A group of dancers on stage in a semi circle take off their black blazers and throw them in the air

Pre-professional student Arnon Herring delivers a talk on Ohad Naharin

Pre-professional student Arnon Herring gave a talk to 2nd Year students on Monday 14 March about the choreographer Ohad Naharin. Arnon spoke about Naharin’s life and career as well as his own personal experience with him. It was an incredibly insightful talk and the students were all very much engaged.

Gaga movement language

Ohad Naharin was born in Israel and began his career with the Batsheva Dance Company in 1974. He is known for his own unique movement language, Gaga, which is based on the deep activation of the body and physical sensations. The language was developed to facilitate communication between dancers and emphasise the freedom and pleasure of movement. Many dancers have said that Gaga has allowed them to connect and listen to their own bodies and lose self-consciousness when dancing. Arnon discussed Ohad’s process of working with dancers on Gaga:

Ohad loves ballet dancers, he loves taking a pure ballet dancer and breaking their technique into his own style. He always said when I did classes with him: you never move in Gaga from the muscles, you move either from the bones, blood, veins or flesh. You don’t think about muscles because they have limitations, if you think about moving from the veins, blood, bones or flesh then you have no limitations. It’s actually insane when you see ballet dancers who went to his company for a few years… their classical technique became even better. Their performance becomes insane.

A political scandal

Naharin’s choreographic works cover a lot of social and political themes. One of his most famous pieces Echad Mi Yodea is set to a traditional Jewish Passover song and caused a scandal in 1998 when it was set to be performed at a celebration of Israel’s 50th anniversary as a nation-state. Government officials attempted to censor the dance, however Naharin refused and instead pulled the company from the performance in protest. Arnon spoke about Ohad Naharin’s political stance:

He’s very good at scandals, it’s what makes him a great artist. He’s happy that people talk about his pieces because art can move people… this is a great example of how it can really affect the country in a very political way.

Being Billy

When Arnon played the role of Billy Elliot, Ohad Naharin attended the premiere of the musical. He gave Arnon some advice on how to play the part:

He told me I treated the role as a dancer, not as an actor. He told me to forget the technique… to be an animal. He thought I was thinking too much about the technique…he told me to forget about it, Billy is not a dancer, he’s a boy that learns to dance. He really did change my role a lot, I owe him a lot… he tries to encourage boys in the country to dance because it’s a very rare thing in Israel for boys to dance, there’s a big stigma. He was very glad that the musical did affect young dancers.

A pioneering choreographer

Arnon spoke about what an inspiration Ohad Naharin is to him and why his work is so ground breaking:

I think he defines the Israeli culture best because he brings the two most popular subjects – the army and religion – to the stage and puts them in a very contemporary and creative way. He’s very creative; I think he’s the greatest Israeli choreographer of all time and one of the greatest choreographers in history.

Image Credit: © Julien Behamou/OnP