Batsheva Ensemble goes gaga for 'gaga dance'

Batsheva's gaga dance isn't what you think. One of the pros explains why

Chris Nash

Gaga dancing has nothing to do with the lady in the meat dress. Lyndsey Winship joins ex-Batsheva dancer Chiasato Ohno to find out how to do it.

When you hear ‘gaga dance’, there’s one woman who’s going to pop straight into your head, but the truth is that Lady G has nothing to do with it. Gaga is actually the name of a method developed by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin for his company Batsheva a decade or so ago.

So what is it? To find out, I went to London’s only gaga class, taught by ex-Batsheva dancer Chisato Ohno. On a stiff Monday morning, Ohno has her class gyrating in a constant flow of movement. Rather than giving us steps and exercises, she uses visualisation to have us imagine ourselves underwater, or growing wings, slowly becoming aware of all forgotten corners of our bodies.

It’s a dance form that’s based not on imposing shapes from the outside, but finding movement inside your own body (the name comes from babytalk, the idea that it’s natural and instinctive). With professional dancers the result is earthy, aqueous and virtuosic all at the same time. With me, less so, but it’s certainly a strangely empowering experience. Unlike many dance forms, gaga is all about working with your body rather than against it. There’s no wrong or right.

If you want to see how the pros do it, check out the Batsheva Ensemble, a younger offshoot of the main company, which is coming to London to perform ‘DecaDance’, ten years of Ohad Naharin’s choreography squished into one show. If you want to have a go yourself, then as well as her regular Monday class, Ohno is about to start up a beginners’ class – she calls it Gaga People rather than Gaga Dance – so that anyone can get stuck in, no experience necessary. It’s sweats only, though, so maybe leave the platforms and fat suit at home.

Take a gaga dance class with Chisato Ohno

  • Gaga Method

    Until Mon Dec 10, Danceworks

    A dance technique developed by the Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin for his Batsheva Dance Company. Taught by ex-Batsheva dancer Chisato Ohno, this is a general level class but probably not suited to absolute beginners.