Hadar Ahuvia: The Dances Are for Us

Vlad Voinich, Staff Reporter

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On Monday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m. Whitman Dance Studio hosted a workshop by an Israeli dancer Hadar Ahuvia. The event was dedicated to Israeli folk dancing, its history and cultural implications.

Hadar is an artist who is currently based in Brooklyn, New York and does work related to cultural appropriation, folk dances and post-Zionism. At her workshop, she performed a number of dances and provided historical and political context for each. At the beginning, Hadar acknowledged and thanked the Native American tribes of the area — such as the Walla Walla, Umatilla, Cayuse and Nez Perce.

The way Hadar weaved music into the dance performance was rather special. She added voice recordings and different layers to the music and then looped the track. This method of music layering created the polyphony of sounds that reflected how cultures are often shaped — by layering notions and concepts.

“This story is a difficult one to tell, but it was the layering of her voice (itself layered over multiple times), her movements layered over video, along with references to her home in the Jezreel and the birth of Israeli dance that gave the story complexity inviting the audience to consider to ponder it after leaving the studio,” said Elyse Semerdjian, a professor of the History Department.

When talking about and performing “Dodi li” — an Israeli folk dance — Ahuvia mentioned that the creator of this dance, Rivka Sturman, appropriated the Yemenite step in order to detach from the dominant European Ashkenazi influence and create a new cultural tradition.

“Israeli folk dancers needed new dances in their new reality,” said Ahuvia. She was referring to the appearance of dances like “Dodi li” in the mid-20th century in the newly created state of Israel.

“It blew my mind to consider how dance compliments the work I do with students of history, and I may bring her back to dance with my students studying the conflict when she returns, so watch out!” said Semerdjian.

The workshop discussed how Zionism has affected the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as contemporary Israeli dances and culture in general. During the performance of the song for the Israeli dance “Joy of the Worker” Ahuvia performed her own poem that she layered on top of this melody which states “there are no equivalencies but there are parallels and lessons.”

“I think one thing Hadar’s performance really showed me is that dance, and art in general, can get at different perspectives and insights than traditional sources and documents do. I mean, the history of Israeli folk dance is literally embodied in the dances themselves, and really communicate the sentiment and fervor of Zionism in a way that can be lost with just reading history books,” said Bassel Jamali ’19.

The discussion after the workshop equally contributed to the public’s understanding of the history and meaning behind these Israeli folk dances. Hadar Ahuvia will return to Whitman in April, with several Whitman students contributing to the new performance.

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