Venezuela, by former artistic director, now “house choreographer,” Israeli-born Ohad Naharin of the Batsheva Dance Company premiered at BAM (March 27 – 30). The 2017 work is split into two 40-minute sections, there is no break in-between for the dancers or the audience, the second section is literally a repeat of the first. Venezuela is good, and the pairing of the dancer’s sureness in delivery with Naharin’s soundtrack, makes it powerful. Even more intriguing is the way Naharin tenders each section. The costumes and his gaga-fluid movement remains the same in both sections, but his soundtrack plus the slight differences he skillfully guides, is food for thought. His mix of Gregorian chants, tango, hardcore rap, rock and more, encourages this thinking. Avi Yona Bueno’s lights also shifts and assists with the tenor of the move from one section to the other. Dressed in dark and formalized costumes against the white floor and bare wings, at first, the dancers sway back-and-forth, in a close clump to the low hum of Gregorian chants—almost expressionless. But it builds. After all, this wouldn’t be a Naharin work without the signature slow and deliberate walks, bodies falling or catapulting into the air, knees awkwardly falling inwards, hyperextended ribs, impromptu and repetitive running, or this time, skipping. Standouts this time was that gut wrenching scream, or when three dancers sit in a deep squat on top of three others as they crawl on all fours, moving gingerly forward towards the audience with a dead stare. The first time was eerie, but the second time was dark. Or is it the reverse? There was also the rhythmic march of the flags, from one side of the stage to the other. The first time around, we don’t know that they are flags or that they represented nations because they are plain, and when everybody gets one, they swing them and smack them into the floor. But the second time around, they are revealed, and we pause and maybe identify which nation is represented. And while Naharin makes room for this deep thinking, he jolts us back to the now when on a microphone, dead center, dancers scream lyrics from Biggie Smalls or convulse to music from Rage Against The Machine. The back-and-forth recall within those 40 minutes are quizzically endless. Venezuela is epic.
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I am a performer, historian, consultant and dance writer. I am a faculty member at Hunter College, Sarah Lawrence College (Guest), Empire State College's online program Center for Distance Learning. I am also a former faculty member of The Ailey School and the Alvin Ailey/Fordham University dance major program, Kean University and The Joffrey Ballet School's Jazz and Contemporary Trainee Program. I write on dance for The Amsterdam News, Dance Magazine and various publications. Click below to read more about me at my home page - "About Me."