I had high hopes when I walked into a Gaga/Dancers class this week. I had heard wonderful things about this class, and was so excited to try it.
Gaga classes last for one hour and are taught by dancers who have worked closely with Ohad Naharin in the Batsheva Ensemble or Batsheva Dance Company. Teachers guide the participants using a series of evocative instructions that build one on top of the other. Rather than copying a particular movement, each participant in the class actively explores these instructions, discovering how he or she can interpret the information and perform the task at hand. Gaga classes offer a creative framework for participants to connect to their bodies and imaginations, increase their physical awareness, improve their flexibility and stamina, and experience the pleasure of movement in a welcoming, accepting atmosphere.
I LOVE improvisation, so I was all about this class from its description.
After doing some research, I found a website that listed these “instructions” for class.
Never stop: The class is one session, no pauses or exercises, but a continuity of instructions one on top of the other. Each instruction does not cancel the previous one but is added to it, layer upon layer. Therefore, it is important not to stop in the middle of the session. If you get tired or want to work at another pace, you can always lower the volume, work 30% or 20%, float, or rest, but without losing sensations that were already awakened. Do not return to the state your body was in before we started.
Listening to the body: It is important that you take the instructions gently into your body while being aware to its sensations, abilities, and limitations. Do not seek excessive effort on your first time – seek the quality of the movement, the sensation to which we are aiming, but with less intensity in the work.
Awareness: Be aware. Get inspired by the teacher and by other people in the room. Be aware of people around you, the space that they need, and the interaction if any.
Silence: During the session we do not speak unless instructed to use our voice or words. If you have any questions, you are welcome to bring them up at the end of the session.
Classes start on time: Attending the first minutes of the class is very important so you will be able to produce more from the session and take care of your body. It is advised to arrive 15 minutes early, turn your phone off, find yourself a place in the studio, relax, and start.
No entry for latecomers: If you are late, give up. Go do something else that is pleasant. Come tomorrow.
We work barefoot, without shoes.
We will be happy to hear how you felt during your first session and later as well.
Wonderful! I’m ready. (In hindsight, I probably wasn’t ready for a variety of reasons, but also because I’ve been battling chronic neck pain for over a month (waiting for appointment with an ortho), and I’m extremely conscious of my movement so as not to aggravate my condition further… preventing me from completely losing myself in anything…)
I walk in to a enormous, gorgeous studio that is also used as a performance space complete with stage lights, legs, and wings. I am 5 minutes early, so I quietly find an empty area of floor space and lay on my back.
The first thing I notice are the bright fluorescent lights that are assaulting my eyes as I gaze up.
I shut my eyes.
They still burn holes in my retinas.
After a few minutes, I gaze over at the clock. It’s 5 minutes after the hour. "So much for starting on time…" I catch myself thinking. I quickly try to let go of my negative thought, and remain optimistic.
A young woman wearing animal print pants with the crotch that ends by the knees walks in and puts on some “music.”
I say “music” because I can more accurately describe the noises coming from the sound system as ambient garbage attempting to assault my ears. It sounded like someone was playing bad 80s music, remixed, three rooms away, overlaid with slow dub step beats and ambient “nature” sounds.
Thankfully, she turned the music down so low that I could almost tune it out…. but not quite…
…Only to draw my attention to the real city ambiance outside. Blaring horns, traffic, air vents shuddering, laughter from the stairwell, elevator chiming, sirens, shouts.
The fluorescent lights are still bright and harsh.
Then she starts with the “instructions” that would build upon each other for the duration of the class in her calm, lilting voice. So calm, in fact, that I could barely understand her. “Is she slurring? Are my ears not working? What does she mean about this finding circles bit? I missed that.”
Oh. My. God. I cannot get into this.
Between the monotonous lilt of her voice, the ambient garbage music and city noise assaulting my ears, and the fluorescent lights assaulting my eyes, I did not feel safe to let go in that environment. I observed the other students in the class. They were so obviously into it.
Maybe it’s because I come from a rural area and I cannot tune out these stimuli. Maybe people actually like ambient garbage “music” here.
I don’t understand these NYC dancers in the pants with the crotch at the knees. They look sort of cool, but also ridiculous. Mostly I’m annoyed because no matter how many pairs of those pants I try on I look like I’m drowning in them. Short legs. Whatever.
UHG Nina, STOP getting distracted and focus on whatever what’s-her-name-in-the-low-hanging-pants is saying.
“Feel the water cresting up to your temples, and find a quiver that begins in your pelvis…. the water is coming to a boil, and you’re spaghetti. Let your spaghetti begin to cook…”
The dancer next to me looks like she is having a violent seizure. Her spaghetti is not boiling, it is spasmodically sizzling and one of her long limbs just knocked into me.
Suddenly I felt like Diana Morales because I was feeling absolutely NOTHING from this class.
“Jesus! there’s still 20 minutes left! Should I leave? No. That’s so rude, and against the ‘rules’.”
"But it was free*. You’ve paid NOTHING to be here."
"BUT I HATE IT. I FEEL NOTHING."
I turn my attention back to the teacher, hoping to find some inspiration, only to see that she’s so into her own movement, her eyes are closed (as most of the other students)! I’m sorry, but I cannot take anyone seriously right now. Should a teacher really be so self-indulgent that she can’t see what their students in the class are feeling? Everything in me screams ‘NO.’
I need music that will evoke movement. I need soft, comforting lighting. I need more direct instructions. This is not working for me. Everything hurts my neck. I’m frustrated.
Finally the class is ending, and I am so keyed up with frustration at the horrible music and lighting and senseless “instructions”. She thanks us and ends class (5 minutes early)
“So much for class ending on time.”
Mostly everyone remains in the room, laying on the floor in savasana, reflecting and recovering.
I, on the other hand, am the first one out the door. Breaking the “ambience” and letting the door shut loudly behind me.
I even go so far as to stand in the lobby downstairs for 5 full minutes, listening to a gaggle of children singing “Let It Go” at the top of their lungs, because ANYTHING is better than what I just endured.
Maybe it was the environment. Maybe just an inexperienced teacher. Maybe I was too worried about my neck. Maybe it just wasn’t my day. Maybe I just didn’t like it.
I accept that. It is clear from my observations of the other students in the class that they enjoyed it or at least got more out of it than I did.
I hope that one day I can try a different Gaga class and enjoy it.
…Perhaps not for a while though.
*Free- thanks to the work study program, my classes here are free or reduced rate, depending on the length of the class and if there’s an accompanist.
Have you felt this way before??