Batsheva dancers bring new creations online
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Batsheva dancers bring new creations online

Digital festival will feature 25 different performances by the popular dance troupe

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Spring is generally the season of independent choreography workshops for the Batsheva Dance Company and Young Ensemble dancers, a time for them to find their own movements and creative voices.

This year, more than 25 dancers used their own homes as studios, choreographing works as part of Batsheva Creates Online Festival 2020, a digital dance event that will unfold over the course of 10 days.

The pieces range widely in disciplines from film, live performance and photography to text, interview and interactive acts.

The website will remain active throughout the 10 days of the event, but the schedule will change daily, with each dance available online between 24 to 48 hours to create a fleeting experience of art that’s more similar to the usual theater and stage-side experience.

“With the internet overloaded and so many Zoom events and meetings, the dancers didn’t want ‘to make more noise,'” said Imre van Opstal, a Batsheva dancer from Holland who has been with the company for three years. “We wanted do something beneficial to the audience but also for us as dancers and creators.” 

Batsheva dancer Yoni Avigail with his Batsheva Creates Online Festival piece for the digital festival that will go live May 15-24, 2020 (Courtesy Yoni Avigail)

The dancers came up with the idea of creating a temporary website as a platform to showcase their works, looking for a solution beyond Instagram or Zoom, she said.

“We didn’t want to make more noise, in a way,” she said. “But we wanted it to be active, something that would hopefully keep people hungry enough to come back.”

Van Opstal created “Weight,” in which she dances by herself, and “Wanderlust,” where she brings her family of dancers into the fold as well, created with all her siblings for the recent April 27 King’s Day celebration in Holland.

In the video, each sibling —  Myrthe van Opstal, Imre van Opstal, Marne van Opstal and Xanthe van Opstal — take their partners to a spot in nature, where they record the dance.

They had some guidelines in order to create the final work, but “it’s all about interpretation and free styling,” said van Opstal.

She isn’t the only family member to dance with Batsheva; her younger sister was also part of the company a few years before van Opstal joined.

“Batsheva was always in the back of my head,” said Imre. “I loved the Gaga training that’s part of the company, the rawness of the movement and the vibe in Israel.”

Once the digital festival ends, Batsheva dancers hope to head back to the studio together on June 1.

There aren’t any plans for big shows, but rather returning to things gradually, said van Opstal.

“By that point, we’ll just be glad to be back together, in the studio,” she said.

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