The Return of GAGA to Philadelphia

By Debra Danese for the Dance Journal | photo by Gadi Dagon

Gaga, the movement language developed by Ohad Naharin, returned to Philadelphia this week with a three-day workshop and open classes held at the Performance Garage. Presented by Automatic Arts, this is only the second time that Gaga has been offered in Philadelphia. The classes are being led by Or Meir Shraiber, Gaga Master Teacher and dancer in Artistic Director Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company.

Shraiber joined Batsheva Ensemble in 2010 and the Company in 2013. He started teaching GAGA during his second year in the ensemble. He admits GAGA is a difficult thing for him to describe. “It is a physical thing, less of a verbal thing for me. It is the most comfortable way to explore, research, and awaken the many different engines of our body,” he explains.

Shraiber says as a new dancer in the ensemble, he didn’t fully comprehend how the research of GAGA would help him as a dancer and performer. By spending more time doing and teaching GAGA, he discovered how much it sharpened the awareness of his body and how to use different engines to reach a more meaningful and richer sensation. He adds, “While doing GAGA, my tool box as a human being expands.”

GAGA classes are offered in two formats, Gaga/dancers (for professionals and advanced students) and Gaga/people (no dance experience necessary.) Both classes are similar in that teachers guide students using a series of verbal instructions that build onto each other. Participants are encouraged to interpret the information in a creative manner that connects their bodies and imagination. Shraiber says, “The beautiful thing about GAGA is that it is always developing and moving from an idea to another idea. It is never-ending research. Therefore, there is no such a thing typical class. There will be times when we will repeat different exercises for a few classes to emphasis the core idea, or will put aside an idea and go back to it in the future. The main skeleton of a class is almost never the same.”

Deborah Crocker, co-producer of Automatic Arts, is thrilled to bring Gaga back to Philadelphia.  Crocker was first introduced to Mr. Naharin and his movement style when he led master classes as part of his residency with Koresh Dance Company in 2010. Crocker says, “I stepped away from dancing professionally after suffering a back injury. It was fascinating to hear that Ohad developed Gaga after also suffering a back injury. He was searching for a way to move in a healthy manner that felt good while still being creative.” The idea to bring Gaga back to the city came from what she felt was a need for more professional development opportunities in our dance community. She contacted Saar Harari, Executive Producer, Gaga USA, about a year ago and says it all fell into place after that.

The three-day Workshop (August 2-4) includes a class and Ohad Naharin repertoire. It is open to professional dancers and students ages 16-and-older. Open Gaga People Classes are offered during the same days to the general public (16-and-older), without the necessity of previous experience.

The Performance Garage is located at 1515 Brandywine Street. For more information, contact Deborah Crocker at automaticartsco@gmail.com or visit https://automaticartsco.com/

About Debra Danese

Debra graduated with a degree in dance from the University of the Arts and also holds a B.A. in Arts Administration. She is accredited at the Master Level with the National Registry of Dance Educators. Debra has performed in Europe, Tokyo, Canada, and the Caribbean. She teaches and choreographs world-wide and has been an international guest artist in Switzerland, England, and Slovakia. Debra has been an Artist in Residence on five occasions in Norway where she showcased full length dance productions at the acclaimed Nordland Theatre. She has also presented an original dance production at the Elspe Festival in Germany. Debra has been featured in Dance, Dancer and Dance Teacher Magazines for her work in dance education. Additionally, she has been a contributing writer for Dance Studio Life Magazine since 2010.

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