Israeli Dance Group Expecting Protests Thursday in Brooklyn

The Israeli modern dance troupe Batsheva Dance Company has been met with protests during its North American tour. Currently performing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a BAM spokewoman said a "small group" has applied to the police for permits to demonstrate outside tonight’s performance.

While the dance company’s work is not considered political, protestors have been calling for a boycott over Israel’s actions in Gaza. A posting on the website Electric Intifada called the troupe "clearly an Israeli apartheid cultural institution" and sought an end to the tour.

Company artistic director Ohad Naharin declined to be interviewed by the New York Times about the controversy, but issued a statement through BAM saying he forgives and understands "the frustration" and people who "want to fight for human rights." But he said rather than protesting a dance company, that energy would be better served "getting moderate powers and people on both sides to talk to each other."

Naharin addressed the protests in more detail in an interview with a Vancouver weekly in February:

"I think artists belong to a group of people who don’t represent the ugly side of Israel. They represent people who have compassion and who are willing to give up a lot for peace. And artists everywhere usually represent something missing from politics: the search for new solutions."

The company’s tour concludes in New York this weekend, after which they return to perform in Israel. Batsheva is well-respected in the dance world, and the tour received positive reviews, including this one from the L.A. Times.

What do you think?

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