By Laura Di Orio.
These days, dancers realize that it takes more than just classes within their discipline to make a strong, well-rounded performer. On top of their usual technique classes, dancers turn to yoga, Pilates and Gyrotonics to cross-train and strengthen their facility. Now there’s another movement form on the rise that’s shown to enhance the dancer from within. Gaga dance, a movement language developed by Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Israeli’s Batsheva Dance Company, has become a go-to for those who want an increased awareness of their body and its capabilities.
In a Gaga class instructions are given in terms of images rather than steps. Teachers may cue the dancers with phrases such as “float”, “quake” and “imagine the ground is getting hot”. With more emphasis on sensations than on physical positions, dancers must delve inside themselves to feel their body move in space in relation to other people around them. There’s no right or wrong. Instead, Gaga classes lend themselves to creative control and individual interpretation; facets that make for a better dancer with a broader vocabulary.
Naharin created Gaga over 20 years ago after he faced a serious injury. It is now the daily training regimen of the Batsheva Dance Company, and, since August 2010, it has been making its way into a few dance studios in the United States.
“Gaga is an excellent tool to connect and learn about your individual body,” says Ron Amit, a former member of the Batsheva ensemble who now teaches Gaga classes at New York’s Peridance Capezio Center. “Through Gaga one gains access to his/her body and finds a higher pleasure in and appreciation for the body.”
Gaga is a completely individual and ‘in the moment’ experience. During a class, students are constantly moving and absorbing information. The point of Gaga is movement, not stillness.
“The experience is about expanding your limits, trying to rediscover your body and getting into the details and places you might not otherwise find,” says Amit. “Everyone will have a different experience. Gaga is about connecting to your movement, freedom of thought and new ideas. It is most important that you are in a comfortable environment in which you feel safe to explore.”
Music is utilized in the class and, although it can be a source of inspiration for connecting to one’s body and space, Amit says it is not a necessary component.
If attending a Gaga class wear comfortable clothing that will not limit the body and arrive with no expectations. There is no need to be warm at the beginning of the class. In fact Gaga is an excellent warm-up, a good way to gain strength and a great way to begin or finish the day.
“We do our best each time to give the students an eye-opening experience that will allow them to rediscover the pleasure in movement,” Amit says.
Perhaps most unique about Gaga as a movement form is its accessibility to everyone. For those with little or even no dance experience, the Gaga genre offers Gaga People. The hour-long class allows non-dancers the opportunity to experiment with interpreting the teacher’s instructions through their imagination and body. “Everyone can benefit from learning how to access their body fully,” Amit says. “They will gain strength and knowledge to utilize their body, to connect their physical and spiritual being. It will help them to enjoy their body as part of their life.”
Gaga Dancers, a class that lasts an hour and fifteen minutes, builds on the principles of Gaga People and applies them to the needs of professional dancers. “By drawing upon technical exercises from ballet and then pushing them to the extreme, the professional dancer is challenged to use the tools they possess fully,” says Amit. “This ensures that they can apply Gaga to their professional lives.”
Either way, Gaga is something from which everyone can benefit. “People will realize how much their physical body is connected to their happiness,” Amit says. “Gaga gives a very comfortable, supportive way to find this connection that one can only understand through experience.”
Gaga classes are now offered at Peridance Capezio Center, Steps on Broadway, and the Mark Morris Dance Center in New York, in Japan and throughout Israel. It will only be a matter of time and a few word-of-mouth testimonials before the Gaga craze spreads across the globe.