About Gaga for the people
The Jewish Theatre is the first in Stockholm to welcome the public to try out Gaga, a dance style that has spread worldwide
Pia Forsgren interviews Ohad Naharin
About Gaga for the People
Gaga is a dance that helps you strenghten your body in a both playful and calm way. The so called “movement language” was developed by Ohad Naharin, one of the world’s foremost choreographers. The Jewish Theatre was the first in Stockholm to welcome the public to try it out.
Gaga is about discovering and strengthening one’s body in a playful and calm way while adding flexibility, stamina, and agility as well as lightening the senses and imagination.
GAGA FOR THE PEOPLE was open to people ages 16+, regardless of their background in dance or movement. No previous dance experience was needed. The classes lasted for one hour and were taught by specially invited certified instructor Rachael Osborne who has been a dancer at Mr. Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company for many years and in the Batsheva Ensemble.
Gaga for the People-classes offer a creative framework for participants to connect to their bodies and imaginations, increase their physical awareness, improve their flexibility and stamina, and experience the pleasure of movement in a welcoming, accepting atmosphere.
The instructor guides the participants using a series of evocative instructions that build one on top of the other. Rather than copying a particular movement, each participant in the class actively explores these instructions, discovering how he or she can interpret the information and perform the task at hand.
Participants should wear comfortable clothes and be prepared to dance barefoot, in socks or clean, soft shoes. It is advisable to bring a bottle of water and a towel for use after class.
Interview with Ohad Naharin
Interview by Pia Forsgren with Ohad Naharin.
Ohad Naharin has been hailed as one of the world’s preeminent contemporary choreographers. As Artistic Director of Batsheva Dance Company since 1990, he has guided the company with an adventurous artistic vision and reinvigorated its repertory with his captivating choreography. Naharin is also the originator of an innovative movement language, Gaga, which has enriched his extraordinary movement invention, revolutionized the company’s training, and emerged as a growing force in the larger field of movement practices for both dancers and non-dancers.
Born in 1952 on Kibbutz Mizra, Ohad Naharin began his dance training with the Batsheva Dance Company in 1974. During his first year with the company, visiting choreographer Martha Graham singled out Naharin for his talent and invited him to join her own company in New York.
While in New York, Naharin studied on scholarship at the School of American Ballet, furthered his training at The Juilliard School, and polished his technique with master teachers Maggie Black and David Howard. He went on to perform internationally with Israel’s Bat-Dor Dance Company and Maurice Béjart’s Ballet du XXe Siècle in Brussels.
Naharin returned to New York in 1980, making his choreographic debut at the Kazuko Hirabayshi studio. That year, he formed the Ohad Naharin Dance Company with his wife, Mari Kajiwara, who died of cancer in 2001. From 1980 until 1990, Naharin’s company performed in New York and abroad to great critical acclaim. As his choreographic voice developed, he received commissions from world-renowned companies including Batsheva, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, and Nederlands Dans Theater.
Naharin was appointed Artistic Director of Batsheva Dance Company in 1990 and has served in this role except for the 2003-2004 season, when he held the title of House Choreographer. During his tenure with the company, Naharin has choreographed over 20 works for Batsheva and its junior division, Batsheva Ensemble. He has also restaged over 10 of his dances for the company and recombined excerpts from his repertory to create Deca Dance, a constantly evolving evening-length work.
Naharin trained in music throughout his youth, and he has often used his musical prowess to amplify his choreographic impact. He has collaborated with several notable musical artists to create scores for his dances, including Israeli rock group The Tractor’s Revenge (for Kyr, 1990), Avi Belleli and Dan Makov (for Anaphaza, 1993), and Ivri Lider (for Z/na, 1995). Under the pseudonym Maxim Waratt, Naharin composed music for MAX (2007) and edited and mixed the soundtracks for Mamootot (2003) and Hora (2009). Naharin also combined his talents for music and dance in Playback (2004), a solo evening which he directed and performed.
In addition to his work for the stage, Naharin has pioneered Gaga, an innovative movement language. Gaga, which emphasizes the exploration of sensation and availability for movement, is now the primary training method for Batsheva’s dancers. Gaga has also attracted a wide following among dancers around the world and appealed to the general public in Israel, where open classes are offered regularly in Tel Aviv and other locations.
Naharin’s compelling choreographic craft and inventive, supremely textured movement vocabulary have made him a favourite guest artist in dance companies around the world. His works have been performed by prominent companies including Nederlands Dans Theater, Ballet Frankfurt, Lyon Opera Ballet, Compañía Nacional de Danza (Spain), Cullberg Ballet (Sweden), the Finnish National Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, Balé da Cidade de São Paulo, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet (New York), Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Les Grand Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. Naharin’s rehearsal process with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet during a restaging of Deca Dance was the subject of Tomer Heymann’s documentary Out of Focus (2007).
