Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dance: Batsheva Dance at Guggenheim's Works and Process

I know you are most likely thoroughly saturated by my dance posts by this time (doesn't she see any movies any more?); this was going to be the last one until December, until I saw the two dancers from Batsheva (Daniel Agami and Ya'ara Moses) along with their Artistic Director and Choreographer Ohad Naharin last night, and decided that I must must must see this company perform at BAM this weekend. (You must as well. Must!) I am not capable of writing anything to convey why this is so important, except to explain that their dance is a kind you have not seen before, that comes out of a way of working that you have not seen before, and that I now desperately want to study (it is, currently, only available in Tel Aviv, which is very upsetting). This. . . method (he prefers not to call it a technique) is something created by Naharin (although it is too organic to have been created, per se), now known as GAGA, involves a seemingly semi-intuitive exploration of the physical self based on certain guiding. . . images. . . regarding movement centers in the body. If this description sounds searching and tenuous, that is because it is, and this way of working the body is that way as well.

When the audience entered the theater, we saw the two dancers on stage, working in a way that seemed to be improvisational. They worked individually, moving in different ways, but were close to each other, and seemed to work in harmony with each other, not reflecting each other, but somehow riffing off of each other. Their movements were legato, voluptuous, rolling; their extensions had balletic strength, but would finish in a stretching wiggle of toes on a flexed foot; their arms expressed movement that ran like current from their shoulders all the way through and out their fingertips; their torsos moved in all directions; they dropped down low and rose back up. When the program began and Naharin began to answer the moderator's questions, slowly and thoughtfully, their movements appeared to shift somewhat in response to his words. Physically, seamlessly, they demonstrated the spirit of his words. He explained that they were working GAGA, a method his dancers use to warm up and work (it is not part of the performance or the making and learning of choreography, but a way of working that is nevertheless imperative to understanding and executing the choreography, which works with the same principles).

Naharin listed a number of such principles or guiding images that comprise the language of GAGA, which his dancers demonstrated; creating movement from the source of the pelvis, working only on the outside of the feet, or as if the feet are fully glued to the floor, working only at 30% (Naharin explained why he appreciates laziness, and equates it with a desire for efficiency), silliness (Naharin emphasized that being silly is not being stupid), shaking versus quaking (a shake is something that you make happen to your body, a quake is something that happens to your body from outside that you cannot control). GAGA is about finding pleasure in effort, in moving your body, in discovering your body and its movement potential. It is more energetic- than muscular-based; Naharin, in his chair, seemingly effortlessly lifted his leg a few times while describing battement (straight leg kicks in ballet) explained that these kicks are difficult for dancers who try to lift their leg from the thigh muscle when the leg is already in the air (this is very true), but if the movement comes from an energetic explosion at the beginning of the kick, from the groin, the kick is effortless. He expressed the importance of understanding the body as a network of awareness (the nervous system) which GAGA allows us to explore, so that we discover, rather than necessarily create, movement. He expressed a distaste for mirrors, which distract us from this discovery.

Rather than write more now, I will save something for after I see a full performance of actual choreography (the dancers did show very short bits and pieces in order to demonstrate certain concepts, but gave only a partial impression of what Naharin's choreography looks like). Suffice to say for now, never before have I seen such strong, supple, and beautiful dancers, not even at Ailey.

1 comment:

Doug Fox said...


I posted a link to your Works and Process review on Great Dance:


Please feel free to submit future write-ups of dance in NYC.