Tag Archives: Gaga

Dancer Spotlight: James Kopecky

Story by Susan Lee

Ballet San Jose’s James Kopecky began studying ballet in order to help himself breathe.

At the age of three, Kopecky had developed allergy-induced asthma. “My parents were desperate to find an athletic activity that was indoors,” he says. “So they sent me to ballet classes.”

Kopecky also took jazz, musical theater, and tap. The first dance company he ever joined, in fact, was Especially Tap Chicago, while he was still in high school. He credits tap with giving him a unique perspective on ballet. “Rhythmic pattern and timing is more heightened in tap than in ballet,” he points out. “So I’m more aware of those than some dancers who haven’t trained in tap. Tap also helped me become a better contemporary dancer. I can think outside the box, imagine steps in ways other dancers may not, because I was exposed to a wide range of the art.”

After high school, Kopecky decided to enter college instead of jumping straight into a company. In 2010, he got his B.F.A. in dance from Butler University in Indianapolis. Though he says that other dancers are sometimes surprise by his choice, it was the right one for him. “If I’d started dancing right out of high school, I wouldn’t still be dancing. Every dancer reaches a crossroads, and I just wasn’t ready to make dance my life. It’s not a stable career. Your body gives out on you after a certain age. I knew that I could study dance in college, and if I didn’t like it, I could major in something else. I’m a stronger person for having had that experience.”

In 2010, right after graduation, Kopecky joined Ballet San Jose as an apprentice. He’d never even been to California before. “Indianapolis was very gray,” he admits. “Now, I don’t even need a winter coat!”

Kopecky was promoted to the Corps de Ballet in 2011.

Ballet San Jose Minus 16

James Kopecky in Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16. Photo by Alejandro Gomez.

So far, Kopecky’s favorite role has been his twenty-minute, improvisational solo during Ballet San Jose’s 2014 performance of Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16. The Isaeli choreographer is renowned for creating a dance language known as “gaga.” Kopecky found the form especially appealing because, for him, it broke down the barrier between the audience and the dancer.

“In ballet,” he says, “we’re taught to keep our bodies very controlled. Gaga is more free-form. Like me! It’s outside the box. It’s like yoga. It’s a way to research your own body, to discover how your reactions are different from the reactions of the dancers around you.”

During his solo, Kopecky stood alone on the stage during intermission, looking out at the audience. “People were still talking and coming in and out. I liked it because I was able to do whatever I wanted to. I’ve never had a chance to improvise like that before. I was able to really let go. I was, as dancers say, ‘able to leave it all on the stage.'”

And as for Kopecky’s plans for the future?

He laughs. “I’m just trying to get all my dancing in before I break.”

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ohad Naharin, choreographer of Minus 16

Neoclassical to Now opens in one week on Friday, February 14. This program offers a wide range of styles, from Neoclassical Serenade choreographed by George Balanchine, to Jorma Elo’s contemporary Glow-Stop. Also featured in this program is the company premiere of Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16. Each work differs dramatically from the others, and Ballet San Jose’s dancers have to quickly adapt and move from one style to the next.

Transitioning into Minus 16, the dancers remove their pointe shoes and take on a very different style of dancing called Gaga. Pioneered by Ohad Naharin, Gaga is a “movement language” emphasizing sensation and pleasure in movement. This particular style of dance is very popular in Israel, especially in Tel Aviv, and it is the main style of dance taught at Batsheva Dance Company where Naharin is artistic director. Through Gaga, our dancers are learning and discovering new ways of moving, and according to Danielle Agami, assistant to the choreographer and one of the stagers for Ballet San Jose’s performance, “some of them are beginning to understand Gaga. They have to break down the habits that have been ingrained through years of classical ballet training.”

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,