Get there early. While the house lights are still up and the theatre not yet full a solo dancer, looking like Charlie Chaplin reincarnated, is performing a gentle soft shoe on stage.
This is typical of the positive attitude of the Batsheva Ensemble – why wait for the show to start when you want to dance? One dance opens with the company making tight minimal movements wearing forced artificial smiles before they tumble across the stage like kids at playtime.
The company comprises 18 dancers with an average age of 20. They have been trained in the Gaga method which looks like an organic version of hip-hop. Whereas hip-hop is mechanical and sharp in Gaga the movements are fluid –bodies almost seem to ripple – and natural.
The Gaga technique is perhaps best illustrated by the opening to Act Two where the entire company dressed in identical leotards take turns to twist and contort whilst never losing their place in the line that runs across the stage. Passion is mixed with restraint.
Choreographer and artistic director Ohad Naharin gives us a powerful ending to Act One. Misleadingly the dancers apply what looks like war paint before taking part in a dance leading to where innocence meets experience and the point where age and fragility start to bite. This effort to deny the dying of the light is not the usual subject of a dance. The music is also not typical. Featuring pop songs by Goldfrapp and a sensual, even sexual, dance to – of all things- a madrigal.
Deca Dance is a compilation drawn from past productions, which makes it hard to identify a cohesive theme to the individual pieces. But this doesn’t detract from the atmosphere of enthusiasm that isn’t limited to the Ensemble.
In a sequence that is so cheesy it ought to come with a burger and fries members of the audience are invited onstage to join in a dance. It could be embarrassing but the sheer charm of the dancers (and the fact that the rest of us wish we were up there) makes it work.