Reflections on the Gaga Intensive 2009

Posted on 06 August 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Gaga Intensive

Ohad Naharin leads class at the Gaga Intensive 2009.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Last year, I only made it to two days of the Gaga Intensive because I was heading back to the U.S. for the summer.  But this year, I enjoyed two glorious weeks of dancing with 120 participants from around the world.  During our breaks, I talked to many of the dancers about why they came to the workshop, what they enjoyed most, and what they got out of the experience.  I’ll be posting more of my writing about the Gaga Intensive later, but first I wanted to bring you some inspiring voices from these dancers.

If you want to share your experience from the Gaga Intensive, you can write a comment at the bottom of this post!

* * *

Allison Shir

– United States, via Amsterdam

I came to the Gaga workshop to expand my vocabulary in a new way.  Sometimes if you keep going to the same classes and do the same styles, your artistry can get stale.  I think this [intensive] is a lot about how your artistry can feed your physicality and technique rather than the other way around.  I think that makes for a much richer and satisfying workshop, and you can take away a lot for your career and your life.  It’s not just about dancing with your body but with your life, and about the interconnectedness of everything – there are dynamic possibilities within everything here.

* * *

Victoria Hoyland

– England

I was dancing with Hofesh Shechter as an apprentice and one of the dancers told me about it.   Everyone in the Hofesh company just raves about Batsheva and Gaga, so I just had to go!

I just think the information, the way they use the imagery and make your body do things it doesn’t normally do, it’s as if they find the creative strand; they pull it out, somehow.  I’ve had it a bit the last year, since Hofesh was here with Batsheva; it’s some of the same ideas of the Gaga technique, but it’s different.

Here there don’t seem to be any boundaries.  They’re specific but they leave it open to interpretation, so you don’t need to try to look like something or be like something.  That’s what I’ll take home and apply.  It makes improvisation less scary; it makes it like a fun challenge, and I used to hate improvisation!

* * *

Hannah Nieh

– United States

One of my best friends did a Gaga workshop last summer, and I saw such a shift in her artistry . . .

I’ve always loved Ohad’s choreography.  I’ve seen Nederlans Dans Theatre and Hubbard Street, and this year I saw Batsheva at BAM.  I was moved – I saw something very unique, an energy, a special quality that I hadn’t seen for a while.  I’m used to seeing really great technicians in New York, but I saw something even more honest in Batsheva.

I had taken a master class with Ohad and knew I wanted to delve into a deeper understanding of what Gaga was, especially after seeing [Batsheva] perform.  There’s a feeling of humanity that’s so strong which you don’t see as often as you’d hope in something that is so human.

The workshop challenges you on every level: spiritually, mentally, and of course, physically.  I love how [Ohad] talks about being available, which makes me think about the limitless potential we all hold.  It feels like Buddhism for your body.  My body has explored so much uncharted territory and knows that there’s the potential for more.  You can explode, be soft, turn in, turn out – it’s all there.  You’re sensing that even if you’re not doing that.

* * *

Evelyn Klöti

–  Switzerland

I was here [at the workshop] last year already.  It gives you a lot of energy!  You have the freedom to move – there are structures, but inside them you have freedom, pleasure, humor . . . But it’s also very intellectual because I think the images are coming from different fields, and that’s also challenging to really sense what the intention of the image is.

* * *

Abbe Ouziel

United States

I worked with someone from the [Batsheva] company in the States and saw the company perform a few times.  They came to New York for a while when they were working with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and I took Gaga classes there.  I had always wanted to keep working in this way, so when I heard there was a workshop, I signed up.  I wanted to have a good amount of time to work like this instead of doing just a class here and a class there.

What has been the best thing?  I guess connecting Gaga technique with the repertory they have been teaching.  It’s a good way to test your body and see if you can incorporate all the information that you’ve been getting into the set forms that they’re teaching.  And it’s a totally different way of moving.  It’s like every movement can be an empty movement, but what we’ve been learning has been filling these movements up.  It’s a more challenging and interesting way of dancing.

