Interview with the Batsheva Company: on dance and Naharin's new show 'Venezuela'

We interviewed six dancers in the prestigious Batsheva Company, now performing in the brand new upcoming work
© Yoav Alon
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After taking a brief break from choreographing new works, prominent Israeli artistic director Ohad Naharin has crafted a brand new piece for the Batsheva Dance Company, to premiere this month in Neve Tzedek. As with many of Naharin’s gems, details are kept to a minimum to increase the audience’s anticipation and heighten the live experience. What audiences can expect from Venezuela is a complex dialogue between the dancers’ movement and the symbolic material – one that is exciting, unknown, and beautiful. We sat down with six of the company’s dancers from all over the world to get to know a little more about their personalities and their experience with the top Israeli dance company in Tel Aviv, while gaining insight into their upcoming performances. 

Q&A with the Batsheva Company

Or
© Gadi Dagon

Or Meir Schraiber, 24 (Israel)

Or started his career at eight, dancing with ‘Hora Jerusalem.’ He studied at the  Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem before joining the Young Ensemble. He also plays guitar, acts, and his greatest pet peeve is apathy.

Who is your greatest dance inspiration? 

Michael Jackson, absolutely.

Non-dance inspiration?

Daniel-Day Lewis.

Which performance do you like the most? And why? 

Mamootot. I had the honor of doing the ‘naked man solo.’ One of the most memorable stage experiences I’ve had

What makes you laugh? 

Everything. I suffer from involuntary laugh attacks - tears and stomach aches are involved. 

Can you share a special moment you’ve had while studying under Ohad?

While rehearsing for Last Work, I found a movement he liked, so he stopped the music and came closer to me. We tried different ways to approach the movement until it was, suddenly so clear. I learned how to observe the many possibilities and stay true to the moment.

What does Gaga mean to you? 

Gaga made me become aware of my body, – the weight of our organs, the distances of things in our body, the connection between pleasure and effort, the many engines of our body.

Kyle
© Gadi Dagon

Kyle Scheurich, 24 (New York)

During high school, Kyle studied under Francois Perron in the Manhattan Youth Ballet. After graduating from Julliard, he joined Batsheva. He is greatly inspired by his parents, both on the dance stage, and while spinning tunes as a DJ on the weekends.

What is your favorite part of the week?

Any day has the potential to rock. 

What do you enjoy about rehearsal?

Being with other dancers that stimulate me, whether it’s socially or artistically.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

When people walk all over the bike-lane and just don’t care. 

Tell us a secret…

Once I was bitten by a shark.

What are your favorite performances?

Max by Ohad and Bill by Sharon Eyal. I enjoyed that in both pieces (for different reasons) I really felt a part of some world or environment that was created for each work to live inside.

What is it like working on the new piece?

So far, so good. It’s my first time working on a new piece with Ohad and the company. I am very much enjoying it. It also allows you to get to know and see the people you work with in a different way than you are used to. 

What does Gaga mean to you?

For me, Gaga helps me find more physical possibilities within my own body. It gives me the chance to engage all parts of myself and allows for me to expand the range of choices I can make in my dancing.

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Nizan
© Gadi Dagon

Nitzan Ressler, 24 (Jerusalem)

Nitzan studied at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and was a part of the ‘Jerusalem Hora’. She is inspired by Nietzsche and her fellow dancers, admiring their great qualities, both as dancers and as people.

Describe a typical day… 

On any typical day, I find myself going through a wide range of emotions, sensations, interactions and experiences. So there is no such thing as a “typical” day.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Complaining and when complaining is happening near me.

What do you enjoy most about Batsheva?

Learning from Ohad, being surrounded by so many talented people and touring with them around the world where I am exposed to many different forms of humanity.

What makes you laugh?

Fellow dancer, Ori Ofri.

Describe Ohad Naharin in three words…

Three words would never do.

What is it like working on the new piece?

As anything that contains aspects of uncertainty, it is exuberating and exciting.

What does Gaga mean to you?

‘Letting go.’ I find myself exercising Gaga outside the studio. I try to understand when I should just give up and let things flow in order to create space for new information.

Any advice for aspiring young dancers?

Persist and work out of curiosity and passion.

Bobbi
© Gadi Dagon

Bobbi Jene Smith, 33 (Iowa)

Bobbi started dancing at the young age of three. She  went on to attend the prestigious Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, North Carolina School Of the Arts, and The Juilliard School. She hates crowded places and has a knack for knitting.

Bobbi Jene Smith

Describe a typical day… 

Drink coffee, work, drink wine.

When you’re not dancing, how do you spend your time? 

Dancing.

Who inspires you?

Gena Rowlands, construction workers, Francesca Woodman, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Jason Molina, Ann Carson.

Which performance have you enjoyed the most and why? 

Mamootot due to the relationship that is established with the audience and the poetry that is created between performer and viewer.

 Describe Ohad Naharin in three words...

Electric, poet, lion.

What does Gaga mean to you? 

Igniting engines to be able to carry more for longer, to be able to carry more forever.

How has it been working on the new piece Venezuela?

Exciting, unknown, beautiful. 

What advice would you give aspiring young dancers? 

Be a container, be a mountain, be fire, be love.

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Yael
© Gadi Dagon

Yael Ben-Ezer, 22 (Tel Aviv)

Yael was born in Tel Aviv and studied at the Tel Aviv School of the Arts plus participated in the Excellence Programs of Batsheva & KCDC. She is really good at handstands, has a great recipe for rye bread and if uninterrupted, can sleep for 14 hours.

What inspires you?

Sunny days and Curriculum Vitae by Yoel Hoffmann.

What is your favorite part of rehearsal?

When we work on something new, before it gets to a stage; suddenly you can feel how fun it will be to perform, like the excitement of entering a new character.

How do you spend your free time?

I love walking around Tel Aviv, sitting on the beach, reading, shopping for spices at Shuk Levinsky, cooking, meeting friends, swimming.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Packing.

Tell us a secret…

I don’t have a boyfriend.

Describe Ohad Nahrin in three words…

Smart, sensitive, fascinating.

Any special moments studying with Ohad?

Last year, I injured my knee. When I started dancing again, I was in a kind of defensive stance against the world itself, like a snail retreating inside its shell. In one of our Gaga classes, Ohad confronted me and motivated me to “release that energy” outwards, to exit the ‘cocoon’ that I had created for myself. 

What advice can you give aspiring dancers?

As the Israeli railways corporation motto goes, “try to enjoy the ride”…

Chuwoong
© Gadi Dagon

Chun Woong Kim, 21 (South Korea)

Chun began dancing at the age of seven. He also attended the Korea National University of Art. The young dancer loves music, people and the world around him. 

Who is your greatest dance inspiration?

Hee Eun Jeong. He is also my very dearest friend.

What are your non-dance inspirations?

Music and people.

How often do you rehearse?

From Sunday until Friday.

Describe a typical day…

Cooking, dancing, walking around.

What do you enjoy most about being part of Batsheva?

I love dancing with the audience in Decadance.

Describe Ohad Naharin in three words:

The Lion King.

How has it been working on the new piece Venezuela?

I really enjoy the ballroom dance aspect in the new piece. I like to study new genres in dance - it’s always exciting.

Can you share a special moment you’ve had while studying under Ohad?

Every moment is special right now, while he’s making the new piece.

What advice would you give aspiring young dancers?

Love dance. Live dance. Enjoy dance.

See more on Batsheva and Ohad Naharin
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