“That wasn’t good enough,” Batsheva Dance Company member Danielle Agami said after we stopped flopping on our backs on the dance studio floor while humming. “Now we’re going to do it again.”

We embodied soft noodles in boiling water with greater vigor. A dance major I ran into later that day recalled this as her favorite part of the master class (these classes, given by an expert in a discipline — in this case, a dancer from a visiting company — are common in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance).

Agami led us through the contemporary dance company’s exploratory vocabulary of movement — called Gaga — through sensual, imaginative descriptions and demonstrations. She pointed out when we weren’t really exploring the feeling of boiling noodles or “an earthquake in your pelvis,” or highways full of small moving units running throughout your body, of softening your flesh so you can stretch your bones as far from your joints as possible, of then “making your flesh juicy.”

Agami, who joined the company three years ago when she was 21, moved parts of her body fluidly but in isolation, like something was indeed traveling through her.

“Something is doing it to you,” Agami said, “you don’t have to make so many decisions.”

Self-monitoring was effectively dismissed – the studio’s mirrored wall was taped over with old newspapers. The company’s website, in its description of Gaga, mentions that “we never look at ourselves in a mirror.” Their performance, which highlighted the unexpected extremes possible in the seemingly mundane, later gave this mode of thought credence.

In the flurrying, chilly air outside the Power Center, a handful of protestors chanted “Boycott Israel,” “Boycott genocide” and “Don’t dance on the bodies of dead children.” That activity was not included in the Saturday, Feb 14 performance, although I can’t speak for the Sunday piece. UMS declined to cancel the Israeli dance company’s first Ann Arbor appearance in 11 years on the basis of the objection raised by the “Boycott Israel” e-letter put out by the Michigan Peace Network. Nationality is the issue and, apparently, art is the last straw. A graphic on the e-letter declares: “1,300 dead, 5,000 wounded. 50,000 homeless in Gaza. This is no time to dance.” On the contrary, there’s perhaps no time more in need of the eye-opening and humanizing strikes that art can take to an apathetic heart.

The official UMS response to the demand for an “academic and cultural boycott” of Israel addresses the incongruity of the demand to the premises of peacekeeping and worldliness.

A letter by Ken Fischer, the UMS president, stated “I understand and appreciate the strong feelings people have … UMS has strong feelings, too, such as our unwavering commitment to use the arts as a vehicle for bringing people together, not for dividing them, and to our general inclusion policy of ‘everybody in, nobody out.’”

UMS urged supporters of the arts to respond to the protest by filling the auditorium seats.

The bare stage was ringed by black panels. It contrasted starkly with the 20 or so dancers’ costumes — simple knee-skimming capris and short sleeved tops in muted hues. The dancers looked like people plucked off the street — individuals, but cut from the same cloth — kind of like a sober Old Navy commercial.

The first section, choreographed to an even-rhythmed Glenn Gould rendition of a Bach piano piece, was furiously busy. With little musical syncopation, every beat could take a gesture, and did. The stage swarmed with motion without a lot of movement – the Batsheva dancers in “Three” didn’t travel through space so much as they carved out space from the air around them, bucking and elbowing as though inside bags constantly collapsing in on themselves.

Duets seemed to revolve around transfers of energy — sometimes without touching at all — as when a dancer held his hand directly in front of his crouching partner’s face and moved her back and forth as though with a force field. A satirical deadpan segue between sections was provided by one of the dancers, who carried a television projecting his own face. His TV self told us what to expect next: “In the duet, there will be blackouts. Pay attention. ‘Secus’ (the third section) is 35 minutes long, starting in one minute.” This presenter acted as the poster boy for Batsheva’s prods at the audience, which allowed audience members to reflect on what was going on onstage.

In the second, all-female segment of “Three,” called “Humus,” the ambient, almost inaudible Brian Eno score added to the sense of willful confrontation when the women, in the middle of a long section danced low to the floor, faced away from the audience, on all fours, their ankles crossed and rears lifted, then turned to hold the audience’s lengthy gaze. In the adrenaline-raising “Secus,” a set of dancers one by one lifted their shirts to just below their right nipples.

The next set presented their outstretched, upturned palms to the audience. The gestures as a pair recall Christian imagery of Jesus’s wounds from crucifixion, inviting the audience to scrutinize their innocuous, human and whole body parts. Another dancer fell forward miming laughter then slapped her own face and calmly walked away.

These calmly executed, alternately hushed and frenzied displays were always bookended by the normal, emphatically undancerly walk with which the dancers exited and entered. That juxtaposition seemed to become a theme, as Batsheva made clear the discrepancies between surfaces and capacities. The foreigner, the banal pedestrian in summer clothes, is capable of both great lucidity and great violence — both of which defy initial judgment. The dancers who came out on Feb. 14 reminded an audience of that — a civil service if I ever saw one.

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