Introduction ‘The Hole’

NDT 1 performs masterpiece by Ohad Naharin

From June 22 to July 8, 2023, NDT 1 performs The Hole by choreographer Ohad Naharin. A masterpiece for which the NDT Black Box has been completely transformed.

Want to know more about this performance? Then listen to the introduction below by our introducer Emmeline Mooij. Please note, the audio is in Dutch only. Scroll down for the English text.

Introduction The Hole

by Emmeline Mooij

Much has been said and written about the famous work The Hole (Batsheva Dance Company, 2013) by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin (1952). No word, no phrase, no sketch of what happens during The Hole in front of and behind the audience can match the real experience.

Through a sophisticated arrangement and amalgamation of playing surfaces and seats for the audience, the dancers and viewers are condemned to each other in The Hole for an entire hour.

Temporarily shielded from the outside world, one finds oneself in a place where there is no room to look away, but where the confrontation with real life in all its intensity, fragility and sincerity is offered while dancing. As if we are watching from the outside through a crack to catch a glimpse of the personal and penetrating story of this exceptional Israeli choreographer.

The Hole is Ohad Naharin’s own story of the little boy born in the kibbutz in the early 1970s. His life consisted of playing with friends and with animals. Jumping, tying, tumbling and running through the fields. Enjoying nature and the outdoors. As long as Ohad was moving, it was good. This life meant paradise to him.

After five and a half years, the family left the kibbutz, and for little Ohad this felt like being separated from his Siamese counterpart.

It took him a long time to get used to city life. In his late teens, he enlisted into the army where he joined a theater group after sustaining an ancle injury. He vouched for the steps and movements that could be made to the songs being sung. An absurd situation this was for him because he realized, that the performances he performed were meant to provide some distraction for the severely traumatized soldiers.

When the Yom Kippur War started in 1973, he had been in the service for three years. He often drove across the Golan Heights. He saw burned-out tanks, swollen bodies of fallen soldiers. Every day friends died. The images remained.

Photo: Rahi Rezvani

Two months before he was discharged from the army, his mother called the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv. Although he had been dancing all his live, he needed formal dance training. So his mother enrolled him at the Batsheva Dance Company. She was so convincing that he was admitted.

Not long after, Ohad Naharin left with a backpack for the dance company.

There it was immediately apparent how exceptionally talented he was. There was a unique layering in his movements, a special way of feeling himself in the space he was in that made what he did different from what all the other dancers before him had done. The great choreographer Martha Graham saw him in Tel Aviv and invited him to come to the US. Six months later he was dancing in her company in New York City. But his hopes and fantasies did not come true and he left. In the mid 70’s, Naharin studied at the School of American Ballet, The Juilliard School, and with Maggie Black and David Howard. He then joined Maurice Béjart’s Ballet in Brussels for one season.

In 1979 he returned to NYC. The following 10 years, Naharin presented works in New York and abroad, including pieces for Batsheva Dance Company, the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, and Nederlands Dans Theater.

Photo: Rahi Rezvani

In 1990 he received a call from Israel asking if he wanted to become the Artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company. He longed for his native country so much that he went back in that very year. No one knew him there and he created a choreography based on Israeli culture. The audience walked out and it didn’t look good. BUT after 13 days, there was no ticket for sale left, the show was completely sold out. Everyone wanted to see what was happening. This marked a new start in the dance company’s history.

He has created over thirty works for the company. After almost thirty years of leading Batsheva, Naharin stepped down as Artistic Director in 2018, and continues to serve as the Company’s House Choreographer.

He is the founding father and creator of Gaga, a movement language. For many years, in his opinion, he was given the wrong information about how to use your body. His back was injured, he collapsed during a performance. He thought he would never be able to dance again. He underwent back surgery and did not know if he would ever be able to walk again. This experience and his recovery period led him to think about a good way to recover. Thus, he began to develop his own movement language, Gaga. An innovative movement language based on research into heightening sensation and imagination, becoming aware of form, finding new movement habits, and going beyond familiar limits. Gaga is the daily training of Batsheva’s dancers and has spread globally among both dancers and non-dancers.

Naharin was always aware of the fact that he was living in a racist country where abuse of power by fanatics had become commonplace. But he believed, and still does, in the power of dance and wanted to tell his story with it, without giving his creations political connotations.

The Hole tells such a story. An account of that agile little boy in paradise who, on his life’s path, is confronted with fortune and adversity, war and abuse of power, loss and injustice, and who, while tumbling and clutching, keeps going and believes in the human power to love and keep playing in freedom.

In The Hole, the dancers surround the audience and consist of two groups, the pigs and the roses, who switch positions of power halfway through the piece (the Pigs and Shoshanas).

It is not about one group or the other. It is a power play, a dance in which the dancers open themselves completely to the influence of gravity. They fall, almost … they lean backwards. Just barely touching the ground, they jump back in time. They smack on the ground, go flat, jump, spin and that in fear, suppression, surrender, in complete trust and full speed.

Photo: Rahi Rezvani

We watch and experience paradise, the violence of war, the bombs falling, the humiliations prisoners suffer and the life-and-death battles that are fought. We feel man’s fighting spirit and resilience and see what we are capable of. Every day this can be seen on television or social media, the choice is ours whether we want to see it. In The Hole the confrontation is direct and pure and looking away is not possible.

One on one we dance along in The Hole in which human nature is shown in all its qualities.

Photo: Rahi Rezvani