Dancer, choreographer, innovator — many words have been used to describe Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Israel’s premier modern dance group, the Batsheva Dance Company. But Dance Magazine, in its 2009 award, given at a ceremony November 9 in New York, simply called him the man who “revolutionized international dance.”
The award comes on the heels of another major accolade for the choreographer. In June he was honored with the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement, which is given out annually to modern dance choreographers who have made significant contributions to their field.
Naharin began his career at the Tel Aviv-based Batsheva Dance Company in the 1970s, but was quickly lured by Batsheva co-founder and American modern dance pioneer Martha Graham to dance in New York as Esau in her company’s production of “Jacob’s Dream.” He studied at Julliard and founded his own company in 1980 in New York.
In 1990 he returned to Israel and to Batsheva, this time as artistic director.
It is as choreographer and creator for Bathseva that Naharin has made his mark on the dance world, developing a dance and movement language called Gaga that is now the signature of the company. The technique teaches dancers and non-dancers to initiate movement in new ways that make their bodies move fluidly. Naharin teaches his classes in Israel and abroad in a very unconventional way for the dance world — without mirrors. Dancers learn and critique their movement through sensation rather than appearance, producing captivating movements that appear as liquid moving in a human form.