Once again, this might be a surprise to you, as I’m about to deal with a topic which is completely different from my previous ones.
Once again, the initial premise may sound conflicting. I’m not a dance enthusiast. I probably don’t know enough about it, hence my struggle to understand it. I wouldn’t have been that excited for a invitation to a dance show. At least, not until now. On top of that, I’ve seen Ohad Naharin’s performances before and they did not impress me at all.
Until, one day, I came across this trailer completely by chance:
Yes – I was scrolling through Facebook. I admit it.
It was overwhelming – like a nylon bag swallowed away by an high-speed train. I watched it on repeat many times. And not just because of the excellent choice of using Caetano Veloso’s “It’s a long way”. I ended up searching for whatever I could find that was linked to this documentary. And I retrieved every video of the performances choreographed by Ohad Naharin, in order to re-watch them with new eyes and a new found involvement.
It gave me excitement, joy. It was tangible and immediate. Physical, I’d say.
Which is exactly what Ohad Naharin means to deliver to the audience – and to his own dancers as well.
Ohad Naharin is an Israeli choreographer, and the art director of the young Batsheva Ensemble. He was also director of the Batsheva Dance Company, one of the world’s most renowned dance company. He is one of the most important, and probably most acclaimed contemporary choreographers. His teaching method and scenic language is called Gaga, a name that evokes the very first syllables spoken by a newborn. Ga–ga. The reason for this is his search for the purest, fundamental pleasure which comes from motion in relation to inner emotions.
Suffices to say that, unlike traditional lessons, “gaga” lessons take place in a room without mirrors, to avoid influencing the dancers and to allow them to listen to their inner selves.
Gaga is the pleasure of movement in its most immediate sense, abstract and emotional at the same time.
Movement itself is the key of pleasure. Since I work in animation, I often happened to ponder on movement, how it relates to shapes, how it can autonomously be pleasurable for the eyes. How it creates sensuality, tension, amazement, no matter the subject of the action. Of course, it all comes from nature. Our eye is an animal, sensing dangers and obligations, the possibility of mating, carnality. Furthermore, human complexity easily elaborated mental mechanisms on many levels, somehow defining abstractions, threading multifaceted – and often conflicting – passions. The gaga way fully sensed this dichotomy. Movement is pleasure and tension possessing a body and its passions, and at the same time it is a means of expression in the hands of the individual.
Naharin also sensed that the other key knot is singularity. How else could it be possible to deliver such a variety of passions if not by turning to individual experiences? Its Batsheva Enslemble does not look for a dancer with specific skills. It looks for the exact opposite of that. Strong individuals, capable of speaking their own languages. Not only its dancers come from many different fields, from classic ballet to street dance, but selection could depend on the contestant’s sense of humor. I mean it. That’s the key idea, the cornestone. It is no coincidence that their performances are born and developed through long improvised sessions. Naharin has at its disposal living and creative material. He has the passions of its dancers. Their experience and sensitivity. Their sexuality. Their singular bodies. Young dancers, between 18 and 24 years old, staying with the Batsheva Ensemble for 2 years.
What originates from this process is, quite simply, gaga. An emotional language, simple in many aspects, which works on physical and inner movement by skimming off what’s unnecessary. The impact is an extraordinary bivalence. Of strength and fluidity, of choruses and intimacy, of beauty and rage. At the root, a full awareness of sensuality as the ground of corporeality and its relation with the tangible world. There is no space left for narrative, what is celebrated here is wonder, not just for dance or for the body but for human sensibility itself. Of course, it’s a basic language in a way, but its effect – at least for me – is the same of falling in love. A joyful, conflicting, and deeply living confusion.