If I had one shekel for each time I have been asked to shake, quake, vibrate, or jostle myself in a dance class these last two weeks, well I wouldn’t be rich because one shekel isn’t worth anything, but I would have lots and lots of them. These Israelis sure do love to shake themselves silly. Shake on the floor, shake standing up, shake bent over, shake on your side, shake while you are walking, shake your pelvis while laying on your stomach….huh? —whoa nelly!
There is a definite, obvious, tangible sensuality that not only lives in the bodies of the dancers here, but you see it on the streets, in the cafes, in restaurants, you name it. The connection to the self and the acknowledgement of one’s sexual power is virtually impossible to miss. Perhaps it’s in keeping with the life of leisure that seems to permeate the city. I mean, no matter where I am on any given day, be it the beach, a class, a cafe, there are hoards of people alongside me, not working. The pleasures of life, at least my favorites, are ubiquitous and absolutely impossible for me to resist. How can I pass a cafe and not convince myself that I need to stop for an espresso? Gaga was hard today – I deserve it! How do I glide past a store front that is featuring the coolest plaid shirt I have seen in ages? The pastry / chocolate shop? Fogeddaboudit. Are these the temptations of hell? How is it that this city is able to lay out a veritable cornucopia of all my favorite things on a daily basis, and how do I not respond? P.S. Israelis are also very very beautiful. ( So are you, honey! )
Of course this is coming from a non-working, tourist’s perspective. Therefore in order to make my point, I need to go back into the studio where dancers and people are more real and more eager to bring out vulnerable sides of themselves, within an open and accepting environment. There appears to be a need to touch, be touched, and an affinity for loving the human body that I am not often able to see back home. I do not doubt that there may be body insecurities and worries, but if moving and dance are the most honest ways to glimpse someone’s psychology, then I would say, my vantage point is a clear one.
The weekend workshop that I took was comprised of mostly non-dancers. I wasn’t aware that it would be that way, certainly not at the beginning, but as the weekend went on, more and more non-dancers invaded the space and brought their eagerness to move, into the studio. While it seemed benign in the early stages, I noticed that as the participants got to know each other better, and camaraderie was beginning to blossom, there was a shift in the air, a change in emphasis not only in the participants, but in the teachers. The material and the classes started venturing toward places that, quite frankly, felt sleazy. I would not mention this otherwise, but my friend Hila, whose motto is: ”I accept YOU and the WORLD with no judgements” had a similar feeling – so I knew I wasn’t too far off base.
Classes began in a very similar fashion and no matter how many classes I took in a day, each began with us on the floor sensing one thing or another: our weight, our breath, our skin, our pelvises, our faces, etc. etc. Honestly, I grew so insanely tired of the jargon that I thought I would purposely do the opposite of what was being asked. What if I chose to hold my breath? What if I allowed my arms and legs to float off the floor, giving the finger to gravity and allowing my legs to do the splits? What if I busted out the “Single Ladies” dance? There is no end to how controversial I can be. In addition, following all this introspection was a list of directives that so quickly took us out of this realm that it made me wonder; why did we do all of that internal sensing in the first place? Gratuitous? Because that is what you are supposed to do? Oh – let’s not forget, the abundance of shaking. So, OK – I make it through that same warm-up, minus my rebellion fantasy, even though we had already been warmed up twice before, and we move on to walking around with our eyes closed and arms outstretched. The teacher, a noted Contact Improv. Guru in Israel, then asked us to find each other in the space, with eyes closed, and asked us to explore the bodies around us. I hardly need to tell you what happened next. It was a festival of glands and hormones. SO much obvious, inappropriate touching that went way outside of anything that is supposed to happen in a class of this sort, it made me cringe. It felt blasphemous.
Here was the difference of this kind of exploration as it relates to dancers and non-dancers. The respect that a dancer holds toward another person and his/her body cannot be denied. It is this respect that allows us to touch, interact, and become intimate with the utmost trust and security. What these other people brought into the room was so foreign to me, that I did not know how to process it. Hila mentioned it took every ounce of strength she had to not just leave the class. We endured, partnered each other, cleansed ourselves afterwards with a delicious Italian dinner and phenomenal wine. What better way to rid yourself of the crass groping and stinky armpits that assaulted you earlier, than with a hearty bowl of pasta and gelato?
I am not saying that dancers are better than non-dancers. Calm down. jeesh. I am saying that sensitivity to one another is an integral part of dance education and learning how to listen through the body is critical. One assignment in the class was to create ” a sensuous dance with the arms and allow that sensuality to travel through other parts of the body. ” sigh – OK…..here we go again….time to put on a “cup ” and some body armor…
Through a complex series of square dance like maneuvers, I was arbitratily paired with a man who clearly confused sensuality with spasms and violence. He threw his arm around with the ferociousness of someone swatting a swarm of African killer bees. Despite my attempts to go to the other dynamic, hoping he would “listen” to my arm, hoping he would catch on, there was no saving this duet. I had to exit my “sensual” creation with this rabid octopus, or else I would have had a black eye, and quite possibly, would not be able to have children. The next guy was not quite as bad, but he failed to understand the nature of allowing things to happen organically and my ass was grabbed “accidentally” so many times. How this happened when we were supposed to remain connected at the wrists, I’ll never know. Then peace came. I had made friends with a really cool guy who was very skilled at contact, we had worked together two days prior. The square dance brought us together, and we lifted each other, twisted, dove, caught, held, and threw each other into new places of release and new places of trust. My last partner was Hila…salvation.
I since returned to my Gaga world and have been having an equally sensuous experience, but in these classes, it is all independent, except for the spanking of course. I’ll get to that in a bit. Gaga is totally sensuous, totally pleasure driven, and totally not bashful about it. Where in release technique, dancers tend to hide and go deep within, I find that the movements that are generated with Gaga are often quite similar, except for the fact that the movements connect to the world at large. Show your sensuality, show the depth of your emotion, show the power of your stance. When the fingers vibrate, the legs resonate with that energy, when your torso moves, the head responds and shows off its reaction with boldness. Each pore is alive, each nerve ending awake with sensing. There is no rest. Only alive bodies. Bodies that are totally engaged; from the pads of the feet to the head and out to the acreage of land that lies beyond the studio.
I had a Gaga class with Gavriel, who has been teaching for quite some time and is also a dancer with Barak Marshall. Each teacher brings something new to class, and I have found that if there is a standard protocol, I have yet to discover it. Gavriel was interesting. I didn’t know if he truly wanted to be teaching that day, or if his normal demeanor is a little aloof. But picture if you will, Bruno, the gay fashionista made famous by Sasha Baron Cohen in the film of the same name. Gavriel flew around the space as though he were in heels and afraid he might fall. He played all of his favorite music and basically we were treated to what would have been, had there been a cover charge and drink specials, a drag show of the most interesting quality. We gaga-ed to the Pussycat Dolls and Beyonce, and it is during this class that we all found ourselves on our stomachs, “quaking the pelvis” ie. humping the floor. The class concluded with us in little trios taking turns spanking each other all over. The spankee was to react with sensuality and attention to the sensations of the body. The spankers, with the help of Gavriel, who traveled around from group to group, unleashed a torrent of slaps and spanks all over the spankee, with only minor consideration of what was being hit or slapped. While this has happened in each of my gaga classes, Gavriel took it to a new place by asking us to make the victim’s skin red.
This is the penultimate step to unadulterated sensuality. The farthest one could go in modest company. The boundaries were and are pushed, and in this class it was all OK. It was pure, even with RuPaul in the captain’s seat.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to have an espresso, buy a shirt, and spank a stranger.