Gaga: More Than a Lady
Have you heard of Gaga? No, not Lady Gaga.
Gaga is Ohad Naharin’s movement language developed as a training tool for Israel’s Bathseva Dance Company dancers, which later became an institution of its own. Today Gaga runs classes for regular people all over the world (“Gaga people”) and trained dancers in all the biggest companies and schools (“Gaga dancers”).
What are the principles of Gaga?
Gaga is a toolbox for dancers and non-dancers to use in their daily practices-keys that open up the body, to make it available. It is a lot about delicacy, sensations, textures, groove, and passion to move. Most importantly, it uncovers what people already have and gives them the tools to enjoy using it.
Gaga provides a framework for discovering and strengthening your body and adding flexibility, stamina, and agility while lightening the senses and imagination.
How did Gaga come to be?
Batsheva dancers used to train in ballet, but began asking Ohad, who has been the company’s Artistic Director since 1990, for his class so they could have to tools to perform his detailed and demanding choreography. Some of his friends and office workers at Batsheva started asking for class and that opened up the concept of Gaga/people.
Who practices Gaga?
Aspiring and professional dancers and also those who have never had previous training.
Where to practice Gaga?
There is a team of about 80 certified teachers taking Gaga to people around the world. In the U.S. there are regular classes in New York, San Francisco, Berkeley, St. Paul -- and starting in January, in Chicago. There are also frequent classes in Pittsburgh, and another teacher in the U.S. has traveled across the south to teach Gaga.
What is a typical Gaga class like?
The class is one session, no pauses or exercises, but a continuity of instructions one on top of the other. Each instruction does not cancel the previous one but is added to it, layer upon layer. Therefore, it is important not to stop in the middle of the session.
If you get tired or want to work at another pace, you can always lower the volume, work 30% or 20%, float, or rest, but without losing sensations that were already awakened. Do not return to the state your body was in before the class started.
It is important that you take the instructions gently into your body while being aware to its sensations, abilities, and limitations. To go to places where the pleasure in movement is awakened and not to places of pain. To maintain the connection to pleasure especially during effort (effort is different than pain).
During the session, speaking is not allowed unless instructed to use our voice or words. If you have any questions, you are welcome to bring them up at the end of the session.
Here is Ohad Naharin giving a Gaga/people class in Sweden:
Here is Natalie Portman, a Gaga practitioner, speaking about its influence:
Mr. Gaga, the film
For more than 20 years, the acclaimed Israeli choreographer, Ohad Naharin, refused to allow a camera inside his studio. Finally in 2006, director Tomer Heymann earned his friend’s trust and proposed that they begin a journey together. For the next seven years, the director and his crew followed Naharin and the Batsheva dance company to eight countries, collecting over 650 hours of footage. The reels reveal intimate moments in the studio, Naharin’s unique artistic process, dance philosophy, and personal life, as well as rare archival materials.
Together with his brother and producer, Barak Heymann, Tomer is creating Mr. Gaga, a documentary film premiering this spring of 2014 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Batsheva Dance Company.
Asked how Ohad Naharin and Gaga has influenced him personally, Mr. Gaga director, Tomer Heymann, had this to say:
“For me, the Gaga movement language is interesting as it is differs to classical dance training by stressing freedom and personality. It recognizes your body instead of telling it what to do. Another aspect of Gaga which I find captivating as a filmmaker is Ohad’s strict rule of not training or dancing in front of mirrors. So when I film people doing Gaga I know that they are not aware of how they look and the representation of this moment becomes very pure.”
For more of what he has to say about his film, check out Tomer Heymann’s interview on 4dancers.org.
The Heymann Brothers Films invites fans and supporters to collaborate in their efforts to complete the production through a Kickstarter campaign running until January 4th.
Contributors receive unique rewards for their generosity, including collectible posters and prints of the Batsheva Dance Company, private screenings, and DVDs of other Heymann Brothers Films.
Also on the pledge level list are four introductory Gaga classes, in cooperation with Gaga management in Israel. The classes will be available to Kickstarter backers worldwide, scheduled with a respective Gaga teacher / dance center hosting Gaga lessons.
Have you gone Gaga before?
Tell us about your experience!
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.