Ohad Naharin

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Ohad Naharin
אוהד נהרין
Ohad Naharin. Herzliya Conference 2016 2034 (cropped).jpg
Born (1952-06-22) 22 June 1952 (age 70)
Kibbutz Mizra, Israel
CitizenshipIsraeli and american
Occupation(s)Contemporary dancer, choreographer and dance company artistic director to 2018
EmployerBatsheva Dance Company
StyleContemporary dance
TitleHouse choreographer
Spouse(s)Mari Kajiwara (1978 ~ 2001)
Eri Nakamura (~ present)
Children1 daughter (with Eri Nakamura)

2010 dance magazine award

2013 honorary doctor Juilliard school

Ohad Naharin (born 1952) (Hebrew: אוהד נהרין) is an Israeli choreographer, contemporary dancer, and creator and teacher of a unique system/language/pedagogy of dance called Gaga. He served as artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company from 1990; he stepped down in 2018.


Ohad Naharin was born in 1952 in Kibbutz Mizra.[1] Raised in an artistic home, he wrote stories, composed music, and painted as a child. His father was a psychologist specializing in psychodrama and an actor who performed with Habima and the Haifa Theater. His mother was a Feldenkrais instructor, choreographer and dancer. [2] Nevertheless, Naharin did not start dancing until age 22.[3] During his first year with the Batsheva Dance Company, Martha Graham visited Israel and invited Naharin to join her dance company in New York. After dancing for Martha Graham, he attended Juilliard and the School of American Ballet.[4]

In 1978, he married Mari Kajiwara, a native New Yorker and an Alvin Ailey dancer. In 2001, she died of cancer at age 50.[5]

He is now married to Eri Nakamura, a Batsheva dancer and costume designer with whom he has a daughter.[6][7]

Batsheva Dance Company[edit]

Batsheva Dance Company

Naharin is currently the House Choreographer of Batsheva Dance Company.[8] He served as Artistic Director as well until 2018.[8] In 1990, Naharin was appointed Artistic Director,[9] there by launching the company into a new stage. The company is international in nature, made up of individually unique dancers from Israel and other countries. Dancers are encouraged to affirm their distinct creative gifts, as creators on their own.[10]

Naharin's signature style and technique has developed during his time with Batsheva. His style is "distinguished by stunningly flexible limbs and spines, deeply grounded movement, explosive bursts and a vitality that grabs a viewer by the collar."[5] His dancers do not rehearse in front of a mirror as this enables them to move away from self-critique and allows them to feel the movement from within. Naharin is known to be a reserved and private person, and this is apparent in the studio as well. He does not get angry or raise his voice, but comments constructively and calmly.[5] Since he has also been musically trained, Naharin sometimes collaborates on the compositions used in his pieces.[11]


During his time directing and teaching the Batsheva Company, Naharin developed Gaga, a movement language and pedagogy that has defined the company's training and continues to characterize Israeli contemporary dance.[12] A practice that resists codification and emphasizes the practitioner's somatic experience, Gaga presents itself as a movement language rather than a movement 'technique'. Classes consist of a teacher leading dancers through an improvisational practice based on a series of images described by the teacher.[13] Naharin explains that such a practice is meant to provide a framework or a "safety net" for the dancers to use to "move beyond familiar limits".[14] The descriptions that are used to guide the dancers through the improvisation are intended to help the dancer initiate and express movement in unique ways from parts of the body that tend to be ignored in other dance settings. One example is the image of "Luna", which refers to the fleshy, moon-shaped regions between fingers and toes.[15] In keeping with Gaga's insistence on moving through sensing and imagining, mirrors are discouraged in rehearsal spaces.[13]


Naharin's works have been commissioned by the Frankfurt Ballet, Opéra National de Paris, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Sydney Dance Company, Lyon Opera Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Rambert Dance Company, Compañia Nacional de Danza, Cullberg Ballet, Finnish National Ballet, Ballet Gulbenkian [pt], Balé da Cidade de São Paulo [br], Bavarian State Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Royal Danish Ballet.

