My Gaga Experienceposted on April 7th, 2012 by Brandon Monokian
The words “Gaga” and “fame” have become fused together in the pop culture lexicon ever since Lady Gaga’s debut album was released in 2008. Being a twenty-something pop music lover, my first thought when I heard about a “Gaga People” movement workshop at the Kasser Theater was whether I should wear my meat dress or my Kermit the Frog poncho. But Lady Gaga this was not. The “Gaga” in question refers to the movement language, developed by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, in which performers reintroduce themselves to the sensations of their bodies, allowing them to find their own natural and fluid movement. The workshop was led by Saar Harari, one of the founding members of the Brooklyn-based dance company LeeSaar The Company, on campus at Montclair State to premiere FAME as part of the Peak Performances spring season.
“The first rule is we don’t stop,” announced Harari. With that, the hour-long Gaga workshop began. We started by trying to “float” instead of allowing gravity to keep our energy rooted to the floor, which soon enabled me to feel a light and lively natural physical state. Moving forward, the workshop focused on the exploration of different aspects of our body, such as remembering that our skin and bones are two separate entities with two separate movement lives, as well as noticing the sensation of our skin in relation to things such as our clothes and using that sensation to inform movement.
“Be as silly with your movement as you can,” instructed Harari. We experimented with size and speed, swinging arms and extending legs, making ourselves first as large as possible and then as small as possible; all the while, an emphasis was placed on being authentic in the movement. Being authentically silly can be a challenge by the time you’ve been socially structured to be so damn serious, but in moments of authenticity, beautiful and unique movement started to emerge.
That night, after the workshop, I got to see the Gaga technique in action in the company’s performance of FAME. Throughout the piece, the dancers played with iconic images (a cowboy hat, a gun, a creepy golden cat head worn by a dancer while swinging her “paws” as if fist pumping at the Jersey Shore). Iconic situations were also performed, such as sleeping with a director to get a movie role. It was easy to see how the techniques we discussed in the workshop were utilized in creating the movement on stage. The sensation of the sensual was present yet infused with an authentic silliness. The combination of sexual and silly was gripping to experience, with the performers twisting their bodies throughout the space, including on the floor. At one point, two of the performers sat with their legs spread in what I thought was about to be a moment about birth, but it transformed into a scene about sex—a fitting transition. Their movement was an amalgam of sensual, outrageous, and physically daring, fusing together into a beautifully cohesive whole. The Gaga technique is clearly working, as this company produced interesting and novel movement while remaining completely authentic in their performance.
Brandon Monokian works professionally as an actor, director, and writer. For more, follow him on Twitter: @brandonmonokian.