Dance in Israel

  • Issue: June 2007
  • Designer: Moshe Pereg
  • Stamp Size: 40 mm x 30.8 mm
  • Plate no.: 681 (2 phosphor bar)
  • Sheet of 12 stamps Tabs: 4
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: offset

"What do we dance in the revived Israel?" was one of the questions asked in the late 19th century in the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael as part of the aspiration to create a distinctive Hebrew culture different from that of the Diaspora. There was no extant Hebrew folk dance or artistic dance. Only with the emergence of modern dance in Europe after the First World War, known as "Ausdruckstanz" (Dance of Expression), with which the Jewish pioneers could identify, did modern artistic dance in the Jewish community of Eretz Yisrael blossom. The pioneers in this field were Baruch Agadati, Rina Nikova, the Ornstein family, Yardena Cohen and Deborah Bertonoff, followed by Gertrud Kraus, who became the dance guru of the 1930s and '40s.

After the founding of the State of Israel, concert dance in Israel was revolutionized under the American influence, Identified in Israel with the dancer/choreographer Martha Graham. Dance became professionalized, and formal companies were established. The most prominent of these were the Inbal Dance Theater, the Bat-Sheva Dance Company, the Bat-Dor Dance Company, the Kol Demama Dance Company and the Kibbutz Dance Company. Most of the choreographers arrived from abroad. Only in the latter 19/Us did a fringe movement emerge and with it several generations of independent local creators. For over a decade, now, a rich variety of dance activity has flourished in the large companies alongside dozens of smaller ensembles led by Israeli choreographers. A large part of this activity takes place in the Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater in the Neveh Zedek quarter of Tel Aviv. Additionally, Israeli dance is in demand in international modern dance festivals throughout the world.

Classical ballet

Classical ballet was rejected by the pioneers of Eretz Yisrael, who viewed it as representative of royalist regimes and of an art whose messages did not accord with the pioneering ideology. Nevertheless, during the 1930s, two classical ballet studios were founded: in Haifa, by Archipova Grossman, and in Tel Aviv, by Mla Arbatova. In 1967, Berta Yampolsky and Hillel Markman established the Israel Ballet Company, Israel's leading, and largest, professional ballet company to this day. Most of its works have been created by Yampolsky, although the company's repertory also includes selected works from the classical repertory as well as the neo-classical style. Since 1990, an annual competition named for Mia Arbatova is held to support and promote young talent in the field of classical ballet.

Modern dance

Modern Israeli dance reflects contemporary trends worldwide. It is postmodern dance, granting the performer the legitimacy to blend multiple styles from the present and the past and to conduct an ironic and intense dialogue with them. It is dance typified by energy, flow, virtuosity and theatricality. Israeli choreographers create original dance typified by a personal statement linked to their habitat.

Folk dance

Folk dance in Israel is, by its very nature, a product of the blending of a large variety of elements from many cultures. The impetus to create a "new'' folk dance style stemmed from the socialist-Zionist ideology and underlay the intensive creative work in this area in the 1930s and 140s. The central figure in the folk dance movement was Gurit Kadman, while the outstanding creator was Rivka Shturman. The first folk dance festival – the Dalia Dance Festival (1944), followed by others, reflected a deep need by the public to gather and dance together. By the end of the 1950s, a trend toward creating folk dance troupes and performances became popular, based on a blend of folk and ethnic motifs, with dancers trained in classical European techniques. In 1988, Yonatan Carmon founded and molded the Karmiel Dance Festival, which, under his direction, became a distinctive meeting place for folk, ethnic and artistic dance.

Ethnic dance

Israel is blessed with a wide variety of ethnic communities from all parts of the world who brought the traditional dance styles of their countries of origin with them. While the country espoused a melting pot approach during the 1950s, this eventually gave way to a multi-cultural view which holds that an ethnic heritage need not be discarded in order for integration to take place. Today, many ethnic dance troupes are active in Israel, including Arab, Bukharan, Armenian, Druze, Yemenite, Spanish, Russian and Ethiopian.

Dr. Ruth Eshel
Dance researcher and choreographer
Director of the Ethiopian Beta Dance Troupe

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Dance in Israel