Saturday, February 11, 2017

Choreographer Hansen critiques misogyny in "Mr. Gaga" film

Anneke Hansen
(photo: Baille Younkman)

Yesterday, I received a letter dance artist Anneke Hansen sent to film producer Barak Heymann about Tomer Heymann's documentary, Mr. Gaga. After seeing the film, which deals with the life and work of acclaimed Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, Hansen spoke with the producer to voice her concerns as outlined here.


Dear Mr. Heymann,
I am writing, as promised, to reiterate my dismay at the misogynistic filmmaking displayed in Mr. Gaga.

As I mentioned, I was appalled by the section of the film that covers Ohad Naharin's early years in NYC. The film shows archival footage of the women whose bodies helped realize and establish his aesthetic. It uses the voices of these women. For several minutes they occupy the screen without ever being credited by name. In contrast, a male dancer, Daniel Tishman, I believe, is identified by a caption. This is a great and offensive mistake.

The disrespect is deepened by the fact that, at the same point in the film, Mari Kajiwara is introduced as "the most beautiful woman" Ohad has ever seen. We watch Ms. Kajiwara dance for many minutes, learning of her unique artistry, her acclaimed work with Alvin Ailey, and - rather smugly - of Ohad's conquest, without ever learning her name. Again, this is shameful. It is only after several minutes that Ms. Kajiwara's first name is introduced, leaving the audience to wonder, for quite some time, what her full name might be.

This treatment of Ms. Kajiwara, and other women who danced with Mr. Naharin, is shameful. Your film treats them as lesser beings, as objects for Ohad Naharin's male brilliance, rather than the great artists who allow for the work's existence. The misogyny of your filmmaking accidentally highlights an old and ugly tradition in the field by replication: women have often been the clay from which men mold their names.

As a choreographer, I'm usually grateful to see a film about dance - especially when it receives some critical acclaim and support. In this case, however, I was left with a foul taste in my mouth.

I sincerely hope you will re-edit the film to name these women and give them respectful recognition for their work and contributions to Mr. Naharin's success. I intend to share this letter with the NYC dance press and community. I look forward to your response.

Best regards,
Anneke Hansen
Anneke Hansen is a choreographer, performer, and teacher based in new york city who primarily presents dance works through her company, Anneke Hansen Dance. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence college, her work has been presented in NYC by the Chocolate Factory Theater and as part of the La Mama moves! Festival, Draftworks at Danspace Project, Movement Research at Judson Church, Dance Conversations @ The Flea, and at University Settlement. Hansen has been international guest artist-in-residence at Dance House in Dublin, Ireland, Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico, and her company has enjoyed creative residencies at Rockbridge Arts Exchange in Virginia, and Vermont Academy in Saxtons River, VT. The company's work has been featured at the Big Range Dance Festival in Houston, TX, among other venues, and her site-specific work has been performed in NYC parks and abroad in Washington D.C. and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her most recent project, a collaboration with Lori Yuill, was selected as Best of Fringe at the Houston Fringe Festival, 2016. Anneke Hansen Dance has received funding from LMCC’s Manhattan Community Arts Fund, NYFA’s BUILD grant, and the Puffin Foundation. As a performer, Hansen has had the pleasure of dancing for New York choreographers Sara Rudner and Susan Rethorst, and for Australian choreographer Russell Dumas, among others. A student of anatomy, she served as assistant to master anatomist and neuromuscular educator Irene Dowd. In addition to teaching dance in both the US and abroad, Hansen maintains a practice as a private movement instructor in NYC, specializing in rehabilitative movement and performance training, and has taught anatomy at several area colleges.

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