Dance in Israel Reflection

September 12, 2011

I took notes in my Dance in Israel course in the form of questions yesterday. I just wanted to take some time to reflect this morning. Your thoughts are appreciated.

What are the folk dances of my generation? In a world that moves so quickly, and operates digitally, and wants to feel so immediate, do people still have or know traditional dances? Do they include the electric slide and the macarena? The Single Ladies dance? Hm, why not?

How do you create a dance culture? Israel’s dance beginnings, like any cultural beginnings, were raw, scattered, and had an ambiguous identity. In class, we studied Baruch Agadati, Margalit Ornstein, Rina Nikova, and Yardena Cohen. They had different amounts of Western training, connection to Hebrew culture, and interest in Eastern art forms. Learning about the beginning of concert dance in Israel almost felt like watching a soup being made. Some of these loose ended influences, and some of those, came together and collected with others into something that turned into something that tasted original and authentic to everyone involved.

What happens when society makes a huge shift? What happens to the arts? Around 1950, the emerging state of Israel doubled in population by people making aliyah from Arab countries. Whoa! With so many different people gathering to live in one place, what does that mean for their dance arts? Not to mention the austerity… Did people still dance?

What looks different and interesting? And why? Why did Jerome Robbins bring Anna Sokolow to Israel to give them the how-to of concert dance? Was it that certain fetishization of Eastern cultures? What did Israelis think of Western dances? Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness even comes to mind. And how does this translate to dance today? Is this the same reason that I chose to study for a year in Israel?

Early [Eretz?] Israeli choreographic interests seemed to lie in the development of character sketches and Biblical themes. The character sketches seem to be quite a genuine way to create dance that reflects on a people’s culture. What does my generation value today? What would our character sketches look like?

Early Inbal Dance Theater’s early piece, “Yemenite Wedding,” I think created after or during the influences or Robbins and Sokolow, were based on rituals. Is it relevant to choreograph about rituals today? What rituals do we have?


  1. Dance culture is not something to be made – it is born and all inclusive such as our Hip Hop culture.
    Concert dance, on the other hand, will never be seen as a culture because of its roots. It began with an exclusivity that remains today – instead of a culture, concert dance is a clique.

    • Daniel, thanks for the insight. I suppose that helps clarify why it’s sometimes hard for me to find authenticity in choreographing for the concert setting.

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