A Forced Marriage: In a Performance-Packed Week, Ballet and Modern Dance Renewed Their Semi-Vows

Wendy Whelan took a (brief!) turn with the Stephen Petronio company; Ashley Tuttle was a puzzlement in Pam Tanowitz’s 'Untitled (The Blue Ballet)'

There are few ballet elements in Hora, the new work by the Batsheva Dance Company. (Demonstrators were carrying on outside BAM—possibly the same folk who are demanding that the Park Slope co-op stop stocking products from Israel.) Hora is the work of the company’s artistic director, Ohad Naharin, and it features 11 of his powerful, propulsive dancers—don’t get in their way! Those dominatrix thighs!

At the start, the dancers are seated on a bench at the top of the stage. In various groupings they move toward us, then erupt into their mostly floor-bound activities: almost no lifts or jumps, nothing airborne, nothing light, a lot of squatting. There’s the odd shudder, the odd cork-screwing to the ground; at one point five women rotate on their bottoms. It’s all outbursty rather than fluent. Worst is the use of hideously synthesized morsels of classical music—“The Ride of the Valkyries,” “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune,” “Clair de Lune,” the Also Spracht Zarathustra music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. And then, after an hora, it was over.

Finally, a work to which the words “ballet” and “modern” have no relevance. Yes, Boris Eifman was back at the City Center, scene of such previous excrescences of his as Red Giselle, Russian Hamlet, Tchaikovsky and The Brothers Karamazov, all of them hideous throwbacks to Sovietski melodrama. Just as Balanchine lovers can spend hours arguing over which are his greatest 10 or 20 masterpieces, Eifman connoisseurs can enjoy themselves debating which is his absolute worst. It’s usually the last one you’ve seen, in this case Rodin, which thrilled its overwhelmingly Russian audience at the City Center last weekend. Alastair Macaulay calls these pieces “psycho-sexo-bio-dance-dramas” and whereas that’s accurate, it doesn’t fully describe the horror, the horror. (Don’t worry—he takes care of that elsewhere.)

Poor Rodin—not only is he suffering the anguish of Creation (a recurring theme for the hypercreative Eifman) but he’s torn between his demented mistress, Camille Claudel, and his sex-starved wife, Rosa. No wonder he pounds his chest, writhes, thrusts, and contorts his face into expressions of despair. You would too if you had to visit Camille in the asylum where a flock of grimacing loonies pranced about you in white nightgowns and bonnets. There are happy workmen stomping around Rodin’s studio, there are happy grape-crushers in a harvest celebration, there are happy reporters rushing in and out scribbling about the Master’s latest masterpiece. But most of all there are countless lifts, alternately ecstatic and tragic. And endless ripping off of clothes—his, hers, theirs. Oh, yes—he also sculpts. So does Camille. Eifman is such a confused storyteller that it’s not clear whether, as in some feminist fantasy, she really did all the work while Maestro got all the credit. But the last we see of him he’s up on a platform slamming away at a hunk of marble—bang, bang, bang. Curtain.

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