Naharin’s rich contributions to the field of dance have garnered him many awards and honors. In Israel, he has received a Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa by the Weizmann Institute of Science (2004), the prestigious Israel Prize for dance (2005), a Jewish Culture Achievement Award by The Foundation for Jewish Culture (2008), a Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa by the Hebrew University (2008), and the EMET Prize in the category of Arts and Culture (2009). Naharin has also been the recipient of the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government (1998), two New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Awards (for Naharin’s Virus at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2002 and for Anaphaza at the Lincoln Center Festival in 2003), the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement (2009), and a Dance Magazine Award (2009).
Photo: Gadi Dagon
Gaga instructor Rachael Osborne
Rachael Osborne, born in Canberra Australia, trained at the National Capital Ballet School under Janet Karin OAM. She completed an Associate Degree in Dance at the Queensland University of Technology in 1999. Rachael joined the Ensemble Batsheva in 2001 and the Batsheva Dance Company in 2003 where she remained a full-time member until 2012.
With Batsheva, Rachael worked with choreographers such as Mats Ek and Barak Marshall. She was an original cast member in numerous creations of both Ohad Naharin and Sharon Eyal. With the company she’s also had the privilege of dancing on many of the world’s major stages, including BAM, the Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center, and as part of dance festivals in more than 24 different countries.
Rachael was Assistant to the Rehearsal Director at Batsheva between 2008-2010. In 2008 she was the Batsheva recipient of the Yair Shapira Prize for outstanding contribution to the company. She has taught Gaga (Ohad Naharin’s movement technique) for several years at various companies, schools and as part of festivals in Israel, Europe and North America. Rachael has also taught Ohad’s repertoire and led improvisation sessions at summer courses and workshops in Israel and elsewhere.
She acted as Assistant to the Choreographer for Ohad Naharin in 2011, mounting his work Bolero on the National Dance Company of Wales and also for Sharon Eyal, assisting her in her new creation for the Gothenburg Opera Ballet that premiered in October of 2012.
“Gaga – Anything but Flimsy”
Review from Dagens Nyheter
November 12, 2012
A movement language that gets the audience on their feet, and DN’s critic to leave at the end of the performance with a happy smile on his face. ”Gaga for the people” is a dance piece for anyone who wants to get to know their body.
Gaga for the people
Stage: The Jewish Theatre, Stockholm.
Forty mostly middle-aged and very excited dance amateurs sway their bodies intensely and with dedication during the first lesson of ”Gaga for the people” at the Jewish Theatre. Looks like great fun. Is wonderful.
So, even I try to float around, but inside my own body, at the request of the teacher Rachael Osborne who guides us through an hour of Gaga. A nonsense word in Hebrew – the duck supposedly says “gaga” – which is the name of the choreographer Ohad Naharin’s special, not technique, but movement language. And the foundation of all his renowned dance works for the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company.
The sixty-year-old Ohad Naharin is one of the world’s foremost choreographers. Many will probably remember when Batsheva performed the masterful choreography of ”Virus” at Dansens Hus and the innovative dance installation “Furo” at The Jewish Theatre, six years ago. Naharin’s influence has nevertheless been partially limited, perhaps due to the ignorance of his creative foundation, Gaga.
This is no longer the case. Our teacher Rachael Osborne, a long-time dancer with Batsheva, is just one of hundreds of certified Gaga instructors worldwide. Interest is also mounting in the classical dance world. Ohad Naharin and Gaga were one of the main attractions during the conference “Ballet: Why and how?” in Stockholm in September.
Gaga, however, is not just for professionals. I asked what he wanted to express with his choreography, when I met Ohad Naharin a few years ago. He responded with a thought-provoking shift in meaning “To get the entire world to dance”. “Gaga for the people” at The Jewish Theatre – ten classes until November 25 – is a step in that very direction. Gaga is for anyone. I was bowled over when I myself discovered “Gaga for the people” in Tel Aviv almost ten years ago. I instantly fell in love.
Gaga may appear as somewhat flimsy, liberating dance to a beginner, but gradually you realize how tightly structured and elegantly well thought-through the classes are. Gaga is the fruit of thirty years of extensive dance experience.
We are guided by prompts such as “feel the bones in your body”, “extend the distance between your seat bone and your head”, “be silly”, “float” at The Jewish Theatre. Gaga is all about getting to know your body from the inside and to feel at home in it. Enjoy your body and relish in it, without being limited by your own reflection.
