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Israel, way of moving: Stagger

Actualizado: 9 de nov de 2018


1. Walk or move unsteadily, as if about to fall.

2. Astonish or deeply shock.

Street from Tel Aviv

In Israel things change constantly. In a difference of few months, Israel can be an experience of a calm and charming country into and experience of a subtle tension or even a state of alert caused by religion and political events. Almost all the time on the edge of explosion. Everybody is used to live with those two polarities. While there are people celebrating a party in Tel Aviv, there could be fire in the sky somewhere in the south next to Gaza.

It sounds traumatic; it is traumatic.

Border of Israel with Lebanon

On the contrary of what I thought, in Israel not everybody thinks and feels the same way. But there is a general fear and desperation about the impossibility of changing the situation of conflict and walk towards piece. Probably because all of that, Israelis have certain sensual flavor in it’s way of living. Sensual for the senses. Extremely colorful food (and a lot of it) beach, music, mountains, double shots of espresso and sun... Tons of SUN!


People must be connected to the present moment, because nothing is for guaranteed or for granted.

Not even life.

Even though, there is certain stubbornness about overcoming and becoming a country with future all around. The landscape, on the road, it's from a country which is still half-way built, a real paradise for construction business.

I found that Israel, as being a really young country with a short history and having an uncertain future, leaves a very special place for the body. Not to forget that many of those bodies come from a dramatic chain.

The moving body is a celebration of freedom and life.

Gaga is a good example for it. Gaga is the thing in Israel. It is what we, contemporary dancers, know about Israel: Gaga, Batsheva, Ohad Naharin.

The first time I saw an Israeli dancer moving, I was in shock. It shocked me the way of phrasing the movement, the gestuality and the connections in between. It wasn’t logical for me... So it was extremely intriguing.

And maybe that’s the thing… there are no linear logical connections. Being a country without a long dance tradition and being geographically isolated because it is surrounded by Arab countries which declares themselves enemies, Gaga is Gaga and is not similar to anything else.

After practicing it a bit, I realized that the connections between movements are not physical or anatomical, but imaginative.

Gaga uses the imagination in an improvisational structure to imprint the movement on the body. So, it is a sensual technique that arises a very strong, powerful, conflictive direct, individual but also delicate, funny and enjoyable in his or her way of moving. It's very vital by touching the extremes and playing with the middle range of possibilities. 

All ages come together in a Gaga class. All ages. And I think this is a remarkable thing that a contemporary dance techniques can be practice by people in different stages of life, so we can erase from our minds that dance is something that can just be practiced in the youth. 

The training class is organized with all the attendants in a circle with the teacher in the center. She or he is giving instructions to move, such as images, sensations, feelings and anatomical places, some of them invented so you have to reconfigure the image that you have for each place. 

But, and yes, there is a BUT... We all move quite similar during the class including the teacher, even though almost all the inputs given are intangible.

Probably the reason is in the organisation of the space in the class: Having a center point inside a circle means you always have a point of reference to come back. So, you go on your own trip, oh yes, but there is someone to follow or copy (which is the oldest way to learn in dance which I know of).

Vale (OK), that’s why they called Gaga a technique which at the end aims to have a specific body, a specific way of moving and a very specific aesthetic. So it becomes a movement language or a recognizable style.

There was a concept in each Gaga class that struck me again and again. Absolutely all teachers said at least once: “Don’t give up your arms on gravity”, as if giving up would mean surrender, stop existing or dying.

Once more, grabbing on life and on the explosion of the senses.

Dance or die.

So, Gaga nowadays is the thing for the good and for the bad. It’s an umbrella for almost all the dance that happens in Israel. A beautiful and a big monster.

There is, of course, more than GAGA as a dance practice. Every time more and more things pop up, because you feel the desire for other ways of moving. And Israeli movers, especially the dancers, are travelers. They go around and you meet them all around.

Contact Improvisation (CI)* is also a remarkable dance scene in parallel to Gaga. Again, facing extremes since Gaga is an individual practice in relation to the own imagination and CI is base on the constant relation with another body.

There is also a quite rich underground scene more interested in performance merging of disciplines and new dramaturgies. I say underground because they are not really supported or funded.

Dance though, is not the only movement culture in Israel. Not to forget that Moshé Feldenkrais was an Israeli, and his method can be found and practiced all around the globe as an approach to achieve a healthier body (and consequently mind) through re-educating the body with movement patterns that we used when we were babies.

There are also an impressive amount of yoga-teachers by the square meter.

Yoga is a movement culture that wants to find peace in the mind through the body. Maybe when the peace cannot be found in the environment, it seeks itself inside the self?

Maybe a good way to find peace might be to reconnect with each one's own body and from there, to find the collective body. The collective body beyond culture, beyond religion, beyond nationalities, beyond lands, beyond history, beyond politics, beyond economics…

Maybe that’s what Israel has to offer: imagination as a window to overcome reality, as a tool to draw dreams to follow, imagination as an alternative to the conflict.

My wish… is that they would all come true all over the middle East.

**See my article about California to read more about Contact improvisation.

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