The new documentary, Mr. Gaga, portrays the life and work of Ohad Naharin, director of Israel's Batsheva Dance Company and one of the most influential choreographers of our time. The film, directed by Tomer Heymann and produced by his brother Barak, is full of humor, pathos and swatches of startling choreography. Brilliantly edited to reveal connections between family and profession, hard dancing and playfulness, it shows clips from recent works like Hora (2009), Sadeh21 (2011), The Hole (2013) and Last Work (2015) as well as earlier works like Tabula Rasa (1986), Sinking of the Titanic (1989) and Anaphase (1993). We hear insights from choreographers Reggie Wilson and Gina Buntz and one of Naharin’s early teachers, Judith Brin Ingber (former Dance Magazine editor and author of Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance.)
The rehearsal process is sometimes harsh, but the film is ultimately very moving. The glue that holds it together is Naharin’s voice and the scenes where he’s coaching the dancers. Anyone who has taken a Gaga class from Naharin will recognize some of these bon mots from the film:
- "The more you let go of everything in your body all at once, the softness of your flesh will protect you."
- "The idea of physical pleasure from physical activity was totally part of how I conceive myself as being alive."
- "I was lucky that I started my formal dance training so late—at the age of 22— so I was a lot more connected to the animal I am."
- "Many times when I dance, I connect to feminine forces, forces that create availability to both yielding and explosiveness, to both delicacy and aggressiveness."
- "What is unique about gaga is the demand to listen to our body before we tell it what to do and the understanding that we must go beyond the familiar limits on a daily basis."
- "Now I don’t separate any more the interpretation of the dancers from the act of choreographing. The act of choreography is also the act of helping my dancers to interpret my work."
- "To mourn a big loss and to dance—they don’t contradict each other. It’s like they live in the same space. I really believe in the power of dance to heal."
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