Hi, I'm Hadar Ahuvia…
The Dances are For Us
I am raising money for the premiere ofThe Dances are For Us, a new multimedia performance premiering at Danspace Project May 30, 31, June 1,that expands on my five years of research on the construction of the earliest Zionist/Israeli folk dances.
The work is grounded in Marj Ibn Amer/ the Jizreel Valley, where my mother, I, and the folk dances were conceived. It emerges in the United States, where Zionists, Jews and Christians alike use the dances to celebrate their affiliation with Israel.
This time, I am collaborating with a group of performers with various relationships to Zionism and folk traditions. The work proposes a way of breaking the cycles of transmission, appropriation, and theft-- concepts that have present-day consequences for Palestinians, Israelis and Americans.
This next phase of making this work requires a diversity of views, experiences and identities, in order to engage with these questions.
What are Israeli folk dances?
Today, there are more than 8,000 dances, including the earliest Israeli dances as well as a newer generation created by Israeli choreographers of diverse backgrounds. The dances are practiced internationally by folk dancers, Zionist Jews, and Christians alike.
Song and dance rituals were created specifically to embody a nationalist agenda leading up to the creation of the State of Israel. The folk dance movement was spearheaded by Ashkenazi (of European descent) Jewish Zionists, and expressed their desire to return or become “native” in Israel-Palestine.
To transform into ‘new’ ‘oriental’ Jews, choreographers designed new ways of celebrating holidays, costumes, new dance steps and music based on European folk traditions and steps appropriated from Arab communities- Yemenite Jews, Druz, Bedouin and Palestinians. These moves parallel the violent ruptures Zionism brought on these people: dislocation and dispossession from their own land and rituals.
Israeli folk dances were performed and disseminated in the United States starting in the 1950s to Jewish communities as a way to build affiliation with the nascent state of Israel.
Israeli folk dances offer a sense of liberation, community, and affiliation with Israel. They can also be examined to trace the contradictions and conflicts within Israeli society and in Israel-Palestine.
What has my research process been like?
- I’ve scoured the databases that exist to preserve and disseminate the dances.
- I’ve traced the history of particular dances while reading about histories of Palestinian Dabke and Israeli folk dance by scholars of various orientations.
- I've developed a dance workshops to teach a history of Israel-Palestine through a non-Zionist framework.
- I’ve participated in solidarity work with organizers of nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation in Israel-Palestine.
- I’ve traveled to Poland with the support of Movement Research GPS to share my work, learn Polish dances that were rejected by Zionist choreographers,
- I visited the town my great grandfather left in the 1920s before he settled in the Jezreel Valley.
- And, now, I work with a group of collaborators to uncover our own entryways to this work, through embodied practice, research, vocalizing, and storytelling.
The Dances are ...for who, what, when?
The Dances are For Us Will premiere at Danspace Project May 30, 31, June 1, inside the sanctuary of the historic St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery.
I come to this work as an ex-Zionist using an anti-Zionist framework. I am writing, composing, singing, performing, dancing, in this work and collaborating with a gifted group of artists to bring the piece to life.
For this iteration of the work, I’ve invited a group of dancers to expand the analysis of how folk dances operate. I am working with these performers who have diverse relationships to Israel-Palestine and Zionism and to various dance traditions. This means our analysis is international and intersectional.
Their participation in this project does not mean they completely align with anti-Zionist politics or each others politics. We have chosen to work together and engage in the project inclusive of these differences, to explore a history and ongoing realities that have wide consequences and meaning for us.
Projection: Gil Sperling
Lighting Design: Carol Mullins
Sound Design: Avi Amon
Costume: Zavé Martohardjono
Project Midwifery: rosza daniel lang/levitsky
Project Doula:Franny Silverman
Directorial Assistance: Jules Skloot
Dramaturgy: Amir Farjoun
The work is receiving support from Baryshnikov Arts Center, a Danspace Project Commission, MANA Contemporary Process Lab. I’ve also been a guest artist at Whitman College, where I got to develop this work this Winter, and began working at Yaddo last summer. Over the last several years the work that has to lead to this iteration also been supported by a Movement Research Artist in Residence Program, a LABA Fellowship at the 14th Street Y, a Residency at CUNY, and an Exploring the Metropolis Choreographer + Composer Residency at JCAL.
Even with the generous development support from these organizations, and Danspace Project, we need to raise $10,000 toward our total budget of $34,000, to pay all of my collaborators- the performers, designers, a technical team and cover the costs of materials for costumes. I am strongly committed to paying my performers and to working with a group of multifaceted voices, despite the economic pressures to do otherwise.
If not me, who else?
I do this work as an artist and also as a teacher and organizer in progressive Jewish community. As an educator, I collaborate with students in their Jewish coming-of-age ceremonies, teaching language, melodies and ritual, and encouraging them to be curious about their own relationships to Jewishness, to Jewish community and think of our accountability as American Jews. I teach workshops in Israeli folk dance to the Jewish and non-Jewish community at universities and community centers. I first developed this research while teaching at Kolot Chayeinu -- an anti-racist progressive Jewish congregation in Brooklyn, where I frequently collaborated on projects and curricula with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and the Jewish Voice for Peace Artist Council.
I move between identities: Israeli, American, Jewish, secular, traditionalist, reverberating from ruptures enacted within three generations of diaspora. I am the granddaughter of Kibbutzniks who settled, fought, built, composed and ritualized the collectivist Zionist community/settlement. My grandparents and parents were targets and perpetrators of these ruptures, and they created rituals, songs, tapestries, and performed dances that tethered me and them to this place. As a child, I visited the kibbutz on weekends. As a teen, I navigated American culture while grounding in Zionist song and dance--a cultural sustenance formed in the breadbasket of Israel-Palestine. As an adult, I reimagine secular Israeli folk and Jewish liturgical material to envision and embody a just future for Israel-Palestine. As an artist based in the U.S., I confront American interventionism.
Read more about more work:
Risks and challenges
It wouldn’t be worth it if it was risky, right?
Putting my family and my personal and national history on display, no big deal. The emotional risks of engaging with this content are not insignificant, but I always remember that they pale in comparison to those faced by those directly targeted by state violence.
Last year both showings of my work were sold out, and received generous financial support from my intimate communities. This time I am reaching out even further because, like my ancestors, I believe the power of art and culture to transform, heal and create the societies we wish to build.
Join us!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)