This Rising Israeli Choreographer is Bringing a Fresh Perspective to NYC

April 11, 2022

Lilach Orenstein wants audiences to be in charge of how they experience her work, whether she’s livestreaming multiple perspectives or offering access points through different mediums, like text. It’s a sign of bravery and boldness, especially considering how deeply personal her work often is, exploring topics like sexual assault and her childhood in Israel. This fearlessness has earned her a place among New York City’s experimental up-and-comers: Over the past year, she’s been awarded opportunities like a New York Live Arts Fresh Tracks residency and a fellowship for Jews of color at The Workshop.

Lilach Orenstein. Photo by Eran Nussinovitch, Courtesy Orenstein.

Age: 30

Hometown: Rehovot, Israel

Training: Aharon Katzir School, Batsheva program for outstanding students, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, University of the Arts, ImPulsTanz’s ATLAS program

Accolades: Excellence Award (The Jerusalem Foundation), Outstanding Dancer (Israeli Ministry of Culture), 2021 The Workshop Fellow, 2021–22 New York Live Arts Fresh Tracks residency

Mixing movement: Orenstein studied both ballet and karate (she even won some championships!) from a young age. “Having this energy of fighting but also an energy of softness” influenced her movement style, she says, in addition­ to later training in Gaga and contemporary dance.

Creating multiple perspectives: For the virtual iteration of her 2019 She Will Come on Her Own, Orenstein invited five collaborators to document the piece. “The space was 360 degrees, so there was not a point of orientation where you could say, ‘This is the right way to film it,’ ” she says. She broadcast each interpretation simultaneously, allowing audiences to choose which one to watch.

“She’s guiding us through something that maybe we already know about, but then there’s this small twist.”
Meredith Glisson

What her dramaturg is saying: One of Orenstein’s talents lies in helping audiences rethink their preconceived notions,­ says Meredith Glisson, who often­ works as her dramaturg. “She’s guiding us through something that maybe­ we already know about”—like the Israel/Palestine conflict, for instance—“but then there’s this small twist, where it’s like, ‘Wow, I’d never thought about that before,’ ” she says.

On her new residency space: Orenstein and Glisson recently opened MOtiVE Brooklyn, a community dance space launched in response to the pandemic that aims to create a more customizable residency model and offers international exchange programs. Their goal is to put the artist first: In its inaugural year, they met with each of the 50-plus applicants to talk about their needs, and plan to find a way to support them all.

What she’s doing when she’s not dancing: Taking walks in nature, tending to her plants and working with her partner, a computer engineer, on software that can support multiple simultaneous livestreams.