It’s hard not to leave the theater feeling energized after a Batsheva performance. The Batsheva Ensemble — which serves as a breeding ground for the main troupe — offers maybe the purest, rawest interpretation of artistic director Ohad Naharin’s impassioned, sprawling choreography. After all, these 18 dancers are young (some of them still teenagers) and eager to prove their virtuosic mettle. What they may lack in refinement — there are still moments when Ohad Naharin’s convulsive movement threatens to overtake their considerable technique — they make up for twofold in energy, stamina and believability.

© Gadi Dagon
© Gadi Dagon

In the vein of postmodern predecessor Merce Cunningham, Naharin favors cutting and scrambling past excerpts of earlier works into a new (by standards of sequence, at least) and still cohesive whole, Decadance. It is a credit to Mr. Naharin’s work that repeated viewings of older pieces never grow old. This is due in part to some excerpts’ variant nature (audience participation undoubtedly changes with every performance) but also to the sheer pleasure of watching so many finely-tuned bodies ripple through choreography by turns angry and explosive, delicate and tentative.

Naharin’s eclectic use of music is as surprising as his movement. This cut-up Decadance included music from the Beach Boys, Vivaldi, a remixed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the poetry of Charles Bukowski, spoken by a woman, to name only a few artists and songs. None of the music selections predict or, often, align with that section’s choreography. When audience members are called onstage for an impromptu partnered dance — the night I saw it, a middle-aged woman in a striped skirt was hoisted above the head of her Batsheva male partner center stage and wonderfully promenaded in a slow circle — we hear Dean Martin croon. When Vivaldi’s Cum Dederit plaintively plays, a young man repeatedly pounds his head against the breast of his female partner.

© Gadi Dagon
© Gadi Dagon
So much of Naharin’s movement brands itself on your brain: clad in suits and hats, the dancers fling themselves into a deep hinge, only to sink slowly, mournfully, back into their folding chairs — and repeat the entire process a dozen times, at least. Later, two young men grasp hands and perform a tango-inspired duet with an equal mix of attraction, desperation and competition. Just as arresting is a longer section near the end of the piece, when the dancers arrange themselves in three separate lines heading downstage. As each dancer ascends to the front of the line, he or she yanks a piece of clothing up to show bare skin, demanding inspection. Or else they perform technical feats — balancing for an impossibly long time on one leg in a squat, the other parallel to the floor; jumping as high as they can, slapping their feet in mid-air. It feels defiant and unsettling, like so much of Naharin’s fascinating choreography.

A few members of the ensemble seem ripe to join Naharin’s more experienced troupe. In particular, Chiaki Horita, Matan Cohen, Korina Fraiman and Yaara Lapid stand out. Their control is greater, their movement more finessed, their timing more precise.