Ohad Naharin is the House Choreographer of Batsheva Dance Company and creator of the Gaga movement language.
Naharin was born in 1952 in Mizra, Israel. His mother is a choreographer, dance teacher, and Feldenkrais instructor, and his father was an actor and psychologist. He joined Batsheva Dance Company in 1974 despite having little formal training. During his first year, guest choreographer Martha Graham invited him to join her own company in New York. Between 1975 and 1976, Naharin studied at the School of American Ballet, The Juilliard School, and with Maggie Black and David Howard. He then joined Maurice Béjart’s Ballet du XXe Siecle in Brussels for one season.
Naharin returned to New York in 1979 and made his choreographic debut at the Kazuko Hirabayshi studio the following year. From 1980 until 1990, Naharin presented works in New York and abroad, including pieces for Batsheva Dance Company, the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, and Nederlands Dans Theater. At the same time, he worked with his first wife, Mari Kajiwara, and a group of dancers in New York. Naharin and Kajiwara continued to work together until she died from cancer in 2001.
In 1990, Naharin was appointed Artistic Director of Batsheva Dance Company, and in the same year, he established the company’s junior division, Batsheva – the Young Ensemble. He has since created over thirty works for both companies. After almost thirty years of leading Batsheva, Naharin stepped down as Artistic Director in 2018, and continues to serve as the Company’s House Choreographer.
In addition to his stagework, Naharin also developed GAGA, an innovative movement language based on research into heightening sensation and imagination, becoming aware of form, finding new movement habits, and going beyond familiar limits. GAGA is the daily training of Batsheva’s dancers and has spread globally among both dancers and non-dancers.
Over the course of his years in Batsheva, Naharin has won many awards and honors, among them Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government (1998), a Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa by the Weizmann Institute of Science (2004), the Israel Prize for dance (2005), a Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa by the Hebrew University (2008), the EMET Prize in the category of Arts and Culture (together with Yair Vardi, 2009), the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement (2009), an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the Juilliard School in New York (2013) , the Israel Ministry of Culture Award for Lifetime Achievement (2016), an Honorary Fellowship by Tel-Aviv University (2018) Honorary doctorate by Ben Gurion University of the Negev (2019), Commandeur de l’ordre des Arts et Lettres (2023) and many more.
Naharin trained in music throughout his childhood and continues to infuse his work with a unique musicality. He collaborated with the Israeli rock group, The Tractor’s Revenge (Kyr, 1990), Avi Balleli and Dan Makov (Anaphaza, 1993), Ivri Lider (Zina, 1995), and Grischa Lichtenberger (Last Work, 2015). Under the pseudonym Maxim Waratt, he composed music for many pieces he created for the company.
Naharin’s work has also been featured in several films. In his 2007 documentary, Out of Focus, Director Tomer Heymann filmed the process of restaging Decadance with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. And in 2015, the Heymann Brothers released their comprehensive documentary about Naharin, Mr. Gaga, to critical and audience acclaim.
A citizen of both Israel and the United States, Naharin currently lives in Israel with his wife, dancer and costume designer Eri Nakamura, and their daughter, Noga.