The Gila workshops
Movement and Stage Art for Women of Mature Age
The workshop focuses on movement and performance art for mature women. It places emphasis on discovering the artist within us, and utilizes the creative potential hidden within each and every woman. The name Gila, which in Hebrew means age, joy, and discovery, reflects the spirit of women who choose to dance life at any age, and contains the joy and discovery that contribute to a life of vitality.
Video: Oren Mansura / Editing: Eli Passi
The workshop is suitable for women aged 50 and above, who wish to engage in body research, creative processes and open up to this artistic world (no previous experience required)
How it all began:
Without any planning in advance, I fell in love with the older body, the aesthetics, the frankness, the uniqueness of a body-movement encounter specifically when the years are engraved on there. I find that the sensation is sketched in the body and movement and it brings the personality of that dancing woman. I work to create an artistic space for women of the elderly age. I work with adult women and explore the experience of adolescence and old age through body and movement, the adult body is inspiration and raw material for creation. I found the beauty of both the old age and the body. I meet elderly women every week who say yes to the body and to the dance.
"'Gila Workshop' - Movement and Stage Art for Women of Mature Age" was created following the performance of "Gila". Women from the age of seventy through eighty-five take part in the performance. Some are actresses who have appeared on stage in Israel and abroad, while others have no stage experience, but have the courage and curiosity to participate in this journey. These include Ruth Ben Israel (recipient of the Israel Prize in Law) and Telma Deem (piano teacher who decided at the age of sixty-four to explore acting and movement).
The show premiered at the 2008 "Woman Festival" and since then has performed successfully at the Suzanne Dellal Center and throughout Israel. The audience's reactions were exciting and emotional, and in the post-show talks there were calls from women whose bodies carried the desire to dance. The women mentioned that even when they dared to say out loud that they "want to dance", they do not find a suitable framework because in this respect, "this world belongs to the young." These requests called on me to initiate the "Gila Workshops - for women of elderly age". The workshops have been running since 2009.
The age of the women participating in the workshop vary from 50 to 85 years old, the common thing for all of them is the curiosity for a deep process of body research and creative techniques.
The following text was written by participants in the Gila Workshop of 2011, within their second year of practice, most of them dance to this day.
The writer Virginia Woolf established the phrase "A woman who creates needs a table and a room of her own." This was a powerful feminist manifesto. The studio became our own room, the intensity, the creativity, the mature femininity - through your professional mediation: made the studio into a place where we could create a personal language through improvisations, form movement sentences independently, enjoy the superiority of the creative process over the outcome and the freedom in simplicity...
…the studio had become our pause, every Wednesday, from our daily routine. All the external hassles were pushed away, the telephones were silent for three hours. During those hours we created "what could not be spoken" (Pina Bausch) and chronology in our room is losing its importance. The burden of years does not cloud the journey of body and soul. We did not imagine we could have found such youthfulness as we age."
Objectives of the workshop:
• Developing self-awareness and improving mobility while listening to the body, space and senses.
• Exposure to an artistic process while experiencing the wonderful world of stage art.
• Personal development.
Key principles in my work method:
Body research – Through concrete instructions, the work invites a search for personal and infinite movement, each in her own way and according to her abilities. The body becomes a "laboratory" - its own research site.
Use of Imagery – Working with images helps participants gain control over their movement and crystallize it into its precise shape. Each image becomes a foundation for movement, with its own unique quality. With practice, the body can synchronously work with multiple images, as these are already "stored" in the body and brain. This kind of work extends the participant’s understanding of movement possibilities.
Working with What You Have – Listening to the body and to physical limitations brought upon by age, and leveraging those limitations in order to develop a new movement language.
Who am I? – Participants’ work is based on their own biography, wishing to bring their stories and ideas, their inner personal world, to the stage.
Creation process - The process of creation enables the retrieval of movement information built from the variety of movement qualities stored and encoded in the body and mind, leveraging them to develop the movement language and create new contexts that are organized into choreography - creating a personal solo.
Combining artistic language with principles of brain plasticity through sensory, motoric and cognitive work, which helps promote brain activity (women reported this kind of work contributed to the quality of their daily lives).
Top down - Concentration activates cells in the frontal cortex of the brain. In our use of imagery we rely on this process, called “Top Down”, which can activate cells or systems on which we are focusing and create new neural pathways.
Motivation – The reward system in our brain boosts our learning abilities for anything we are interested in, anything we developed a motivation for. In the artistic aspect, motivation supports the challenges associated with dealing with a "new language" that includes a dialogue with the body, mind and creative processes, especially when acquired at an older age.
Adopting the principles of cortical memory, based on encoding, storage and retrieval, in our artistic work – The classes are arranged so that their first part is dedicated to encoding and storing new artistic material, while their second part is focused on the retrieval of artistic knowledge and its implementation and organization for solo work on stage. This is when the type of learning that promotes brain activity takes place.
Each workshop session consists of two classes:
First Class: Movement and improvisation. Body research in which the participants experience personal movement work, while developing listening skills and awareness of the body, senses, space and the surroundings. This work is combined with music.
Second Class: From the concept to the stage. The women participate in the choreographic work experience. Each participant creates a personal solo composed of biographical materials. In this section emphasis is placed on the creative process, the composition work and the adaptation of the idea to the stage.
At the end of the course we hold a Summery Event of the work process in front of a "family like" audience, which includes a solo performance of each participant.