Tag Archive | "Gaga"

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The View from Here

Posted on 11 March 2012 by Deborah Friedes Galili

George Staib on the banks of the Jordan River.

This is a guest post by George Staib.

It was late in the spring of 2011 when I found myself on the banks of the Jordan River, discussing dance with an Israeli friend of mine, with whom I had shared a stage in Atlanta, GA. The new environment, the reconnection, and the gentle vigor of the words flowed as effortlessly as the river itself. Marked with a bit of sadness, that moment encapsulated my Tel Aviv dance experience, which was coming to a close. It was my intention to be submerged in a dance community that shouted boldly and succinctly from across an ocean, which I did. I did this for five weeks, met open arms, and have been changed forever.

My fascination with Israeli modern dance crept up on me. It was a performance of Deca Dance by the New York based company, Cedar Lake, which drew my attention to Israel, namely to Ohad Naharin. Prior, my wife had seen Naharin’s Mamootot, and though I had no first-hand experience of the work, her words were vivid, and I sat transfixed listening to the account she had given of Batsheva’s performance in Brooklyn. With the wonders of YouTube, I found that the images that presented themselves on my screen were varied, distinct, chilling, and captivating. I fell into an abyss of curiosity, admiration, and overwhelming addiction to what I was seeing. Modern dance, to me, had been reinvented. Rather it returned to what I believe its original intention was: communication.

The people I encountered on a daily basis, either through Iris Erez’s classes, Gaga classes, or contact workshops seemed to be fundamentally driven by the need/desire/want to communicate.; to share an experience in all its open-ended glory, in all its universality. The artists’ experience became my experience, and within each class I found myself being asked to show what I was feeling, reveal what I was sensing, and to not be shy. If ever a phrase resonated with profound impact, it would be that one. Don’t be shy. It was my mantra in Tel Aviv and was affirmed with each new acquaintance and friend asking me to do the same. There was a liberation of the dancer I had tucked away, and a re-introduction to the self. All through movement; all through communication.

Countless articles have been written on the power of Gaga and while I found my sentiments echoed those of other enthusiasts, what was not as easy to discover was what Israelis thought of their own adaptations of modern dance. Many friends I made in Tel Aviv seemed genuinely shocked that I would choose Israel to focus my attention on dance. Many were awestruck that Israel was creating a frenzy in the United States, and all smiled politely with a sense of humility that is rare. I witnessed that there was no shyness on stage, no apologetic movement, no need to move away from movement. Movement was the vehicle, and while many dance-makers in the U.S. seem to use movement as a decoration for text, Israelis use movement to take the place of words that could never be as powerful as an honest gesture, a sincere dance.

Within the countless performances I took in while in Tel Aviv, from Batsheva, to Yasmeen Godder, to Yossi Berg and Oded Graf, to KCDC, to Iris Erez, and many, many others, I saw no need to qualify, no need to have all the answers and certainly no shyness. I marveled at the thoughtfulness of the work, the remarkable skill of the dancers (be they released, Gaga-ed, or other;) and the undeniable connection to the audience. The communications, the exchanges, were worth more than gold. I felt like part of the experience and at the same time, was a spectator. I loved not having all the answers and being invited to make my own answers to the mysterious questions being asked on stage. The open-ended communication and dancer-to-audience dialogue continued long after the curtain closed.

The landscape of dance in Israel is broad and rich and lives in a culture that must continuously endure threats and instability. Thankfully, beauty hasn’t suffered. The warmth of those offering their homes, the generosity of the teachers, the inclination towards communication, and the pretention-free, forward-thinking artists I encountered, never allowed complacency to enter their studios, their dances, their lives. I recognized that what some might perceive as forward momentum is actually a by-product of the way life is led in Israel. There is continuous celebration; there is reverence for the past. Tel Aviv moves forward by stating its presence, by boldly commanding an art form through the form. Dances in Israel really dance. They speak louder than words and rely upon movement to tell a story. Actors act, painters paint, and in Israel, choreographers choreograph, and dancers dance. They move with the impetus of sublime images, they create with an awareness of those who will watch, and they unknowingly made me feel like a citizen of a community that communicates.

George Staib’s Name Day. Photograph by Dustin Chambers.

