Greetings again from the darkness. Don’t think for a second this has anything to do with the globally famous Lady Gaga; however, if the name recognition causes a few more people to watch this labor of love and respect from filmmaker Tomer Heymann (Paper Dolls, 2006), then so much the better. Creative geniuses make fascinating subjects for talented documentarians, and Israeli dancer and modern dance choreographer Ohad Naharin is certainly no exception.
The opening scene captures Ohad working with a female dancer on the proper way to fall down … over and over – even after she bangs her head on the floor. It’s our first of many glimpses behind the scenes of his style for rehearsals. His quiet intensity perhaps restrained for the cameras; he harps on dancers more about emotion than technique.
Ohad’s own words provide much of the film’s backdrop and structure. That combined with the stunning performance footage from numerous shows he choreographed, we begin to get a feel for this driven visionary. By the end, we have also been provided some insight into his childhood, his late arrival to formal dance training, the death of his first wife/co-creative partner, and the birth of his first child.
We see clips of his prowess as a young dancer who couldn’t find fulfillment in the dance companies of Martha Graham or Maurice Bejart, but who seemed destined to make his mark with modern dance … sometimes causing a bit of controversy along the way. His founding of Gaga – what he calls “movement language” is given a celebrity endorsement from Natalie Portman, who mentions that it allows her to find pleasure in dancing, which is more typically associated with pain. Ohad’s own description is that Gaga is designed for us to “listen to our body before we tell it what to do”. He proclaims that Gaga is accessible to the masses, and that dance has the power to heal.
Director Heymann’s film expertly captures many sides to Ohad Naharin, a man originally drawn to dancing not as a career, but rather as something he enjoyed. The talented dancers and the extensive rehearsal footage remind us of the physical and mental grind required to achieve greatness in dancing … a lesson that carries forward for most any endeavor.