One could compare "Mr. Gaga" to a meeting. A deep, intense and unexpected one. Getting to know Ohad Naharin may be a life-changing experience. The documentary is the work of the Heymann brothers. We had the opportunity to speak with one of them — producer Barak Heymann, who came to promote the film at the invitation of Gutek Film distribution company.
Ohad Naharin, brilliant choreographer and artistic director of the Israel-based Batsheva Dance Company, uses his own, original language of dance expression—Gaga. His experimental choreographies are so hypnotizing and moving that the spectators themselves want to dance when watching his performances. It’s because Gaga is a way to express yourself.
Unreserved expression has nothing to do with trained choreography and is all about transgressing your limitations and following your body every day. Mr. Gaga is a documentary presenting the unbelievable biography of the artist, but also his exciting personality and avant-garde spectacles. The film features fragments of the shows, rehearsal footage and archive family footage from his childhood and youth years. We meet a creator who goes beyond all clichés and patterns.
The opportunity to peek at the rehearsals and the way Ohad advises dancers gives you a completely different outlook on the ready performance. His remarks change the way people perceive and feel their bodies in space. They make dancers open up themselves, sensitize, lead them to their inner power with such precision. The way we think becomes visible through our bodies even when we’re standing still.
Why Mr. Gaga?
We made this film because my brother Tomer’s (director of the film) meeting with Ohad has changed his life completely. At the age of 21, he was invited to see a performance and went reluctantly, as his idea about dance and modern choreography was faint. He didn’t know what to expect. He walked out of the theater a completely changed man. Back then he already knew he would once make a movie about Ohad.
Mr. Gaga was eight years in the making. Did you hold on to the initial assumptions? Did you make any such assumptions in the first place?
I never strictly follow the script. We usually start with a general outline of what is most interesting for us. However, the general assumption and the emotions which we want to convey cannot be lost in the making of the film. In this case, we wanted to keep this special feel Barak had experienced over 26 years ago when he coincidentally came across the power of Naharin’s art. So the idea behind this film is the need to share this feeling with others.
What were the challenges that you have faced?
Ohad Naharin believes that the sole idea of the film is in conflict with the very essence of dance, which is its fleeting nature, irrevocable disappearance. So it took us a lot of time to convince him to make this film, and it took quite some time for him to open up to us. During our work we tried to maintain a balance between revealing the talent of our central figure, his art, personal life and extraordinary life experiences. But the biggest obstacle was the fact that Ohad was very careful and reluctant about going back to his part. We didn’t give up though, we decided we’re going to be patient and it paid off. I think that at one point Ohad figured out that Tomer has become an expert on his art, an archivist, tracker of ties between his biography and choreography, and that there’s a chance that the film would touch upon something very important. We have built a relationship based on mutual respect and trust.
Naharin’s biography is a story that makes a great movie material.
He was born in Kibbutz, experienced traumatic events during this time in the military, and at the age of 22 began his professional dance training with the Batsheva Dance Company. In 1975, visiting choreographer Martha Graham singled out Naharin for his talent and invited him to join her in New York. There, something very unexpected happened – Naharin resigned from this cooperation. Having the courage to say “no” to the greatest authorities to defend one’s own identity is one the most important things we can learn from the artist. He furthered his training at The Juilliard School and The School of American Ballet. In 1978, he married a dancer Mari Kajiwara who died in 2001. Dance has become a way to soothe the pain, break free and heal.
Healing is one of the main themes of this story.
Naharin shows us that dance is not reserved for professionals or theater stages only. Anyone can dance Gaga and everyone can heal through dance.