Portrait of a Choreographer: Mr. Gaga Hits Theaters

It's hard to find a dancer who isn't fascinated by Ohad Naharin. The choreographer and director of the Tel Aviv-based Batsheva Dance Company is best known for his distinctive movement language, Gaga, which emphasizes a deep sensory awareness and finding pleasure and freedom in moving. Though his work is contemporary, it's joined the repertoires of several ballet companies, including Atlanta Ballet and Paris Opéra Ballet.

Batsheva in Naharin's Last Work, photo by Gadi Dagon

Now, thanks to Tomer Heymann's documentary Mr. Gaga, Gagaphiles will get an intimate and rare look into Naharin's life and work. The film, which Heymann worked on for eight years, will be released in the U.S. on February 1.

Ohad Naharin, photo by Gadi Dagon

Along with striking performance footage of Naharin's work, Mr. Gaga provides glimpses of his process in the studio, and the demanding dynamic between him and his dancers. In the opening scene, for instance, one Batsheva dancer practices a fall, again and again, as Naharin asks her to let go of control.

The film also paints a fuller picture of Naharin's life, both personal and professional: There's footage of him as a child growing up on a kibbutz in Israel, performing for Israeli troops and dancing with Batsheva after beginning his formal dance training at age 22. The documentary also touches on his time spent dancing with Martha Graham in New York City, and attending The Juilliard School and the School of American Ballet.

In addition to the film's release, U.S. audiences have another chance to see Batsheva, and Naharin's choreography, in action. The company is currently in the middle of a North American tour. They'll perform Naharin's Last Work in New York City this week, from February 1–4, and go on to Costa Mesa, Seattle and San Francisco later this month.

Check the Mr. Gaga showing dates and locations to find a screening near you, and check out the trailer below:

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