George Staib, through the generosity of Emory University, spent five weeks in Tel Aviv studying Gaga and being an enthusiastic audience member at Suzanne Dellal. He is the artistic director of Staibdance and is a dance teacher at Emory University, in Atlanta, GA. He looks forward to a return visit to Tel Aviv in June, 2012.

You can see George’s blog, maintained while in Tel Aviv, at the following address: movingtowardshome.wordpress.com

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Dancing in Israel: Summer Workshops

Posted on 24 April 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Sheetal Gandhi’s students at Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues 2009. Photo by Tully Chen.

When I first came to Israel to research dance in 2007, I occasionally crossed paths in open classes with other dancers from abroad.  While local studios have always welcomed dancers from around the world, increasingly, short-term seasonal workshops are geared towards an international population of students.  Thinking about expanding your horizons by training in Israel?  Here are a few programs to keep on your radar.

Video: KCDC’s International Summer Program

The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company (KCDC) has launched an international summer dance program for dancers age 15-20. Taught by directors and dancers of both the main company and its junior ensemble as well as guest teachers, this program’s offerings include ballet and modern technique, strengthening sessions, and classes in the repertory of KCDC’s artistic director Rami Be’er. Participants live in guest houses on Kibbutz Ga’aton, home to the company and the Galilee Dance Village, and besides enjoying their stay on the kibbutz, the dancers enrich their experience abroad with weekend trips to other locations in Israel.

KCDC’s 2011 program is scheduled for July 7-21, and more information can be found on the company’s website.

Dancers at the Gaga Intensive Summer Course. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Since its inception in 2008, the Gaga Intensive has grown in size and popularity. Taught by Ohad Naharin and members of the Batsheva Dance Company, the two-week workshop includes Gaga/dancers classes, repertory classes focusing on Naharin’s choreography, and methodics classes, sessions which enable dancers to more deeply research key concepts. The course is open to professional dancers and dance students age 18 and up, and classes are held at Batsheva’s studios at the Suzanne Dellal Centre in Tel Aviv.

The 2011 Gaga Intensive Summer Course is already full, but you can stay tuned to the Gaga website for updates about future workshops.

Video: Bridge Choreographic Dialogues 2009

Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues began as a program linking dance artists in Tel Aviv and Los Angeles, but it has grown into a broader endeavor with an increasingly diverse international faculty and student body.  Held at the Suzanne Dellal Centre under the artistic direction of Barak Marshall, the two-week program is open to dancers age 20 and up who have at least three years of professional experience.  While the exact offerings depend on the program’s faculty, Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues usually features classes in ballet, modern dance, and contemporary repertory as well as choreographic workshops.

The 2011 Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues will be held from July 31-August 12.  More information can be found on Suzanne Dellal’s website and the workshop’s website.  

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Batsheva Dance Company: The Evolution of Ohad Naharin’s “Sadeh21”

Posted on 14 April 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Photo: Ohad Naharin’s Sadeh21. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Watching Batsheva Dance Company in an open rehearsal of Ohad Naharin’s latest creation, I was keenly aware that evolution is at play.  Sadeh21 – literally Field21 – is roughly 6 weeks into its genesis, and it is scheduled to premiere at the Sherover Theatre as part of the Israel Festival in Jerusalem on May 25, 2011.  Dressed informally in their own clothes, the troupe’s twenty members showed a sizable segment of the work to a crowd of journalists in Studio Varda on April 13.

During a few sections, Naharin called out instructions to the dancers, highlighting the element of change that is part and parcel of the creative process. And indeed, in the six weeks between now and its premiere, Sadeh21 will no doubt undergo many changes. What we writers will see in May will bear a resemblance to its forerunner, but it will look decidedly different. Onstage, there will be choreographic sections that we have not yet viewed and alterations to what we did watch – additions, subtractions, refinements. Naharin noted that he and the cast have paid special attention to the interpretation of the work, which will certainly deepen with time. And in the theater, Sadeh21’s full staging will be revealed, including lighting by Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi) and costumes by Ariel Cohen.

