Gaga is a distinctive style of modern dance, created by Ohad Naharin of Israel’s famed Batsheva Dance Company. Normally the methodology is taught by instructors in person, but in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Gaga dance instruction has gone digital. The company streams multiple classes live each day from both Tel Aviv an New York; and all sessions are designated for either ‘Gaga/ People’ or ‘Gaga/ Dancers.’ Participants will find links to the Gaga dance online Zoom meetings, as well as the opportunity to donate, on the Gaga Online GoFundMe page.
Read about more dance at home resources amidst Covid-19.
Gaga Online: Gaga/ People
I planned to participate in the Gaga Dance for weeks, and I had even designated online Gaga technique classes as one of the best digital dance activities to try during lockdown. But I didn’t actually join until the 9th week of Gaga online classes (after hours hunched over my laptop, completing this guide to the best online dance fitness classes). I signed up with a few minutes to spare and spent a pleasant half an hour with Annie (an instructor based in Brooklyn, NYC) and about 100 other dance enthusiasts.
The task-based class was suitable for people without prior movement experience, but it felt somewhat familiar to me, since I have taken some improvisation and somatics classes. Annie led us through a flow of exercises that focused on a few key concepts, like creating curves with the body, shaking and floating. Then we would tinker with movement initiation, speed and intensity. At times it required higher exertion than I previously imagined.
Throughout, Annie conjured images, such as wind blowing the body or balloons buoying different parts of the body. We also played with the ideas of chewing and swallowing, observing how energy travels through the body. Sometimes I got stuck in my head and felt like I was repeatedly regurgitating the same movements; but other times I got into the flow. Those fleeting minutes were blissful, and I would be surprised if they don’t increase in frequency and duration with more practice.
We were all encouraged to participate with our videos on, and even in the layman’s version of the digital Gaga dance class, I felt flashes of self consciousness. Fortuitously, dancing in front of the window turned me into a silhouette for most of the time; but it was interesting to see how other attendees reacted to the instructions – and moved in the freestyle session at the end.
After class, I felt refreshed and much more integrated with my body (like I do after a good dance or exercise session). Good enough, in fact, to sign up for a digital Gaga Dancers session the following week…
Here’s a quick look at an in-person Gaga/ people class with Ohad Naharin.
Gaga Online: Gaga/ Dancers Class
The online Gaga/ Dancers technique class was taught by Billy Barry, a member of the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv. This single Gaga dance technique session attracted more than 300 participants, leading them through a series of experimental exercises.
We awakened the body with series of pats along the limbs, head and torso. Billy asked us to ‘drum’ ourselves with varying intensities as we danced, which left our skin tingling. We diverted our awareness to the sensation as we continued to move, floating or pushing through space.
Billy’s prompts often included multiple components. We explored curves in both the vertical and horizontal planes, and then interrupted our smooth motions with energy snaking in another direction. The dancing became more textured and three-dimensional with the additional suggestions, although we had to problem-solve to find these hybrid movements that achieved both tasks equally and simultaneously.
The movement in the Gaga/ Dancers class also incorporated more traditional ballet and modern dance technique. We layered different directives on top of plié, battement tendu, rond de jambe and développé. Our arms and torsos were freer (‘live out your diva ballerina dreams!’) and we approached the movement differently, as we imagined internal and external forces affecting our movement.
The 45-minute Gaga/ Dancers online class was 15 minutes longer than the Gaga/ People digital class. The instructions were more complex and delivered more quickly. If you’re unfamiliar with Gaga dance technique, it may be worth your while to drop into a ‘people’ session first. But, if you’re used to creative and experimental warm-ups, you’ll feel pretty comfortable in a Gaga/ Dancers session.
You can learn more about Gaga dance technique at: www.gagapeople.com/en
I felt decidedly uncoordinated and goofy at times, but I’m really glad that I gave Gaga online dance a go. It’s radically different from other dance practices (even other modern and contemporary dance practices), although still beneficial. How about you? Will you be signing up for digital Gaga technique classes any time soon? Maybe we’ll see you there!