For more than thirty years, Tel Aviv-based choreographer Ohad Naharin has been creating exciting, unpredictable works that push the limits of what contemporary dance can be. His unique movement language, known as Gaga, has been a centerpiece of the Batsheva Dance Company since 1990, when he was named artistic director. Works such as Deca Dance, Three, Minus 16, and Project 5 have dazzled audiences with their wild creativity and often humorous use of music. Naharin returns to BAM this week with Hora, an hour-long piece for eleven dancers that features lighting and stage design by Avi Yona Bueno, costumes by Anna Mirkin, and a vast array of classical music arranged and performed by Isao Tomita, including snippets of Mussorgsky, Strauss, Ives, Grieg, Wagner, Debussy, Sibelius, and John Williams. You never know what’s going to happen in Naharin’s work, which always makes it fresh and inviting. On Saturday, March 10, at 12 noon ($20), you can join in the fun by taking an open class with Batsheva dancers at BAM’s Hillman Attic Studio; we recently found ourselves onstage with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater going Gaga to their production of Minus 16, a thrill that still gives us chills every time we think of it, which is rather often.
Update: In a large rectangular room bathed in an intoxicating green light, eleven dancers sit on a long bench at the back. One at a time they get up and start moving slowly to an austere silence that eventually gives way to Ryoji Ikeda’s electronic drone music. Six women, wearing various black leotards, and five men, in white and gray shorts and T-shirts, often stay in place as they bend down, stretch toward the ceiling, and twist and turn. Soon Isao Tomita’s score takes over, playfully reconfigured versions of classical music familiarized in Hollywood movies, including Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” Wagner’s “Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries,” and even John Williams’s main theme from Star Wars. Over the course of sixty minutes, the dancers (including stand-out Iyar Elezra) perform Ohad Naharin’s movement-based nonlinear, nonnarrative choreography that shifts from controlled chaos to featured solos and duets while at other times feeling like the dancers are rehearsing their own roles all at once, seldom making physical contact. The Batsheva Dance Company’s Hora — which never evolves into the title’s traditional Jewish celebratory group dance — is a mesmerizing experience, a stunning balance of light, color, sound, and movement from one of the world’s most innovative and entertaining choreographers.