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By Julie Funasaki Yuen

At Mid-Pacific, Deeper Learning is part of classrooms across disciplines, from Science to Dance. A wonderful example is Charlaine Katsuyoshi’s Level 6 and 7 Contemporary Dance class where Mid-Pacific School of the Arts Dance Certificate students recently performed an excerpt from Minus 16, choreographed by renowned Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. Naharin is the creator of the dance language, Gaga, a movement language where the teacher leads dancers through an improvisational practice based on a series of images described by the teacher. 

In addition to learning how to perform the unique choreography of Minus 16, the students spent time researching about the origin of the performance and its significance to the Jewish community. 

“The dress we are wearing mimics the clothing of Hasidic Jews, a very conservative sect of Judaism,” says Katsuyoshi. “And then we begin to tear off our clothes.” Through their research, the students learned that the Minus 16 song is associated with the Jewish holiday Passover and references the 13 attributes of God. 

Mid-Pacific School of the Arts Dance Certificate students perform ‘Minus 16’ choreographed by Ohad Naharin.

Dance Certificate student Rheylie Bennie shared that the inspiration for her performance was learning the history of Minus 16. “For me, what informed my performance was that Minus 16 was created by Ohad and dedicated to his wife, Mari, who was diagnosed with cancer and died at the age of 50.” 

“When I learned Minus 16, I was dancing with a company in Chicago,” shares Katsuyoshi. “Mari and Ohad came together to participate in our creative process. She was very much a part of putting the piece together.” 

The students also learned how dance is an art form with its own rules and history.

“Four years ago, I taught this piece here at Mid-Pacific because there was a choreographer in the news that was said to have plagiarized this piece for the Country Music Awards performance. It was big news in the dance world,” shares Katsuyoshi.

“The discussions that followed focused on the whole idea of artistic property and how plagiarism is not just something in a literary sense, but can also happen in choreography and dance. I wanted to bring that current event into the studio, teach this piece to the students, and then share the piece that was said to have plagiarized Minus 16.” 

Naharin provided Katsuyoshi with permission to teach and share the pieces that she danced for educational purposes. 

“This type of movement is new to a majority of the Dance Certificate students. It’s not something that we do all the time and it’s nice to break out of our comfort zone and try a new technique and different style altogether,” explains Katsuyoshi.