Disclosure: Dance Dispatches received complimentary digital admission to write an open and honest review of Batsheva Dance Company’s YAG – The Movie.

As the pandemic gradually forced dance off stage and online, dance lovers like myself have found great comfort watching performances in the digital world. It has been inspiring to see the innovative ways dance creators have navigated the relationship between dance and film in screen dance, and Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company offers  a powerful and intimate example of this dynamic with their production, YAG – The Movie.

Batsheva Dance Company

Batsheva Dance Company, based in Tel Aviv, was founded in 1964 and remains Israel’s most renowned contemporary dance troupe. It is both synonymous with choreographing pioneer Ohad Naharin and his unique Gaga movement language – an instinctive approach to movement that gives dancers the opportunity to learn and explore their abilities as individuals. As such, it emphasises personal expression, which makes Gaga dance an ideal medium for this intimate family portrait, created specifically for the screen.

Dance classes have gone online, too, which gave dance lovers around the world the chance to experience Gaga dance classes online.

YAG – The Movie: Review

Although YAG first hit the stage in 1996, YAG – The Movie (2020) is the first piece that Ohad Naharin has specifically adapted for the screen, filmed by Roee Shalti.

Through limited speech and unlimited movement, the cast of YAG’s six family members introduce themselves and each other, offering morsels of information about their nuanced relationships. What follows is a journey through the challenges they face, how these challenges affect them as individuals, and furthermore – how they affect their relationships. Creative use of the camera places these connections under an intense gaze.

“The controlled, expressive movements of the dancers interplay with the creative video editing, blurring the lines between what is an effect of the camera and an effect of the body.”

Beautifully synchronised group movements show us the dancers’ strength, yet as the piece progresses and the performers reveal more from their individual perspectives, we see that these same bonds can become oppressive forces of conformity. Moments of tender intimacy contrast with hurt and betrayal; alliances are formed and broken; and dreams and fortunes (in the form of cookies) are lovingly cultivated before being crushed into literal crumbs.

The controlled, expressive movements of the dancers interplay with the creative video editing, blurring the lines between what is an effect of the camera and an effect of the body. At times it seems certain things are recorded in slow motion; at others, the camera can barely keep up with the rapidly shifting dynamics.

Love modern dance on films? Take a peek at the [Merce] Cunningham film in 3D or The Pigeon & The Mouse for film.

We are invited, at times challenged, to take a close look at this family, and judge for ourselves what they have experienced and mean to each other. The one incontrovertible fact that we are made to comprehend with constant reminders, is that this is a family that really, really, loved to dance. In the end, after all of the pain and heartache we have witnessed, we are asked to remember what unites rather than divides them. 

And so many of us have had to do the same in recent times.

As my introduction to Batsheva and Gaga, YAG gave me a profound impression of what dance is capable of expressing and inciting an audience to experience. Naharin has said it “is about doing very little and feeling so much.” These dancers gave everything – and made me feel it, too. 

Star Rating:

YAG – The Movie runs approximately 50 minutes. The film premiered in November 2020, and it is now available to view online with New York’s Joyce Theater through June 2 at 11:59pm EDT. Tickets are $25 USD.

Purchase tickets here: www.joyce.org/batsheva-dance-company .

All information correct and up-to-date at time of publication.

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