There’s no need to worry about the title of Ohad Naharin’s latest piece for Batsheva Dance Company; he’s been considering the title Last Work for eight or nine of his previous efforts, merely representing that it’s the latest, not a career-ending finale. And that’s a very good thing, because Last Work, continuing at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House through February 4, shows the kibbutz-born Israeli choreographer, who since 1990 has led Batsheva — founded in 1964 by Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild, with Martha Graham as its first artistic adviser — still at the top of his game. For sixty-five minutes, seventeen members of the immensely talented Tel Aviv-based troupe speak to the audience in Naharin’s unique Gaga movement language, employing gesticulations and motion that emphasize body parts, animal instincts, pleasure, freedom, and imagination. “We are turning on the volume of listening to our body, we appreciate small gestures, we are measuring and playing with the texture of our flesh and skin, we might be silly, we can laugh at ourselves,” Naharin explains about Gaga, and Last Work features all that and more. The curtain rises to reveal a woman in a blue dress and sneakers running in place at the back of the stage, seemingly suspended in air. The dancers wear different-colored shorts and tops at the start, changing into dark outfits and, later, off-white undergarments, designed by dancer Eri Nakamura (Naharin’s wife), melding well with Avi Yona Bueno’s (Bambi) lighting.
Memorable moments abound, including all the dancers placing their hands over one standing man’s body, the company wriggling across the floor on their butts, individual solos with sharp, angular movements of knees and elbows, an emotional pas de deux by Bret Easterling and Zina (Natalya) Zinchenko (the latter in a tutu), and two women slowly reaching their hands out as they tilt back their heads in yearning, all set to Grischa Lichtenberger’s score, which ranges from electronic music to Romanian lullabies. (Three words Naharin, who has a young daughter with Nakamura, told his company to consider when formulating the piece were “baby,” “ballerina,” and “executioner.”) Although there is no specific narrative thread through most of Last Work, it concludes with a series of surprise props that make ambiguous, and funny, political references; Naharin, who was previously at BAM with 2014’s Sadeh21, 2012’s Hora, and 2007’s Three, has been outspoken in his support of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, resulting in protests against Batsheva from both sides because he refuses to denounce either. And then packing tape brings everyone and everything together, even the runner, who has not stopped for a second. Last Work is another exhilarating triumph from one of the world’s most inventive, entertaining, and influential choreographers. (For more on Naharin and Batsheva, you can check out Tomer Heymann’s new documentary, Mr. Gaga, at Film Forum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, with several screenings followed by Q&As and demonstrations.)