Photo: Ohad Naharin’s Sadeh21. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Yet even at this early point of its development, Sadeh21 is rich with layers.  The composition juxtaposes solos and duets with larger ensembles, clean lines and formations with an organic chaos that, when featuring all twenty dancers, brings to mind the image of children gleefully tearing across a playground.  Sometimes a particular structural motif surfaces, the clarity of form enhancing the strength of a section as it unfolds.  And throughout, the movement captivates and surprises.  Bodies extend to their furthest points and then contract, speedily changing shape with seemingly no preparation and referencing motions both familiar and novel.  These dancers may have the same flesh and bone makeup as the rest of us, but at times they appear to be pure liquid, poured into constantly shifting molds.

Naharin’s movement language, Gaga, has been used as a toolbox throughout the construction of Sadeh21, and traces of the ideas explored in classes are visible to viewers who have taken Gaga.  Several women slink into their own gentle grooves before periodically convening to start a small gesture in unison – clapping, tracing a circle in the air with one finger, making a fist and punching, pushing the pelvis upwards from a crablike crouch.  Keeping the same tempo, the dancers gradually increase the size of the movement until it is as big as possible, enlisting more and more of their bodies until every part is contributing to the effort.  While the movement can be silly, it is sophisticated, imbued with pleasure in the discovery of new options and laced with humor.  Both a woman pattering offstage on all fours with her tail in the air and a man hopping across the space with one leg tucked up flamingo-style bring a smile to my face; a woman rhythmically lifting her hips in a long and winding march endears herself to me.

It’s not just the clever, sometimes lighthearted physicality that stirs my feelings in this version of Sadeh21.  The interactions between the dancers – from simple looks to tender clasps of hands to more intricately designed contact – resonate with a range of emotions.  And when a man tilts his face up, assumes an optimistic expression and high-pitched tone, and verbalizes sweetly in an invented language, I can’t understand what he is saying.  But I am nevertheless drawn to him, and I find myself responding with laughter, affection, and a touch of concern as he is forcibly removed to the side of the stage.

Photo: Ohad Naharin’s
Sadeh21. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Somehow, the emotional power of the dance seems closer to the surface in Sadeh21, more readily available and potent than in some of Naharin’s recent creations such as MAX (2007) and Hora (2009).  From this viewing, it seems that the work may share the epic tone and theatrical prowess that enthralled audiences in Naharin’s earlier productions for the Israel Festival, including Kyr (1990) and Z/na (1995).  It may well be that in Sadeh21, Naharin has gathered the fruits of his artistic research over his twenty-one years at the helm of Batsheva – the more overtly dramatic sensibility that characterized his large-scale works from the 1990s and the cornucopia of physical possibilities gleaned through Gaga – and married them together.   Sadeh21’s own evolution will continue in the womb of the studio during the next six weeks, and knowing Naharin’s ongoing engagement with his creations, the work will certainly change further as it lives in performance.  I for one am interested in seeing the dance in its next developmental stages – and in contemplating its place in Naharin’s artistic evolution.

Performance Information

Batsheva Dance Company will premiere Ohad Naharin’s Sadeh21 during the Israel Festival at Jerusalem’s Sherover Theatre on May 25-27, 2011.  Additional performances include May 31-June 4 (Herzliya Performing Arts Centre), June 5 (Modi’in Performing Arts Centre), June 9-11 (Suzanne Dellal Centre), and June 13 (Carmiel Performing Arts Centre).

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Announcing the Gaga Intensive 2010

Posted on 01 April 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Gaga Intensive. Photo by Gadi Dagon

Many of you have inquired about the 2010 Gaga Intensive, a two-week summer course offered by Ohad Naharin along with dancers from Batsheva Dance Company.  So, as the registration coordinator for the workshop, I’m pleased to offer you the scoop: this year’s intensive will be held from July 11-23 in Tel Aviv at the Batsheva studios in the Suzanne Dellal Center.  The Gaga Intensive is geared towards dancers and dance students age 18+.  Classes in Gaga, Naharin’s repertory, and Gaga methodics will run Sundays through Thursdays from 10:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon, and there will also be classes on Friday mornings. The course will cost 2000 NIS, or roughly $500.

If you have questions, please do not contact me through Dance In Israel but instead e-mail me at: [email protected]

You can register at: www.gagapeople.com

Hope to see you in Tel Aviv this summer!