I think I’m getting a much more efficient and fuller way of working.  I’m making sure that I’m putting all that I have into the way that I move and don’t just have empty forms in space.  Also, I’m listening to my body more.  Just seeing the way that the dancers here work is something to take away because they really put all of themselves into each little movement that they do.  And they all do it in a different way, which is really cool!

* * *

Aviv Asulin

– Israel

In the first day, it was amazing!  I went out, and it was like, “Wow!”  I hadn’t danced in two weeks, but it was really great.  All my body opened up and I felt really happy; I talked to my mom and smiled at everyone on the street.

The classes are really professional.  The teachers are amazing; they do Gaga very well, and the transference of the information is great.  I like the repertoire.  Kamuyot and the solos were especially amazing.

* * *

Sarah Goldstone

– United States

My training at Juilliard was very traditional, but we got the chance to work with Ohad on excerpts from MAX and excerpts from Three.  To do something that was more modern, contemporary, and current, it was the most fulfilling and exciting experience in my whole Juilliard career.  And at Juilliard you rehearse so much that it can die a little in the process – things become stale, and they’re always telling you to do things like the person in the video did.   And to not do that was like, Oh . . . it wasn’t a free for all, but you got to experience it for yourself.  Even though we rehearsed in the Juilliard fashion, Ohad’s work was always, constantly fresh.  I felt like a kid again!

Being here at the intensive, I feel curious again.  It’s not like, “Do a tondue and look like this person.”   I do a tondue and experience it for myself.  It’s what the dance world needs, I think.

The curiosity for dance and for experiencing new ways of moving is back.  I had been a little bit jaded by all this traditional technique, and even though I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of all the tasks of Gaga, I want to keep investing.  Ohad talks about multi-layer tasks, and you see that in the dancers, in the teachers.  I feel like if I keep doing this I can finally grab hold and get to what he’s talking about.

And the repertory feels very human, it doesn’t feel presentational.  We keep getting this correction from the teachers, that it doesn’t have to be presentational.  To have that, it’s so new; it feels good to just be.  I feel this has been a great outlet for that.

* * *

Gaga Intensive

An intense moment at the Gaga Intensive.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Birgitte Lundtoft

– Denmark

I’ve seen the Batsheva Company in all their performances in Copenhagen, and I’m so moved by it – it really has a bite somehow.  It captures me.   The dynamics and the fleshiness of it, the bodies . . .

I did Gaga for a couple of weeks in Denmark; I tried it there first.   I can’t exactly say what it is, but I think there’s just this feeling that there’s something I want here, something I want to do.

Here at the workshop, I’m in the middle of it; I see all the dancers, and it’s very intensive.  So you go much deeper into it.  I actually feel that you get addicted to it – after the day off yesterday, my body wanted to do it again!  It wanted more.

I really love the method classes the most, because at the end of the day, when we’ve had the Gaga class and the repertory, I don’t know if I have any more in me, but a whole new kind of energy comes.   I like that very much.

* * *

Hallie Dalsimer

– United States, based in Tel Aviv

Gaga is about embodied sensation.  You have to engage the mind to embrace the concept, but then there’s a point when you have to let go of the conscious and be with the sensation.  When it happens, it’s really magical, it’s satisfying.  There’s another thing: it’s about this honest experience and sensation and not what it looks like.

In the repertory, there’s a unison of intention without the unison of form.  The fact that everyone has this same impetus gives it this juiciness.

It’s an expansive way to work, to break out of habits and habitual ways of doing a task.  And it can really enrich your experience of other forms; it allows more possibility.

Gaga is empowering for people because it allows you to connect to yourself in a way that is powerful and liberating.  It’s really transformed my interests in movement.  It’s been a really amazing thing to have access to.

