"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gaga class in Tel Aviv

As my first post on my new blog, I’d like to share some writing I did following my experience in Tel Aviv this summer, where I spent three weeks studying Batsheva Dance Company’s training technique.

An original technique known as Gaga, developed by artistic director Ohad Naharin, combines elements of improvisation, visualization, focusing techniques, and physicality. The classes in Gaga technique were physically and mentally intense, complex, and amazingly rewarding I took at least two, and frequently three classes per day, which were usually taught by Batsheva Company members or its Ensemble (their training/apprentice company) members. Their knowledge of the body, movement, and the technique was rich and deep, and their passion for sharing their knowledge and dancing with the students was inspiring. The classes were primarily taught in Hebrew (of which my comprehension is little), but phrases and important ideas were translated for us English speakers. I met other Israelis who were warm and inviting, and danced with a few other Americans also studying the Gaga technique. (See Deborah Friedes' Dance In Israel blog: http://www.danceinisrael.com)

The Batsheva technique is simple at its core, but complex if you are trying to grasp all that it offers. During my three weeks of dancing, I learned how to open myself up to the information that was being offered and absorb the Batsheva philosophy. My body began to apply the ideas more naturally as the classes progressed, and I learned how to be more free an uninhibited. While the technique taught at Batsheva is about many things, including allowing the body to be free by releasing excess tension, harnessing one’s imagination as a source of inspiration, and connecting to your own personal passion for movement and dance, I found its core values—understanding the body as a natural source of energy, power, and a positive life force—to be especially powerful. I found myself understanding more than ever before how movement and dance is deeply life-affirming. Many of the classes had elements of a cardio workout and were otherwise physically draining. Some teachers pushed us to a point near exhaustion. However, at the moment that we were able to rest, the energy and life that radiated was one of the most amazing of my dance experiences. The tingle of the flesh, the pounding of the heart’s pulse, and the breath flowing through the body kept me going. Many ideas in Gaga, like this, are equally valuable in metaphor as they are in physical practice. As the classes continued and I began to understand more deeply Gaga’s connection to determination and life. As we shook, suspended, connected, floated, pushed through exhaustion, and danced, the idea of resiliency, strength in perseverance, and harnessing positive energy resonated deeply with me. I found that working in this way, in Israel, was a powerful and meaningful experience.

The Graham tradition is of course deeply rooted in Batsheva, as she co-founded the company. The idea of emotion, drama, and struggle that's inherent in Graham is also present in Gaga. When we were pushed through physically difficult situations (whether it was cardio or muscular fatigue), we were always reminded to find the pleasure in the effort, and the passion through the struggle. I also had two classes with Ohad Naharin, and he is an incredible mover and a passionate, driving teacher. The classes were more challenging, as he really wanted to try to get us to understand the technique at its deepest level.

I was also able to see a number of Batsheva performances, and they were incredible—I especially loved the performance of Shalosh at the Suzanne Dellal theatre, a performance of beauty of human body in motion and humor that crescendoed into a finale of intense physicality and matching emotion. Batsheva will take it’s show, Deca Dance on tour in the States, starting late January.

I am so grateful for this experience I had with Batsheva, and I have been utilizing bringing the technique into and its philosophy my other classes. The ideas inherent in understanding my own sense of energy and power, the ability to conjure life from movement, and the struggle to persevere are now becoming an integral part of dancing.


  1. It's wonderful to read about your experience here this summer!

    I've added this article to my growing list of posts about Gaga, which you can find here on Dance In Israel:


  2. Thanks, I remember seeing that when you first posted it. It's such great insight!

  3. Hi Rebecca,

    Clearly you are doing well!

    What I find so amazing about dance in Israel is how intrinsically connected it is with the culture of the people. I wish the we had that same sort of connection here in the states. Maybe our audiences would be bigger if there were a more clear cultural significance that thrived in our cities and our towns and outside of the proscenium stage.

  4. Its great to read about your experience with gaga. I'm curious if you know of other gaga workshops, or how you found out about the one you attended in Israel? The Batsheva website doesn't really work.

  5. Hi Laura! I'm sorry I didn't see your post until now, I'm still getting used to blogging...

    Anyway, I first heard about the Gaga classes when they actually came to my school (University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign) during my sophomore year, and taught a master class for the community. I was really fortunate to be there during that event, because I don't think they teach master classes all that often in the states. I know that the Gaga technique is spreading now though, and there are other companies (particularly in NYC I believe) that are using Gaga-based classes in their training.

    I decided to set up my trip to take classes in Israel all on my own. The website is http://www.batsheva.co.il/, though it is under construction right now...If you are interested in traveling there or learning more about the classes, feel free to get in touch with me!

  6. hey rebecca
    im going to tel aviv on wed 20th for 5 days and i'd love to take some classes while im there. i cant seem to get any info about where or when there are open classes. i havent tried gaga before - im contemporary ballet trained - but it sounds amazing. can you give me any idea how to find great classes while im there?

  7. Hi Layla! The classes happen in studios right near the Suzanne Dellal Theatre in the Neve Tzedek area of TA (south and west, just north of the Yafo area. It's beautiful!). 6 Yechieli Street is the exact address, and to call the main Batsheva line, it is 972-3-5171471. They should hopefully be able to tell you info about the classes. But even if you went directly to the Theatre box office, they can direct you to the studios. They would usually have someone around in the morning for class, and a couple classes in the evening.

    I wish I had more exact information for you, but I hope you can find it and that it works out!

  8. And please let me know what happens! :-)

  9. hey rebecca
    thanx so much for the info
    will let you know how it goes!!

  10. sorry sent from my friends computer - its leyla -thanx for info!!

  11. your writing describes your experience very well!! I loved this! and I love Batsheva!!

  12. Thanks very much! They are amazing indeed!