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Experiencing Yasmeen Godder’s Repertory Workshop

Posted on 30 September 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Yasmeen Godder's "Two Playful Pink"

Yasmeen Godder and Iris Erez in Godder’s Two Playful Pink.  Photo by Tamar Lamm.

More than a year ago, I had the opportunity to take a week-long repertory workshop at Yasmeen Godder’s studio.  I found the intensive enriching both as a dancer and as a dance researcher, and I recounted my experience on The Winger on April 4, 2008; that article is posted below.

Now another batch of advanced dancers will have the chance to sink their teeth into Godder’s meaty material during a brand-new, year-long intensive.  Hosted by ActSearch and held at Godder’s studio in Jaffa, this program will build participants’ physical and expressive skills through a mix of technique classes, repertory workshops, and sessions with dramaturge Itzik Giuli.

Besides preparing for this exciting endeavor, Godder has been touring one of her latest works, Singular Sensation. Want to watch some of her work and see what’s in store for her new students?  There are lots of upcoming performances in several locations.  After one more performance of Singular Sensation at Suzanne Dellal on October 1, the production is traveling to Prague and Bern in October before touring Germany and Belgium in November.  For more information on the intensive workshop and the tour, check out the links at the end of this article.

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Yasmeen Godder’s Repertory Worskhop (April 2008)

It’s been more than seven months since I have learned new repertory, and while I’m loving my dance classes and improvisational projects, I do miss the process of absorbing and living in a piece of choreography.   So even though my body feels a bit tired now, my spirit is extremely happy after tasting a bit of Yasmeen Godder’s work!

I just finished a five-day workshop at her studio in Jaffa (at the south of Tel Aviv – technically, the city is Tel Aviv-Yafo).  Yasmeen is currently on tour in Europe with her production Sudden Birds, so two of her dancers led the intensive.  Each day began with Eran Shanny’s technique class, which was very similar to Yasmeen’s with its influences of release technique, yoga, Feldenkrais, and more.

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Batsheva Dance Company: From Graham to Gaga

Posted on 21 September 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Ohad Naharin's "Hora"
Rachael Osborne and Iyar Elezra in Ohad Naharin’s Hora. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

I first wrote the article below for the Forward last winter, when the Batsheva Dance Company toured North America in three large-scale productions.  Now, right before New York audiences catch Ohad Naharin’s duet B/olero in City Center’s popular Fall for Dance festival, I decided it was time to revisit this piece.

Fall for Dance features an array of internationally-renowned companies, and while Batsheva has boasted a world-class reputation since its inception, its style and structure have changed dramatically over the last few decades.  This article, originally titled “Going Gaga for Batsheva in America,” traces Batsheva’s transition from a strongly American-influenced company to the more distinctive troupe which has captivated contemporary audiences.

Going Gaga for Batsheva in America

Since its first tour of the United States in 1970, Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company has won over American crowds and critics alike with its energetic approach to dance.  At the time, it was, perhaps, a novelty: an Israeli group performing primarily American repertory with unbridled verve and vigor.  But in the past 18 years, the company has become a phenomenon of a different sort.  The Batsheva Dance Company, which is currently crisscrossing North America, is widely recognized as one of the world’s top dance ensembles, featuring audacious choreography with inventive movement.

Founded in 1964 with the financial backing of Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild, Batsheva began as a repertory company in the American mold.  Martha Graham, a founding mother of American modern dance and a beneficiary of de Rothschild’s patronage, served as artistic adviser.  The Israeli dancers trained intensively in Graham’s technique and channeled both their physical power and their emotional passion into some of the choreographer’s most acclaimed works. With many of Graham’s disciples contributing to Batsheva’s repertory, the Tel Aviv-based company was part of American modern dance’s family; New York Times critic Clive Barnes even called Batsheva’s members “the Israeli children of American dance” upon seeing the company’s American debut.

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Gaga for Dancers: From the Gaga Intensive to New Open Classes

Posted on 27 August 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Gaga Intensive

Dancers at the Gaga Intensive 2009.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

I’ve been studying Gaga for the better part of two years, but the vast majority of the classes I have taken fall under the rubric of “Gaga People,” Gaga classes which are open for participants regardless of any previous dance experience.  There’s something magical about these classes.  It’s not often that you walk into a dance studio full of people ranging in age from their early 20s to their 70s, some of whom have performed professionally and some of whom simply love to move but have never taken a dance class before.

Yet there was also something special about taking Gaga classes with 120 other dancers during the Gaga Intensive this summer.  “Gaga Dancers” classes challenged me to more thoroughly explore the underlying concepts of Ohad Naharin’s movement language and enabled me to research these ideas while connecting more consciously to my body’s knowledge of ballet and modern dance forms.  I wasn’t just working from my lena; I was working my arabesque from my lena.  I was floating while doing changements, exploring biba while doing developés, and sensing my luna while doing pliés and relevés.

I’m happy to announce that starting on September 8th, Gaga classes designed specifically for dancers will be opened to the public in Tel Aviv.  Like the “Gaga People” classes, these will take place at the Suzanne Dellal Center.  If you have previous dance training, you can get your groove on at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  And I’m also happy to announce that starting soon, I’ll be the one working the door!  For more details, please see the Events calendar.

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Before open “Gaga Dancers” classes start, I wanted to share another glimpse of last month’s Gaga Intensive.  I first wrote the article below, “Learning to Speak Gaga,” for the Jerusalem Post. To read what other dancers thought about their Gaga experience, check out my previous post, “Reflections on the Gaga Intensive 2009.”

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Learning to Speak Gaga

Amidst the waves of tourists arriving in Israel this summer was one particularly diverse group, gathering, from around the globe, in Tel Aviv.  They came from the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, Belgium, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Cameroon, Japan and Korea.  Like some other foreign visitors, they were eager to experience an unfamiliar culture and learn a new language. But these weren’t typical tourists and they weren’t planning to study Hebrew.  They are dancers.  And they came to immerse themselves in Gaga.

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Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues 2009 Brings L.A. to Israel

Posted on 19 August 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Sheetal Ghandi's Class

Sheetal Gandhi’s workshop group.  Photo by Tully Chen.

Sheetal Gandhi watched attentively as three pairs of her students transformed the material she had taught into duets.  The dancers chatted with each other in Hebrew, occasionally asking their teacher questions in English.  Yet there were other unfamiliar sounds peppering their speech: bols, syllables from an Indian drum and dance language.  The dancers’ lilting chants created a mesmerizing rhythmic pulse for their kathak-influenced movement.

Meanwhile, in another studio at the Suzanne Dellal Center, Jackie Lopez – aka Miss Funk – was introducing her students to wack’n, one genre of hip-hop.  Starting off slowly, she layered arm gestures onto a full-bodied rocking action, sped up the movement, and played even more with the coordination.  After reviewing a popping phrase and moving onto a house combination, she turned to the dancers.  “I don’t want professional house dancers,” she told them.  “I just want you to feel something new.”

Trying something new is the driving force behind Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues, a unique summer workshop which creates links between the Israeli and American dance scenes.  Claudio Kogon, deputy director of the Suzanne Dellal Center, elaborated, “The point of this program is to bring people who have a unique background, to bring choreographers that could offer people here in Israel something different.”  While the Israeli dancers who participated in this workshop had years of experience in contemporary dance, most of them had little contact with either Sheetal’s kathak-flavored fusion of dance or Jackie’s rich hip-hop vocabulary.  They came, as Jackie hoped, to feel something new.

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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!

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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.

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