* * *

Anna Roethlisberger

– Switzerland

It’s interesting because I did a lot of performance, dance, and Feldenkrais, and I got a grant to come here.   Some people recommended it to me, and I thought, “Okay, let’s have a look at it.”  And I was a bit skeptical but open at the same time, and wondering how Ohad would make the translation and transition from warming up and oppositional things to dancing – the bridge between functional research to real movement and improvisation.

I think it’s a very good thing.  For dancers who are at the beginning of a career and non-dancers, they have an enormous potential and chance to really integrate something.  They can get a really nice base and have an impulse to go further.  They can start to have more inspiration afterwards.

Ohad transmitted it very beautifully.   When a method is developed by somebody, he is like the body of the method, so I like taking classes from Ohad because he’s really the pool of information.  He is the body which can transport the message.  And I think sometimes it’s very difficult to learn a method from someone; you really have to understand as a teacher what he meant – really study your own body and not just copy the thing.  And I think Ohad has this gift to inspire people because he developed it.  He is the pool, the source.  I like to be with the source, and have the freedom to create around.   I got a good inspiration for movement and it gives me feedback and courage to go to improvisation and choreography.  It is a good base from which to go much further.

I really think he reaches people on a different level.

* * *

Cindy Yu

– United States

I had taken a break from dancing and I thought this would be a good workshop; I knew someone who had done it to work out a back injury.  So I thought this would be a good way to get back into it, to get my body moving again.

I had previously done Gaga at Peridance in a few classes that were offered there and also at Dance New Amsterdam.  I also wanted to travel to a different country, so that helped me decide to come.

I’ve been to workshops before where you learn repertory, and there I just feel like I’m learning a dance.  But here I feel like you can apply what you’re learning in the classes to the dance.  That’s not always the case in workshops.

I feel like Gaga is a different way to get to that place.  And what is that place?  Why we dance . . . it’s to feel that connectedness in our bodies, in other people, in the universe.  It’s great to find another path to get to that level of awareness.  I feel like it’s more effective.  Sometimes it’s difficult, but it makes sense to me.

* * *

Christina Robinson

– England

I just wanted to try somewhere new, since I’ve not been out of England to dance yet.  I had seen clips of the Israeli companies and they’re very bold, with a lot of great movement, and that sort of appealed to me.  That was the sort of thing I’d like to do but don’t over in England.  So a friend told me about this, and I said I’d go for it and see what it’s like.

What do I like about the workshop?  The whole freedom thing.  I’ve always felt a bit of pressure, but here you don’t know anyone so it’s just you, and you can really just be yourself and use their information to find something new in yourself and explore that.  I think it’s very free.  Everyone’s doing their own thing, and there’s no right or wrong as well.

The imagery helps a lot.  I’ve been taking notes and remembering the things that really work for me.  You kind of hear [the teachers’] voices with things you know you should work with, like finding every place in the body and maybe moving a bit more intelligently instead of just doing the movement.  You’re finding different ways to do it, which can bring something new to the dance.

* * *

Melinda Wilson

– United States

I’ve gained further understanding of the body and the brain, and how they coexist for movement that can be honest and sincere.  This is the difference between last year and this year (aside from some scheduling differences). The more time you spend with it, the more it becomes part of you. You stop looking at other people for direction, you stop needing the confidence because you trust your organs, and you trust your body for where the movement comes from.

What made me come back?  Obviously the learning process of Gaga itself, and the relationship to the people, whether it’s the dancers or people from Israel who are non-dancers. And of course working with Ohad, who is the creator of the movement language – you rarely get to do that.

It’s broadened my horizons.

* * *

Many thanks to the dancers who participated in this post and to the generosity of the Gaga Intensive’s staff and teachers!

Related posts on Gaga on Dance In Israel

Related posts on Batsheva Dance Company and Ohad Naharin on Dance In Israel

Related links

Want to share your Gaga Intensive experience?  Post a comment below!

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