Mr. Gaga

This film is about the art of dance and offers a rare look into the unforgiving life of professional dancers, who dedicate their bodies and emotional essence to their craft.

Even if you are disinterested in dance, it is an excellent film worth seeing and talking about, as it touches on the complexity of artistic expression and the demands of rule-breaking genius. However, if you are passionate about dance, you will see that Naharin’s work brings the wild animal of soul to light on the stage, where the audience can see it in full view.

Naharin was a late bloomer. He didn’t take dance seriously and had no formal training until he was in his 20s, which is old to begin a craft based in disciplined rigor and form. But there was something in the way he moved, catlike and emotionally raw, that made him stand out and sent him on a journey of body expression and movement.

After years of dancing, Naharin had a major setback with a back injury that put not only his career in question, but also his very ability to walk. While recovering from back surgery, Naharin invented a language of movement called gaga, a choreography style that has changed the dance landscape the past 20 years.

Gaga is a visceral experience that is simultaneously elegant, informal and volatile. It’s beautiful, untamed and creatively uninhibited. It is also accessible to nondancers. (The Suzanne Dellal Centre in Tel Aviv offers regular classes to the public.)

In the last scene of the film, we see Naharin in another late-bloomer role as a first-time father in his mid-60s, struggling to sustain focus on a dance rehearsal that is being interrupted by a crying toddler demanding the attention of her mother, a dancer. The film seems to end with a question mark, wondering whether there is room for anything beyond art in the life of an artist.

Originally published in Atlanta Jewish Times

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