He seeks to create movement that is universal yet personal. He always has a clear social and political conscience in his works, but his dances are not meant to be political. He finds storytelling of suffering and the world's problems boring in comparison to a person's ability to use texture and multi-layered movement. He contrasts physical explosiveness with stillness, taking an interest in contrasts, edges, and extremes, which creates vital distance and space in dances. His philosophy, shared with many who devote their lives to choreography, is that everyone should dance.[16] Deca Dance highlights many excerpts from his previous works. Naharin says himself, "Deca Dance is not a new work. It is more about reconstruction: I like to take pieces or sections of existing works and rework it, reorganize it and create the possibility to look at it from a new angle. It always teaches me something new about my work and composition. In Deca Dance I took sections from different works. It was like I was telling only either the beginning, middle or ending of many stories but when I organized it the result become as coherent as the original if not more."[10]

In Max, "Mr. Naharin’s theatrical ingredients are space, movement and light."[17] A critic comments, "In this tremendously potent work, there are few obvious displays of emotion, yet Max is full of imagery that slips between real life and dance in fleeting flashes."[17]

Anaphase, a work for 22 dancers and two musicians, combines elements of theater, opera, film and rock music as well as dance. According to Naharin, it "deals with small sculptures in a big space" and explores the abilities of the human body.[18]

Shorter and less complex than Ohad Naharin's other pieces, Echad mi Yodea finds power in its simple staging and wild, almost uncontrolled, movement. Chairs are arranged in a semicircle around the stage and dancers wear identical black suits. The movement is set to the traditional Passover song of the same name which "enumerates the thirteen attributes of God".[19] It is a counting Hebrew song, meaning each verse builds upon the previous one. Naharin uses the cumulative nature of the song and matches it with his own type of repetition, specifically with the chorus. Prior to each chorus, a ripple occurs from stage right to stage left in which each dancer arches their back with splayed arms and bent legs, only to slowly be seated again. The final member of the semicircle, however, does not re-seat himself; instead, he falls to the ground. As he lays there, the rest of the dancers stand up from their chairs and powerfully deliver the lines of the chorus: “Echad mi yodea? Echad ani yodea. Echad Elokeinu, shebashamaim uva’aretz” (Who knows one? I know one. One is God, our God of the heavens and of earth). He then returns to his seat as the entire stage settles for a brief moment of tranquility. This action repeats itself thirteen times. It eventually becomes too much, and the dancers – excluding the stage left performer – forcefully shed and throw off their clothing piece by piece until they are standing in front of their chairs in just their undergarments, the pile of shed clothing thrown astray. As the lights and music fade, the "other" simply returns to his seat still fully clothed, while the other dancers stand proudly and exhausted in their undergarments.

Naharin's Echad mi Yodea has a variety of interpretations – the shedding of one's skin, the inescapable bond with one's past, finding beauty in chaos, the singular within a group and the dichotomy between exhaustion and strength. One of the most spoken about interpretations, however, is that of the liberation of a community. This understanding is related to the "gatkes incident". In 1998, Echad mi Yodea was set to perform at a celebration of Israel's 50th anniversary as a nation-state. Government officials argued with Naharin, urging him to "let the dancers wear gatkes (Yiddish for long underwear) because conservative officials would be in attendance".[20] It was an attempt at censorship, but Naharin refused, instead pulling Batsheva from the performance and allowing for the liberation in Echad mi Yodea to continue. Like the "gatkes incident" demonstrates, even when faced with criticism, Naharin continues to push the boundaries of traditional dance. As Gaby Aldor, a dance critic specializing in Israeli dance, writes:

"Naharin's movement is rough, lacking in balletic elegance yet inventing a new kind of virtuosity. Explosive and fast, Naharin's dancers move as if their bodies are possessed of an inner strength, yet governed too by external forces about to tear apart the body. There is a bodily reaching beyond one's boundaries, a different borderlessness that involves dancers pushing the limits of the familiar and safe: a dancer's high lifted leg turns more than I80 degrees, another jumps sideways and down in a risky dive, a backward arch turns into a leap. It happens in the body and in the mind alike, and it happens to the individual, the one who takes responsibility for his breathtaking trespassing".[21]

Other pieces he has choreographed include Three, Tabula Rasa, Mabul, Pas de Pepsi, Haru No Umi, In Common, Sixty a Minute, Black Milk, Innostress, Mamootot, moshe, yag, sabotage baby, perpetuum, Passo Mezzo, Kamuiot, plastelina, Naharin's Virus, Hora, Sadeh21, The Hole.

