it all felt very suddenly surreal.

I was met and welcomed by Company Manager ‘Iris’ a warm Israeli lady of incredible efficiency, who led me up, inside, and round, into the studios to meet the Batsheva Ensemble.

Batsheva Ensemble is the younger wing of Batsheva Dance Company, founded in 1990 by Ohad Naharin. The Ensemble comprises around 18 dancers from all around the world.

As well as catching up with the dancers in the studio after class, we also filmed interviews with Adi Salant their Artistic Director and Rehearsal Director (and fellow Brit) Claire Bayliss-Nagar.

Everyone who spoke to me was incredibly open about their lives at Batsheva, eager to discuss their routines, responsibilities both in and out of the company, Israel, and the indigenous technique developed there ‘Ga Ga’  (by the Artistic Director of Batsheva, Ohad Naharin, who was on tour in Canada during my visit).

Our first interview with a few of the dancers was conducted directly after their Ga Ga class, sitting with them on the floor, amongst the post-class heat and damp of the studio, I was struck with the depth, intelligence and philosophical nature, of their answers to my questions.

What was all the more impressive about this first interview was learning that, despite The Ensemble being an international dance company, for only 2 of them English was their first language.

They are a passionate group of very talented dancers from all over the world, with an energy to match their intellect. Whilst the world, politics and uncertainties continued relentlessly outside the Suzanna Dellal, a certain peace fell on Studio 1.

I watched the Ensemble at work, with their precocious, avid concentration, and their hungry desire to create. Sometimes they were dancing together in their wonderful ensemble and sometimes quite alone: utterly absorbed in their own slightly jagged, totally unique Ga Ga groove.

I returned to London 2 days later knowing I had seen something special. We are currently working on the videos so watch this space for news.

For the official Batsheva Tour gallery visit our tour page

By Catherine Bell, for Dance Consortium

See also:
Tour(s): Batsheva Ensemble 2012