Jews and Jewishness in the Dance World

Pictured above: Jesse Zaritt from the Center for Jewish Studies will be performing at the conference.

A special conference will be held on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University this fall.

Jews and Jewishness in the Dance World celebrates and examines the impact of Jews and the Jewish experience in the dance field and broader communities. The conference will be held Oct. 13-15.

The event will feature more than 90 movement and dance specialists from eight countries – Argentina, Austria, Canada, England, France, Germany, Israel and the United States. These include dancers and choreographers, along with videographers, critics, scholars, educators and dance/movement therapists, among others.

The conference came about due to the encouragement of Dr. Hava Samuelson, the director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Arizona State University. “With the hiring of Liz Lerman as an institute professor by the Herberger Institute of the Arts, she (Dr. Samuelson) recognized that between her and I there was a potential for holding a conference on dance,” says Dr. Naomi Jackson, associate professor in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre at ASU.

Approximately 40 unique events will take place over three days, including presentations, lectures, workshops, booths and roundtables. Special events include two pre-conference workshops, three keynote presentations, a library exhibition overseen by Judith Brin Ingber, and evening performance curated by Liz Lerman and Wendy Perron.

The conference defines Jewishness very broadly as a diverse, ever-changing, social construction emerging out of specific historical and cultural contexts that require analysis and reflection. Jewishness covers shifting experiences of Diaspora, the Holocaust, Israel and Arab-Jewish relations. The event includes different dance styles, including modern, ballet, hip-hop and “street” forms, social dance, folk dance, Flamenco and considers developments in the art, educational, commercial and social spheres.

“The importance of it for the community is that it is an opportunity to demonstrate the major impact Jews and issues central to the Jewish experience have made on many aspects of the dance world as well as the Jewish community, as practitioners, educators, critics, scholars, therapists and funders,” says Dr. Jackson. “Many people do not know that such big names as Jerome Robbins or Arthur Murray were Jewish, or that the notion of tikkun olam is behind many people who have led the way in the fields of dance therapy and community dance.”

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