A Glimpse into the Gaga Workshop

Posted on 07 April 2009 by deborah friedes


Gaga Intensive. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Nearly every time I have written about Gaga, I have received inquiries from readers about opportunities to study Ohad Naharin’s movement language.   Several people have wondered about attending a Gaga intensive, and now I’m happy to announce that there will indeed be a workshop in Tel Aviv from July 19th-31st, 2009.  Contact [email protected] for more information.

Although I spent most of the summer of 2008 in the U.S., I visited the Gaga workshop for a day and joined participants in their classes.  To get a sense of what might be in store for this year’s Gaga intensive, check out my reflection on last year’s experience, posted below.  My article was originally written for The Winger on July 30, 2008.

* * *

In between packing and tying up various loose ends in Tel Aviv a few weeks ago, I swung by the Suzanne Dellal Center to check out Batsheva’s Gaga intensive workshop.  Eldad Mannheim, who manages the Batsheva Ensemble, had told me it was full, but I don’t think I was prepared for what I saw when I walked into Studio Varda on a Wednesday afternoon.   Dancers had come literally from all over the world – the U.S., Mexico, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and no doubt many other countries – to study Gaga.

The participants had already taken a morning Gaga class by the time I arrived, and now they were busily reviewing material from the daily repertory class in small groups.  On the day I attended the workshop, Danielle and Bosmat first led us through a tight gestural section from Ohad Naharin’s MAX.  After seeing this excerpt not only in MAX but in several performances of Seder, I was quite eager to try my hand(s) at this movement (so to speak).

The workshop participants had already learned the speedy sequence, and while it was challenging for me to pick up the exact gestures during Danielle’s review, I enjoyed working with some of the more qualitative instructions as she picked apart certain motions. With precise instructions about our dynamics, focus, and intent, the movement became richer; nothing less than full commitment to each moment was acceptable. We also worked on moving together as a group in a tight formation, watching and sensing each other to maintain the unison that has often impressed me when I have seen the company.

After MAX, we switched gears and turned to phrasework from “Humus,” the woman’s section from Naharin’s Shalosh (Three). Now tinier gestures were juxtaposed with gloriously full-bodied dancing, motion was countered with stillness, and quasi-balletic poses were contrasted with quirkier movements. As in Gaga classes, we were often instructed to connect to pleasure: enjoy the feeling of our bodies as we spring into the air, find a feeling of ultimate indulgence as we sit back and cross one leg over the other.   And once again, even as we surrendered individually to the fullest sensation possible, the unity of the group was key.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning this repertory, but the highlight of the day for me was the Gaga method class.   I had seen this on the schedule and wondered just what was “Gaga method.”  It turned out to be an opportunity to more thoroughly explore a few concepts outside of the typical 1-hour Gaga class with additional explanation from the teacher and discussion with other students – almost a meta-Gaga, if you will.

On this occasion, Ohad Naharin himself taught the class, guiding us through an examination of the physical differences between joy and pleasure before leading us through an investigation of how to connect to a sense of plenty of time even while moving at an ever-increasing speed.  We also worked as a full group and in pairs, testing our ability to quickly pick up and interpret movement.  Finally, we sat down and wrapped up our session, asking questions and sharing our thoughts.

I walked away from the workshop with much more to think about.  Besides mulling over some of the recurring ideas and images in Gaga, I realized a major reason why I have been so drawn to it throughout my time in Israel: I’m a researcher, and each Gaga class is an opportunity to research movement.  It’s also no wonder that I loved the Gaga method class.  At some point, every researcher steps back from data collection and moves on to analysis, and while I have certainly spent a lot of time processing the classes I have taken, I have rarely been able to analyze the concepts from and experience of Gaga with other students – and with Ohad.  What a way to cap off 10 months in Tel Aviv!

Related posts on Gaga on Dance In Israel

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*This post was made possible thanks to a Fulbright student grant funded by the U.S.-Israel Educational Foundation and hosted by the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance.

2 Comments For This Post

  1. Evan Says:

    Thanks for (re)sharing this piece, Deborah. How exciting to hear about the July Gaga workshop in Tel Aviv. Now, if only there were a workshop in NYC!

  2. Deborah Friedes Says:

    Thanks for (re)reading! I know lots of people in NY – and elsewhere – would love to have some Gaga in their lives, and if anything is planned in the future, I’ll make sure to put it on my calendar. I hope some people can make it out to Tel Aviv too, since it’s a great program and the scene during the summer is packed with performances.

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