Gaga much like Naharin’s choreography are just as life affirming, as they possess a humanistic foundation. In fact it is Democracy in practice, which every cynical fellow man would benefit from. Thus, the rest of the world as well.
When the Gaga class ends at The Jewish Theatre, I am at least not alone in sporting a silly happy smile.
By Örjan Abrahamsson
“Joy of Dance with Unconditional Philosophy of Movement”
Review from Svenska Dagbladet
November 8, 2012
GAGA FOR THE PEOPLE
The Jewish Theatre
”Feel your bones float inside your skin. Feel how your skin is about to dissolve and fall off your bodies.” The instructions may sound grotesque, but this is not an exercise in becoming a zombie. Quite the contrary. It’s all about discovering and strengthening your body in a playful way.
The 50 or so people who are shuffling around in lose workout clothes at The Jewish Theatre are practicing Gaga. It has nothing to do with the famous pop star, but is something that could become a new popular movement if theatre manager Pia Forsgren’s expectations come true.
Gaga is a kind of movement philosophy, pioneered by world-renowned choreographer Ohad Naharin of Batsheva Dance Company, which now even children and youngsters in Israel are familiar with since the exercise is provided in schools. For the professional dancer Gaga is a way to free the body from the learned techniques and create space for creativity, new awareness and dancing pleasure.
“Gaga For The People” which is available for the general public, is extremely popular in Israel and is now being spread like a virus to the rest of the world. The Jewish Theatre in Stockholm has been collaborating with Ohad Naharin and Batsheva since 1999 and are now breaking new ground. Led by certified instructor Rachael Osborne, who for ten years has been a dancer with the Batsheva Dance Company, we try out an hour-long session.
Participating in my group are a few well-known personalities from the theatre world as well as people who have never been on a stage. The atmosphere is tolerant – there are no mirrors. Each and everyone must find their own sense of the verbal images that Rachael Osborne gives. Gaga has its own vocabulary with words like biba, lena, luna and tama, but for the novice it is more graphic to think of how it would feel to have insects buzzing around your body, to wriggle around in a loose or tight suit, to perceive how a hard ball inside of you would affect the quality of your movements.
Head, neck, hands, arms, shoulders, torso, spine, hips, thighs, feet – everything is involved in an endless flow. Gaga is recommended to all that are curious about what their body can hold of expression, flexibility and emotion. It is unconditional but still very physical.
By Anna Ångström
“Gaga yourself into harmony”
Review from nummer.se
December 11, 2012
REVIEW/DANCE. Gaga is an exercise technique and a movement philosophy developed by Ohad Naharin of the Batsheva Dance Company. Anna Hedelius ended up in a Gaga trance at The Jewish Theatre.
At a time when cultural resources are depleted and there is a yoga studio in almost every street corner (perhaps at its densest on Södermalm in Stockholm, but I even found one at the corner next to my hotel in Kiruna earlier this Fall) – it is perhaps the most prudent to convert theatre stages to gyms. Maybe this is what Pia Forsgren at The Jewish Theatre was thinking when she invited the Gaga instructor Rachael Osborne from the Batsheva Dance Company to teach Gaga for the people in November in the wall-to-wall covered black stage space with a view overlooking the Djurgårdsbrunn Canal.
Gaga is a dance technique for professionals. It is part of the dancer’s daily training at Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company. But Gaga is also a movement philosophy for the common man. Or – judging by the participants at the Gaga class I visit – the common woman.
We are some forty odd jersey-clad Gaga novices – mainly women – that respond to Rachael Osborne’s instructions and supple movements during an hour while the dusk is falling outside. We move softly, quietly, seeking connections with our body parts, imagining that we move in a liquid, that our bodies are surrounded by swarming insects, that we receive and give energy to each other. No body part is forgotten, no movement is wrong. It’s about getting to know one’s body, becoming physically aware of bodily functions that we would otherwise never consider. ”Explore the different parts of your leg”. ”Try bending the ankle outward while bending the thigh inward”. Osborne leads us in movements with instructions that are firm at the same time as they are tolerant.
The experience is not instantaneous, but it sneaks up on you. Moments of monotony lead to trance-like states, further into intense energy kicks when the body comes to life by a brisker movement. When the session is over I’m not tired – but sure – more open, more aware, more in harmony with myself.
Freer than Bikram Yoga, more sensual than CrossFit. It’s entirely possible that Gaga will become the next fitness trend. If you go to The Jewish Theatre in November, you will be among the first in Sweden to experience it.
By Anna Hedelius