I always thought
you were exquisite, the way you caught
the light, like the figures woven into cloth
made on a loom by Monsieur Jacquard -
the gleaming ripples in the silk.
So the language of ageing,
the code of it, the etching, and the scribbling
and silvering, are signs, to me, of
getting to live out my full term,
enduring to become what I have loved.
- from Ode to Stretch Marks
Just as Pablo Neruda's Odes to Common Things so deliciously draws our attention to everyday objects – lemon, salt, socks, a box of tea – so too does Sharon Olds' Odes. Here though, it is the body in all its guts and glory, that is given honour.
With odes to the tampon, the condom, the clitoris, the penis, the withered cleavage, menstrual blood, stretch marks, a composting toilet – Olds doesn't shy away from writing about much that is part of being human. There is an acute pleasure, a palpable joy, at even owning a body, let alone being able to experience its delights. Writing with directness, humour, clarity, wonder and an unashamed admiration for men, women, young and old alike, these are peculiar love poems. Acknowledgements and celebrations. Odes to the ordinary extraordinary.
Midway through the documentary chronicling her departure from renowned Israeli dance company Batsheva, Bobbi Jene Smith is speaking to a journalist about the creation of her new work A Study on Effort: 'I want to get to that place where I have no strength to hide anything'. The piece, performed naked, and requiring unfathomable physical strength and vulnerability, certainly attests to this desire. So too does the intimate access that she allowed director Elvira Lind in the three years of filming Bobbi Jene.
Dance and the dancer's life is almost always compelling fodder – something about the grit and rigour, precipitous luck, and the ephemeral beauty that it's all in pursuit of – but Lind, meeting Bobbi in 2012, knew something else too: Bobbi is one of the those women from whom it's hard to look away. She seems to live the way she dances: with intensity, humour, wisdom, a great deal of searching, enviable abandon. In short: all in. Combine that with the relatable struggles of a thirty-something woman trying to forge her own path while navigating ambition, love, and whether, when and how to create a family = we've watched this more than once. Bobbi's openness - far from exposure – seems like a way into freedom.
Nothing to do with the Lady bearing the same name, Gaga is the movement language created by Ohad Naharin, choreographer and artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company. If you've watched Bobbi Jene (above), you might have caught a mention in the scene with Laura Dern.
Initiating from a time of injury, when Naharin had to find new ways to move and access his body, he then realised he could use these ideas to communicate more deeply with the dancers in his company, enabling them to research and move in ways they too never had before. Soon, other members of the Batsheva team – the non-dancers – wanted in on the action. Developing over time, Naharin saw that this could be a tool for everyone. A way for everyone to connect effort to pleasure, to find their groove, to feel their bodies in space.
'Gaga classes are based on a deep listening to and awareness of the scope of physical sensations. While class instructions are often imbued with rich imagery that stimulates the imagination, the layering of information builds into a multisensory, physically challenging experience. Gaga offers a workout that develops flexibility, stamina, agility, coordination, and efficiency of movement. The exploration of form, speed, and effort is accompanied by the playful investigation of soft and thick textures, delicacy and explosive power, and understatement and exaggeration.' (From the Gaga website).
To experience Gaga for yourself, in London, Siobhan Davies Dance and TripSpace have regularly hosted classes, and will again, once the city opens up. Until then, take advantage of the multiple daily zoom classes taught by certified Gaga Teachers in Tel Aviv and New York – an unexpected and unique chance to move simultaneously with others from all across the globe.