I was in Israel a few years ago and remember hearing about a class called Gaga Movement (yes, this was well before the pop star). The teacher told us to pretend we had brushes on our toes and fingers and to “paint the walls.” I laughed, I cried, I got angry, it wasn’t just your average dance class—it was an experience. Gaga is the movement system that Ohad Naharin created and is famous for. It has been compared to everything from yoga and pilates, to Feldenkrais and aikido, and has become the basis of Batsheva training and choreography. Rather than a technique or a vocabulary, it is a philosophy that uses language to communicate itself. As a matter of fact, in Gaga they have an extensive vocabulary that encapsulates actions and locations in the body; a toolbox that a dancer can use with any movement technique.
Based in Israel, the Batsheva Dance Company is acclaimed as one of the foremost contemporary dance companies in the world. For its Segerstrom Center debut, the company will perform Decadance 2017, a repertory program of Batsheva’s celebrated works, each grounded in Gaga. “In Decadance 2017, I take sections from different works,” Naharin explains, “It’s like I am quoting only either the beginning, middle or ending of many stories, yet my task is to create a coherent whole new story.” Pure movement is combined with theater in pieces charged not just with tension and drama, but also texture, color and rhythm. The company is fluid and articulate as they explore the full depth and range of their movements. I had the opportunity to speak with Luc Jacobs, Batsheva Senior Rehearsal Director, and asked him to clarify just what this movement Gaga is and what we can expect from the company on February 8th, 2017 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Jlife: What inspired Decadance 2017? What is it about? Luc Jacobs: Decadance 2017 was first performed to celebrate the first ten years of Ohad Naharin’s directorship. It is about the organization and composition of excerpts that originally belonged to other full-length works. By rethinking and reinterpreting those pieces and putting them in new contexts we get to have an ongoing relationship with them under fresh circumstances.
Talk to me about the movement Gaga, what it is and how it began? Gaga is the name of the movement language of Ohad Naharin, the choreographer and artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company. We tend to call it a language since Gaga is continually unfolding. It began when Ohad’s desire arose to communicate his universe more directly to his dancers. Prior to that the dancers training consisted of classical ballet, but something more was required—something that could include ballet but also could go beyond it.
Eventually, Gaga became a training, investigation, and healing we now engage in daily before starting our rehearsals and performances. It is a training because we prepare our bodies and hone our skills for the work we are involved in.
It is also an investigation since we explore the vastness of sensation. We research the array of qualities we can embody through our movements. We fine tune our precision by use of form, effort, intention, imagination and so forth. We learn to marry our imagination to our physicality. We include more and more aspects and possibilities in the totality of our movement, becoming more delicate, explosive, effective, groovy and so forth.
What do you want the audience to take away from the performance? It is my aspiration that our work reflects back to the viewer the beauty, power and delight that is inherent in all of us.
I will be there with bells on, anxiously awaiting and hoping for a shred of the feelings I felt when I first saw the Batsheva Dance Company perform, utterly gobsmacked. Run, don’t walk.
For more information about the Batsheva dance company please visit their website, batsheva.co.il/en/home and to learn more about their performance this February and to purchase tickets please visit, www.scfta.org.
Tanya Schwied graduated from New York University, studied abroad in Israel, and currently works for the CEO and President of Jewish Federation & Family Services.