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Batsheva Dance Company: Ohad Naharin’s “Shalosh” (“Three”)

Posted on 15 February 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s Three

Five years after its premiere, Ohad Naharin’s Shalosh (Three) still lures audiences to the Suzanne Dellal Center – and judging by the enthusiastic curtain calls last Saturday night, the work continues to captivate crowds.  My preview of this run of Three was originally published in the Jerusalem Post as “Lucky Number ‘Three.'”

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Three by Ohad Naharin.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Addressing a small crowd in the Batsheva Dance Company’s studios during an open rehearsal of Three, artistic director and choreographer Ohad Naharin mused that we frequently revisit books, movies, and music. So why not revisit a dance?

Naharin proposes that Tel Aviv audiences do just that when Three, an evening-length work which premiered in February 2005, returns to the Suzanne Dellal Center this weekend.

Guy Shomroni and Sharon Eyal in Three by Ohad Naharin.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

“The showing of Three in Tel Aviv offers the viewer a renewed meeting with the work, which exists inside a constant process of development since its creation,” Naharin explained in a press release. “This process, in which the work is growing and being refined all the time, is just as meaningful in the company’s work as the process of creation before a premiere.”

At the rehearsal, Naharin elaborated why both of these processes are so vital.  “Since the premiere, the creation went through a lot of changes.  I like to think of the premiere as a birth, since it’s clear to everyone that birth is just one moment, and that afterwards many other things happen,” he reflected.  “There is no doubt that the work changed, improved, among other things because of the meeting with the dancers, who are very creative and musical themselves.  This is one of the reasons that I recommend for people to see the creation twice, at the beginning and after a year or two once it has gone through this process of ripening.”

Three by Ohad Naharin.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

In the case of Three, the work has enjoyed five years of ripening while remaining in Batsheva’s active repertory.  Consequently, original cast members who have stayed with the company as well as newer additions to the troupe have had ample opportunity to develop their interpretation of the dance, calibrating their embodiment of the choreography with previously elusive nuances and subtleties.

Nowhere is this maturation more important and beneficial than in a work such as Three, which in the absence of complex stagecraft and elaborate visual design reveals the movement and the dancers’ performance of it as the main subject.  Lit plainly but effectively by Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi) and clothed in Rakefet Levy’s basic, solid-colored tops and closely fitting cropped pants, the dancers approach Three’s sophisticated, multi-layered movement with a confident straightforwardness.

Three by Ohad Naharin.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

As the title suggests, Three contains three discrete sections, and Naharin’s compositional and musical choices provide each part with a distinctive feel.  In “Bellus,” set to Glenn Gould’s celebrated recording of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, a simple purity reflective of the music pervades both the dancers’ finely wrought solos and the more pared down, precise group work.  Brian Eno’s spare, evocative Neroli provides the soundscape for “Humus,” which features a flock of the company’s women methodically repositioning their bodies and shifting their spatial formation in an entrancing unison.

“Secus,” the final section, boasts a musical collage that stretches from the offbeat electronic stylings of AGF to the alluring Indian melodies of Kaho Naa Pyar Hai to the resonant harmonies of the Beach Boys.  This adventurously eclectic mix serves as a fitting backdrop for the audaciously quirky choreography.  From total stillness, the dancers burst into flurries of activity, creating a sense of organized chaos both in the space and within their bodies.  Their novel movement often defies description, but it constantly commands attention and inspires awe.

Three by Ohad Naharin.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Three’s extraordinarily rich physical texture can be attributed at least partly to the evolution of Naharin’s movement language, Gaga, in the early 2000s.  Naharin noted that just a few years prior to Three’s premiere, “Gaga became the heart of the daily practice of the company,” and he added, “this common language [Gaga] held the keys to the process” of making Three.  Indeed, the marvelous movement invention and robust embodiment which characterize Three are closely linked to the practice of Gaga, which expands the dancers’ ability to research movement possibilities and awakens their sensitivity to physical sensations.  Five years later, Batsheva’s dancers bring a deepened understanding of Gaga to their performance of this work.  And that’s reason enough to revisit Three for a second or even a third time.

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