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

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Gaga technique revealed

I admit, I have a hard time describing Gaga, especially to non-dancers.  How can I describe this physical, energetic, effortful but feel-good form without sounding obscure and abstract?  At the risk of confusing my audience even more, I will describe it as such:  a movement technique developed by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin that uses improvisation as a tool for heightening body awareness, expanding range and strength, and opening to more possibilities for texture and artistic aesthetic.  The teacher provides images (the idea of floating in water is central to Gaga) to achieve these goals, and the dancers find what they call "form" (i.e. ballet technique/positions) amidst the free movement.  Batsheva uses Gaga as their primary training technique in the way that most other companies use ballet or modern.

Over the past week I have delved even more deeply into Gaga in this workshop in Tel Aviv, where we have Gaga-Dancers classes (more dancer-specific as opposed to Gaga People classes that are also offered to the general public) and apply the ideas to Batsheva repertoire.  When I was here in 2008, I was taking mainly Gaga People classes (they had not yet fully developed Gaga Dancers, at least for drop-in classes), and have only had a few dancer-specific classes with repertoire.  This has been a really awesome time to delve deeper into the technique and learn how to apply it to my other dancing and teaching. Some of the main ideas I've taken so far are finding length in my spine by feeling energy running through its whole length and finding the separation from ribs and belly button (easing the lordosis I normally have in my lower back), finding that a strong, thick texture can coexist with softness, keeping port de bras moving and floating as opposed to being a stuck position, and "hiding the beginnings," an idea where you are always available to explode into sudden movement without needing a preparation.  I am also working on the idea of "letting go," which I think is about finding a compromise between loose and held muscles, especially abdominals.  There is a way to find power and move from your center (the "lena," they call it) but without gripping, and in fact, there needs to be a softness there in order to find the above-mentioned feeling of letting go.  Some of it is theoretical and still abstract, but over the last week I have been learning more about these fundamentals and understanding them more with each class.

A main technique I train with at home is Ronn Stewart's MoPed technqiue, which is also based in improvisation and is partially influenced by Gaga.  I am immensely excited to go home at find these elements in Moped and also see how they will influence the way I see ballet, modern, and other forms.

Oh and no.  Lady Gaga has nothing to do with it.  Never has, never will.

On a more fun note, a bunch of us in the intensive and other people in the dance/gaga community saw a performance of short works with a subsequent dance party afterwards.  The night was called Summer Portraits, and is apparently timed with the Gaga workshop, and coordinated by Batsheva and other Tel Aviv dance-scene people.  It was a fantastic night of light works, and the dance party afterwards was fantastic.  It was kindof wild to be grooving with Batsheva people, but after a bit it seemed natural.  All of us just gaga-ing around the dance floor....it was a great party and fun moving with all these artsy, open, fun-loving people!

And with that...Shabbat Shalom from Tel Aviv! :)  Next week starts tomorrow!

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