michael j. morris

Thoughts on Batsheva and Gaga
11 February, 2009, 3:32 pm
Filed under: art, Dance | Tags: , , , , , , ,

feel your bones moving beneath your skin
feel your blood moving through your body
find curves in your body; multiply them
find the moons in your body, in your hands, on the back of your neck, etc.
[move as if there are galaxies all throughout your body]
find a quake coming from your center, as if someone were shaking you from the core
[boil your body; it’s 80-90% water; shake so that you boil your body]
let the quake come entirely from your back body; your front body
break apart your body so that you are moving in a million pieces
lose yourself in the quaking and shaking; have fun
take pleasure in your movement
hang over and touch the floor like you would touch a person
become thick, your body and your movement, as if moving through mud
[let the air be thick, and move as if you are shaping/containing the space]
become spaghetti in boiling water
[boil your body]
move from the periphery of your body; now lead from your pelvis
find the snake in your spine
slap yourself/your partner hard; soften into the blow and allow yourself to take pleasure in the pain
[embrace the fullness of your experience]
find a dense ball at whatever point of your body that you are touched; move that ball through your body to the next place your are touched; now do this on your own
[with each step, plant a seed and feel the flower grow up through your body to blossom somewhere on the surface of your body]
tap into your explosive power
tap into your voice
stretch your bones through your skin
stretch points of your body as far as you can from one another
melt the skin off of your body
[let your body dissolve, then let it return]

[a mix of Gaga verbal cues, as expressed by Bobbi Smith, Batsheva company member,  and Butoh-fu from Kazuo Ohno, Yoshito Ohno, and Yuko Kaseki]

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a class in Gaga, the “movement language” developed by Ohad Naharin as director of the Batsheva Dance Company. It is conducted as one continuous movement, no stopping, no mirrors, less “right and wrong”, more about sensation and synthesis within the body, led through a series of verbal cues. Shockingly, in my experience, this is how many Butoh classes are conducted. There may be pauses between exercises/experiences, but the essentials are still common: a basis in the kinesthetic synthesis of imagery in the body, led by verbal cues, less about form and more about authentic experience. I am curious about this commonality as the two forms seem to share no common root. A colleague of mine is formulating research into the inquiry of movement forms/techniques that come out of or after times of conflict and unrest. Butoh evolved after WWII. Gaga has evolved in the midst of the Israeli conflict. Austrucktanz evolved in Germany just after WWI, and shares many of these same sensibilities. There may be something here, some common denominator of why dance artists/human beings return to this places of sensing, de-prioritizing form, and prioritizing authentic experience/expression. All in all, taking this Gaga class fed my love of these concerns and reawakened many of my experiences in Butoh. I am curious how these tendencies/sensibilities/concerns may affect how I eventually “teach” a dance technique class. Having experienced these forms, I’m not sure I could teach a modern/contemporary class in the more traditional manner of matching shape and form, at least not without it being in the service of these concerns. And clearly these approaches have the ability to shape amazing dancers/performers.

Batsheva trains almost exclusively in Gaga and their performance of Three last night was easily one of the top three performances I have ever seen.

A brief clip. This is not from last night’s performance but is from the piece. This duet is not only virtuosically stunning, but it also feeds profoundly into the socio-cultural contemplation/research with which I have been engaging surrounding gender (and also gaze):

There may be little of my ecstatic reaction to this work that I can articulately express in verbal language at this point. Thoughts that comes to mind/words readily (and do not even begin to scratch the surface of its profound impact) are:

-My work so often concerns the expression/articulation of basic human conditions and qualities, theories and understandings of what it means to exist, to be human. And those things find expression in a slow, minimal fashion (especially in my current work). Yet they addressed so many of those same sensations and kinesthetic identities, but with speed and intensity and explosive energy. It was overwhelming, as if submerge in crashing waves of our own humanity, slung and flung and thrust from these moving bodies/beings.

-It was so refreshing to see choreography that seems so aware of its own meta-narratives. The choreography contained so many implications and potential interpretations concerning identity and gender and politics and even the semantics of the performing space (the theater). And I felt the truest conviction that it was all intentional, all aware, all sensitive to both what it was (literally, the movement, the bodies, without interpretation, valued simply as it is) and what it might “mean” (the meaning brought to it be the experience of the the audience). I felt that it took responsibility for itself, and did so audaciously, articulately, discreetly, and almost dangerously, somehow all at once.

And those may be the only two thoughts I can articulate in words at present. In lieu of something further, I can offer two other videos of Batsheva:


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[…] “Thoughts on Batsheva and Gaga” by Michael J. Morris of Betwixt Thee and Me Let There Be Truth, who experienced a Gaga class at Ohio State during Batsheva’s 2009 tour (post date: Feb. 2009). […]

Pingback by Gaga: A Foreigner Explores Ohad Naharin’s Movement Language | Dance In Israel

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