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ASU Hosts a Conference Exploring the Impact of the Jewish Experience on Dance

Adam McKinney's HaMapah/The Map. Photo by Lafotographeuse, Courtesy McKinney

When the Bible spoke of the "ingathering of the exiles," it didn't have dance in mind. Yet, this month, more than 100 dancers, choreographers and scholars from around the world will gather at Arizona State University to celebrate the impact of Jews and the Jewish experience on dance. From hora to hip hop, social justice to somatics, ballet to Gaga, the three-day event (Oct. 13–15) is "deliberately inclusive," says conference organizer and ASU professor Naomi Jackson.


Jews and Jewishness in the Dance World explores the impact of Jewish identity, culture, religious practice and history, as well as Israel, on the dance world. Sessions cover topics including Jewish bodies and the reimagining of technique; Jewish dance artists working with community and social justice; trauma and the Holocaust; and immigration, rootlessness and the diaspora.

The conference features approximately 40 panels, presentations, lectures and movement workshops, three keynotes, and a performance featuring modern choreographers Sara Pearson, Adam McKinney and Nicole Bindler, and hip-hop artist Ephrat Asherie. Liz Lerman and Wendy Perron will emcee, and Judith Brin Ingber, groundbreaking scholar on Jewish and Israeli dance, will be honored.

The Conversation
Career Advice
Tony Testa leads a rehearsal during his USC New Movement Residency. Photo by Mary Mallaney/Courtesy USC

The massive scale of choreographing an Olympic opening ceremony really has no equivalent. The hundreds of performers, the deeply historic rituals and the worldwide audience and significance make it a project like no other.

Just consider the timeline: For most live TV events like award shows, choreographers usually take a month or two to put everything together. For the Olympics, the process can take up to four years.

But this kind of challenge is exactly what Los Angeles choreographer Tony Testa is looking for. He's currently creating a submission to throw his hat in the ring to choreograph for Beijing's 2022 Winter Games.

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Cover Story
Photo by Jayme Thornton

In a studio high above Lincoln Center, Taylor Stanley is rehearsing a solo from Jerome Robbins' Opus 19/The Dreamer. As the pianist plays Prokofiev's plangent melody, Stanley begins to move, his arms forming crisp, clean lines while his upper body twists and melts from one position to the next.

All you see is intention and arrival, without a residue of superfluous movement. The ballet seems to depict a man searching for something, struggling against forces within himself. Stanley doesn't oversell the struggle—in fact he's quite low-key—but the clarity with which he executes the choreography draws you in.

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