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Batsheva and Bat-Dor Dance Companies

In 1964, Baroness Bethsabee de *Rothschild founded the Batsheva Dance Company, which has become the flagship of Israeli dance. Establishment of the troupe marked the beginning of the influence of American modern dance in Israel and contributed to the professional level of dance there. From the middle 1960s until the early 1970s, the troupe drew heavily on the techniques of Martha Graham, who was also its artistic adviser. The company's repertoire included seven important works by Graham: Errand into the Maze; Diversion of Angels; Embattled Garden; Dark Meadow; Herodiade; Cave of the Heart; and the Learning Process. In 1974, Graham created Jacob's Dream especially for Batsheva.

Graham and Bethsabee encouraged the dancers to create their own works, which was accomplished by Oshra Elkayam and Moshe Efrati, dancers and the troupe's outstanding choreographers.

The repertoire also included works by well-known choreographers, among them: Robert Cohan, Glen Tetley, Norman Morrice, Jerome *Robbins , and Jose Limon. Distinguished soloists were Rina Schenfeld, Rena Gluck, Nurit Stern, Ehud Ben-David, Moshe Efrati, and Rachamin Ron.

In spite of its many successful performances abroad and its great following in Israel, in the 1970s and 1980s the troupe went through a difficult period with a relentless turnover of artistic directors (Jane Dudley, Norman Walker, William Louther, Brian McDonald, Robert Cohan, Paul Sanasardo). Most of them came for short periods, their works were performed, and then they left. The guest list of choreographers who worked with the Batsheva Dance Company in that period, and whose creations the company staged, were: John *Cranko (Song of My People), Gene Hill Sagan, Anna *Sokolow , Daniel Ezralow, and Christopher Bruce. After Rothschild distanced herself from the troupe, its attitude of not accepting the works of Israeli choreographers who were not members of the company changed. In the second half of the 1970s, Caj Lottman was named its artistic director, the first Israeli one, soon followed by Moshe Romano, Sheli Shir, and David Dvir. In 1983 and 1986, they launched workshops for the purpose of encouraging original local creations. Discovered in those workshops was the young generation of choreographers: Yossi Tmim, Siki Kol, Alice Dor-Cohen, Tamar Ben-Ami, Nir and Liat Ben-Gal. Despite the fact that the company continued to be very much admired in Israel, it lost its intrinsic essence and novelty, lacking a clear and specific artistic direction.

In 1990, Ohad *Nahari was appointed artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company and created a rich tapestry of productions for the troupe. His style greatly influenced Israeli dance. The troupe was rejuvenated and a young audience flocked to its performances. Among the prominent choreographers whose works were represented in its repertoire were: Wim Vandekeybus, Anjelin Prelojocal, Arvo Pärt, William Forsythe, and Jiri Kylian.

In 1991, the Batsheva Ensemble was founded. It is smaller, and most of its dance pieces are local choreographies which were auspicious beginnings for many Israeli artists, among them Itzik Galili, Inbal Pinto, and Anat Daniel.

The Baroness continued to support Batsheva financially until 1977, when the Israel Ministry of Education and Culture granted the troupe a subsidy.


In 1967, Rothschild established the Bat-Dor Dance Company for Jeannette Ordman, a classical ballet dancer from South Africa who captured the heart of the Baroness. Ordman was the artistic director, principal dancer, and headmaster of its dance school. From the beginning, Bat-Dor's style was a combination of modern dance with a strong emphasis on the technique of classical ballet. The Baroness gave her generous financial support to Bat-Dor, making it possible for the ensemble to purchase works of important artists all over the world.

Among the Israeli choreographers who worked with the ensemble were Domi Reiter-Sofer, Mirale Sharon, Gene Hill-Sagan, Yehuda Maor, Igal Perry, and, in the past decade, Tamir Gintz. The importance of Bat-Dor lies, essentially, in its school of dance in Tel Aviv and the branch in Beersheba, which have produced generations of young dancers who have permeated the dance companies in Israel. Rothschild's death (1999) brought an end to the stream of cash flowing into the company, and its ongoing work was soon in crisis. Requests for government subsidies were made subject to reorganization of the ensemble's management practices and, today, it only operates the school, which receives government support.

[Ruth Eshel (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.