Batsheva Dance Company was founded in 1964 by Baroness Bethsabee (Batsheva) de Rothschild with the encouragement of Martha Graham who became the Company’s first artistic director and groomed its first generation of dancers. It has emerged in the ensuing decades, and especially under the guidance of Ohad Naharin (a young Batsheva dancer for whom Martha Graham created the role of Esau in Jacob’s Dream in 1974), as one of Israel’s best-known dance troupes with an acclaimed international reputation. The appointment of Naharin as Artistic Director in 1990 launched Batsheva into a new era. Seeking to expand the boundaries of dance, Naharin transformed Batsheva into a prolific meeting point for artists of all disciplines—composers; filmmakers; lighting, set, and costume designers—who have been associated with the Company in remarkable collaborations. Along with creating new work for the company, Naharin has nurtured creative talents within the Company, most notably recently appointed Resident Choreographer Sharon Eyal. The Company’s repertoire includes works by renowned contemporary choreographers Jiri Kylián and William Forsyth. Under Naharin’s direction, Batsheva has achieved international stature, giving some 200 performances annually in Israel and at prestigious venues and festivals throughout Europe, Asia, and North and South America, among them at Lincoln Center, BAM, the Kennedy Center, London’s Barbican Centre, the Melbourne International Arts Festival, and the Cannes Festival.
The Company’s last New York appearance was Fall 2005 at BAM’s Next Wave Festival, where it presented Naharin’s intimate, moving 2003 hour-long work, Mamootot (“Mammoth”) to great acclaim. As The New York Times critic wrote, “Some choreographers have a way of winning your complicity right away: you’re gripped, drawn in, and then most anything takes on a charge of added meaning. So it is…with Mamootot….What’s fascinating is the blend of childlike wonder and eroticism…formality and quirky personality.”
Ohad Naharin was born in Israel and began his dance training, and dancing career, with Batsheva Dance Company. He came to the U.S. at Martha Graham’s invitation, and danced with her company for a year. He left to continue studies at the Juilliard School. Naharin was a member of Maurice Bejart’s Ballet of the 20th Century from 1977-78. He made his choreographic debut in 1980 and residencies and commissions followed. Shortly afterwards, with his wife Mari Kajiwara, a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, he established the Ohad Naharin Dance Company. Based in New York, the company met with great critical and popular success and had annual seasons in New York, and toured widely throughout the U.S. and abroad, including performances in China, Israel, and at Italy’s Spoleto Festival. In 1987, the Nederlands Dans Theater was the first European company to invite Naharin to work as guest choreographer. His works for the company include Chameleon Dances, Tabula Rasa, Queen of Golub, and Black Milk. Naharin has since created works for many dance companies including: Pittsburgh Ballet, Frankfurt Ballet, Sydney Dance Company, Lyon Opera Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Cullberg Ballet, the Finnish National Ballet, Compañía Nacional de Danza, Opéra National de Paris, and the Hubbard Street Dance Company.
Naharin has created more than a dozen works for Batsheva and its junior troupe, Batsheva Ensemble, making dances that offer “breath, humanity, and humor” (Boston Globe). A composer and guitarist, Naharin has collaborated often on the music for his dances, including Anaphaza and Naharin’s Virus. He is the recipient of two Bessie Awards, was named a “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by France in 1998 and in May 2005 was awarded the Israel Prize, the most highly-regarded arts award in Israel, established in 1953. Naharin became a U.S. citizen in 1991.
Batsheva Ensemble is the junior company working alongside the Batsheva Dance Company, while preserving its own professional identity. The Ensemble is the greenhouse for cultivating the next generation of dance performers, choreographers and designers. A large amount of its schedule is dedicated to its unique and original educational programs, offering young audiences all over Israel, and of all backgrounds, a vibrant, fresh exposure to the art of dance.
The performance of Telophaza at Lincoln Center Festival 2006 is made possible in part with support from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Consulate General of Israel in New York.
“The contribution of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation to the lives of so many artists is unique. In the most fragile times of our lives as young artists, we found support, understanding, and caring that made a huge difference in our careers.”