The Power of Dance and Mr Gaga

June 17, 2016 by Roz Tarszisz
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“I really believe in the power of dance to heal” says Ohad Naharin, artistic director and renowned choreographer of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company in the documentary Mr Gaga in which he features…writes Roz Tarszisz.

Tomar Heymann

Tomar Heymann

Israeli film maker, Tomer Heymann, spent eight years following Naharin around the world whilst making an intimate documentary about an artist forever pushing the boundaries of physical and political expression and says the experience has had a profound effect on him.

Heymann has been making documentaries for 15 years and many have won awards, both in Israel and at international film festivals.  Currently in Australia to present his film at Hot Docs, his enthusiasm for his subject was infectious.

“This film is connected to my blood and oxygen. It’s about life and values and the choices artists make to connect to their audience” he said.

The first time he attended a Batsheva production in Israel he was young, miserable and confused about being gay.  In a heartbeat, his perception of himself changed.  “Art changed my life forever” he said.

For many years, Naharin refused all requests to be the subject of a film and Heymann is thrilled to have been the one to finally succeed.

Heymann was raised in a moshav and Naharin on a kibbutz (until he was five). Heymann agreed that may have given the two men an affinity but said that the dance maestro’s upbringing had resulted in a man who had no interest in what he wore.

“It caused me problems when I sought funding.  I had years of footage but in much of it Ohad is wearing the same clothes. So it looked like I had filmed over a few weeks, rather than over several years” said Heymann.

“What is wonderful about Batsheva is that while dance is universal, the company is still very Israeli” he said.

Heymann believes that dance crosses cultures and countries and finds his film has struck a strong chord wherever it has been shown.  It’s presently doing well in France and Germany and he believes that in bringing the dance company to the wider world, the film gives people a different perspective of Israel than that usually portrayed.

“I am happy that many people have now discovered Naharin. He passes on a good message for young artists to believe in themselves” he said.

Heymann agreed that having unfettered access to a basement full of Naharin’s old family films gave depth and interest to his story about a complex man who changes over course of the film.

Naharin becomes a more caring director as he gently coaxes dancers into doing what he wants of them.

Heymann’s next project – Who’s Gonna Love Me Now  –is about a gay man who discovers he’s HIV positive and wants  to return to the kibbutz he had been expelled from.

After recovering from a serious back operation, Naharin invented Gaga as a way of gentle and healing movement to music and the scenes where people of all ages and abilities are encouraged to learn about moving their bodies are heart-warming.

Mr Gaga is showing as part of Hot Docs Film Festival at Palace Cinemas in Canberra and Melbourne.



One Response to “The Power of Dance and Mr Gaga”
  1. Dalia Ayalon Sinclair OAM says:

    I have recently seen it in Israel and highly recommend not to miss the film GAGA.
    Pity it is not showing in Sydney.
    Excellent production filled with the best of dancing you might watch in addition to a grabbing biography of the greatest Ohad Naharin.

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