They’re staring at me again. Those Batsheva dancers. Always staring. Just standing there and glaring at me. Or begging me. Like they’re accusing me of something. Or inviting me to join them. Or just completely indifferent and waiting for me to decide.
Despite the colorful, casual costumes that gives “Shalosh” (Hebrew for “Three”) a kind of United Colors of Benetton aesthetic, it’s a work that feels deceptively bright, a rainbow on stage that is merely meant to distract you from the murkiness that lies within and rumbles just below the surface.
Like it’s choreographic cousins, “Max” and “Hora” (see reviews below), “Shalosh” juxtaposes spastic, explosive segments of individual ecstasy (or meltdown?) with periods of eerie calm and mechanic unison. As always, the sudden shifts between these worlds creates the tension between the extremes that defines the recent works of Ohad Naharin.
This particularly manifests itself in “Shalosh” in the second, middle section (the work earns its title from the three chapters, Bellus, Humus, and Secus) in which the company’s women move as a single organism; slithering across the stage, reclining suggestively on the floor, puncturing the contemplative air with occasional sharp jolts all effortlessly in sync. It’s a quiet journey, almost pacifying, except those small moments when something volatile and aggressive bubbles to the surface.
In contrast, in the third section, Secus, the company divides into three lines, each facing the audience; the first person in each line presents a nonchalant pose or short movement phrase before stepping to the back of the line to make way for the next. It’s a conveyor belt of revealing, unexpected gestural offerings, one after the other, at the same time both industrial production and also the rebellion against it.
And unlike Humus which fused the women into a single breathing form that the mind can easily comprehend, Secus demands that the eyes scan and the head whips to try to hear these three competing conversations that are alternately jarring, provocative, quiet, and desperate. Yet as soon as you are captivated by one image or dancer, you’ve already missed something else. By trying to listen in on all of them, you soon understand that you actually hear nothing. Quite the challenge for a society that thinks it’s mastered the art of multi-tasking.
“Shalosh” is a work that lays its guts on the table and shows you its insides and then winks at you with a smirk. It makes you feel naked, stripped of whatever guard you’ve brought to the theater, whatever protective gear you shroud yourself in on a daily basis. Because regardless of how thick and impenetrable we think our skin is, it cannot withstand the honesty of those stares. Begging, accusing, inviting, or just waiting for you to decide.