Mr. Gaga documentary[edit]

Ohad Naharin instructing dancers

In 2015, a documentary about Naharin called Mr. Gaga by Tomer Heymann premiered.[22] This documentary's title is a reference to the movement language created by Naharin, Gaga. The documentary explores how Naharin and his movement style have influenced Batsheva Dance Company and the modern dance world. Gaga movement stems from Naharin's belief that "physical pleasure from physical activity is part of being alive," and the connection between effort and pleasure through movement. The documentary examines both Naharin's life and his choreographic work, explicating how his work has shaped the dance world.[23]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Halutz, Doron (5 November 2011). "The Face / Ohad Naharin". Haaretz.
  2. ^ Famed choreographer still feels the fear
  3. ^ "Batsheva Dance Company, an interview with Ohad Naharin". Culturekiosque.com. 7 March 2000. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  4. ^ The Face: Ohad Naharin
  5. ^ a b c Goodwin, Joy (3 June 2007). "Free Your Mind, and Your Spine Will Follow". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Feeling is believing
  7. ^ "Batsheva Dance Company: About".
  8. ^ a b "Batsheva Dance Company: About". batsheva.co.il. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  9. ^ Subin, Anna Della (19 September 2015). "Going Gaga for Ohad Naharin". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  10. ^ a b "Batsheva Dance Company". Israelcentersf.org. Archived from the original on 21 September 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  11. ^ a b Batsheva Dance Company > Ohad Naharin
  12. ^ "Building Bodies with a Soft Spine". Retrieved 06 March 2021.
  13. ^ a b "The Grotesque in the Choreography in Ohad Naharin".
  14. ^ dE_uWz1hH1ZMkZlj "Ohad Naharin Discusses Gaga Movement". Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  15. ^ "Video About Gaga van Bat7 – MySpace Video". Vids.myspace.com. Retrieved 16 May 2010.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "A conversation with choreographer Ohad Naharin". Charlie Rose. 22 November 2005. Archived from the original on 8 May 2009. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  17. ^ a b Kourlas, Gia (6 March 2009). "Conjuring Up a World Where Images Abound". The New York Times.
  18. ^ About Culture, Not Politics; Kennedy Center Celebrates Israel's 50th Anniversary
  19. ^ Goldberg, Jill (2009). "Dance Beyond Boycott". Tikkun. 24 (5): 64–66. doi:10.1215/08879982-2009-5026. ISSN 2164-0041. S2CID 156598149.
  20. ^ Quinlan, Meghan (31 May 2019). "Mr. Gaga: Embodying the Exceptionalism of Ohad Naharin". The International Journal of Screendance. 10. doi:10.18061/ijsd.v10i0.6525. ISSN 2154-6878.
  21. ^ Aldor, Gaby (2003). "The Borders of Contemporary Israeli Dance: "Invisible Unless in Final Pain"". Dance Research Journal. 35 (1): 81–97. doi:10.1017/S0149767700008780. ISSN 0149-7677. JSTOR 1478480. S2CID 193683837.
  22. ^ "mrgaga". mrgaga. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  23. ^ Kenny, Glenn (31 January 2017). "Review: 'Mr. Gaga' Doesn't Sing but Has His Own (Dance) Language". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  24. ^ "Israel Prize Judges' Rationale for the Award (in Hebrew)". Israel Prize Official Site. Archived from the original on 21 October 2010.
  25. ^ "Award". Americandancefestival.org. Archived from the original on 21 July 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  26. ^ Galili, Deborah Friedes (24 April 2009). "Ohad Naharin to Receive 2009 Scripps/ADF Award". Danceinisrael.com. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  27. ^ Ohad Naharin Receives a 2009 Dance Magazine Award (The article that was published on Dance Magazine"Dance Magazine – if it's happening in the world of dance, it's happening in Dance Magazine". Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2012.)

External links[edit]