I am copying this from my notebook, because as soon as I left this particular Gaga dance class, I knew I had to get it down on paper. With my three Gaga dance classes a week, you'd think that Gaga would have become part of my normal routine by now, however Gaga still gives me freedom, and a feeling of pure joy and exuberance!
Today’s Gaga class has taken those feelings to a whole new level, therefore as soon as I was on the bus home, I had to write down my thoughts. Today I did Gaga class as taught by the very Gaga creator and Batsheva Dance Company Artistic director himself: Ohad Naharin.
Before this class I was really nervous. First of all, I had a very short amount of time to get from the Jerusalem Music and Dance Academy to the Suzanne Dellal Centre in Tel Aviv. With traffic here being as bad as London, the sense that I might have to miss out started to kick in. My last lesson of the day at the Academy had been Gaga with Aya, so I was hoping to keep my “inner groove” for the bus journey. This inner groove was soon turned into inner nervous butterflies: I was going to take Gaga with Ohad... Ohad Naharin! This was the man who turned Batsheva around, the man who created this fierce dance style, and the man who created a new dance technique; a new dance technique, in my opinion, hasn’t been created since the likes of Cunningham or Graham. It has always saddened me that I never had the opportunity to learn from these greats and never will. However today was the day I was going to learn from the man himself.
I can image myself as an old lady, teaching dance in a university, bragging to students about this day. But as I have said, I was nervous. I had no reason to be as this was going to be a Gaga People class, so there would be all types of people and dancers without pressure of being correct or precise....?
I was wrong. Naharin started the class with a very technical check and exploration of the use of the pelvis within Gaga. He was really adamant - in a kind way - about people getting the technique right. This made me admire him even more. This wasn’t your usual community dance class of everyone dancing and enjoying movement: Naharin was demanding technical excellence from everyone. Even the old lady at the front was being instructed “No - move your pelvis from the inside, not the outside”. Of course he wants his own technique to be instilled with the most accurate precision. And as I was standing in front of Naharin, I felt even more nervous about getting it correct.
Furthermore, Naharin asked for the music to be switched off, placing even more focus on the body. I feel this is my chief downfall in Gaga: responding to the “groove” of the music rather than the inner “groove”. So here I was right at the front, right in front of Naharin, no music to distract me, just focussing on the pelvis. I was nervous and not relaxed and didn’t feel I was connecting until Naharin asked us to deliberately laugh out loud (I think he could feel the tense nervous air) and then I couldn’t stop laughing for real - I finally felt relaxed.
The focus of Naharin’s class was about getting the elements of Gaga technically right. He was emphasising how movement initiated from the pelvis - not just the pelvis area but the actually bone structure of the pelvis - and highlighting the importance of finger movement “coming from the heart”. Now I relished in this information as I am guilty as ever of just “moving the fingers”, but Naharin focussed on connecting the fingers to deep inside: to your heart. Gaga technique is an excellent method to engage movement from within rather than controlled by major muscles, helping to make dance more fluid, more easily changeable and more accessible at any moment. Naharin helped us to exend our fingers from the heart... connecting the movement to our passion to move.
Through Gaga’s excellent use of “layered” tasks, the use of the pelvis and fingers was taken into movement around the room. I finally got my first glimpse of the other participants: my other Gaga teachers, dancers, and ordinary people who were smiling more than anyone else. This made me smile too, and made me speculate on how, through our dance training, we lose our “real” passion to move, and this is very sad. We were then asked to work on “falling” into movement. This was a great feeling as it enabled me to really connect to my passion to move. It would create a sense of being on a roller coaster and falling with gravity - but then catching yourself, sending you on a new momentum. The Gaga teachers must have been inspired by this as both my Gaga teachers on Friday used this concept.
The last section of the lesson was based on the element of “shaking”, and this task led to the highlight of the lesson: connecting it all into falling into movement and connecting it to the passion to MOVE! At last, Naharin blasted out a fantastic house music track, and we were told to use our new discoveries of the lesson to meet other people and “have a little dance”. I danced my soul out! Again, it was harder to dance with the dancers among the students as they appeared to be more aware or conscious, however dancing with those who were not necessary dancers was so inspiring: their energy and passion was bursting from their pores!
My Gaga teacher Aya gave me another high: apparently she hadn't recognised me in class. She later told me she'd spent the whole class wondering who I was, and who taught me Gaga as I moved so “beautifully”; she was proud to realise it was me. This was an amazing compliment as I hope to trai further in Gaga and share it on my return to the UK.
After the class, I shyly approached Naharin with my friends to thank him and to ask for a picture. So what was he like, I hear your ask? He had a beautiful Israeli accent, softly spoken but with power -very much like how his dancers dance! - and he was very kind, not at all the typical “artistic” person such as the ones you see with moustaches and hats in Shoreditch. No, he was wearing a very basic outfit of sweats and trainers; don’t ask me why he danced in trainers!
I feel so very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be taught Gaga by the man who created it and by the man whose choreography I so admire! My next Gaga class with Naharin will be on Christmas Day (remember I am in Israel: no Christmas here). This will be the best Christmas present ever: to fall into movement with Naharin.