Mr. Gaga is the story of Ohad Naharin, world-famous choreographer and director of Israel’s Bat Sheva modern dance company, who invented a movement “language” which he calls Gaga. It is now taught around the world and he is considered an icon in the world of modern dance.
Naharin created Gaga to deal with a dance injury. Rather than rely only on technique, the dancers reach deep inside their psyches and emotions and through sensing and imagining, move in ways you have never before seen and that you could not imagine a body moving. The New York Times called him “One of the most important choreographers in the world”.
The film covers his entire life. He was born and raised on Kibbutz Mizra. His father was a psychologist specializing in psychodrama and an actor with Habima and the Haifa Theatre. His mother was a choreographer and dancer. Never the less, Naharin did not start formal dance till he was 22.
In 1978 he married Mari Kajiwara, a native New Yorker. We see their intense relationship, their love story. She was his inspiration and closest collaborator. She died of cancer at 50 in 2001. He is now married to Eri Nakamuro, a Batsheva dancer. They have a daughter.
Naharin has headed up Bat Sheva since 1990. In l998, rebelling against pressure from religious groups to clothe his dancers more modestly, he withdrew the Company from Israel’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Now in his mid 60’s, he is still handsome and charismatic. The film, which he narrates, includes stunning excerpts from works that often incorporate expressive shapes, bold jagged moves and sometimes spoken words.
The film is an enthralling portrait of Naharin from his beginnings on the kibbutz, his time in the Israeli Army during the Yom Kippur War (an injury relegated him to the entertainment unit), and his unhappy stints in New York with the Martha Graham and Maurice Bejart companies which led him to create his own choreographies.
The film is directed and written by Israeli Tomer Heymann who filmed over a period of eight years. Heymann is known for award-winning documentaries with social and political innuendoes (Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?, Paper Dolls).
The film is mostly English and some Hebrew with English subtitles.
It will be shown at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on Bloor St. till April 19th.
Doris is a multimedia journalist with many years of experience. She has worked in radio, television and print journalism and writes on a variety of topics, especially the crucial issues in Canadian and Jewish life.