Israeli dancer shakes up the S.F. dance world with some improv workshops and a view into art/dance as a form of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Israel Center recently co-sponsored a workshop with Arkadi Zaides, Israeli dancer and choreographer. A friend and colleague of mine from my work as a dancer/choreographer, Kara Davis (who runs project agora), has been trying to bring Arkadi to the Bay Area. Though Kara is not Jewish or Israeli herself, she studied dance abroad in Israel before teaching at the Lines Ballet BFA program and U.C. Berkeley (where I took her class when I was in college).
Arkadi Zaides is an independent choreographer, dancer and teacher. He was born in the Soviet Union in 1979, and immigrated to Israel in 1990. In 2001 he joined the Batsheva Dance Company as a dancer and choreographer, where he stayed until 2004. Today he lives and works in Tel Aviv. Arkadi is increasingly working in diverse communities, focusing primarily on the Arab sector in Israel. Among the activities he has initiated is a project with the theatre group ‘Oyoun’ in Magdal-Shams (a Druze village in the Golan Heights), as well as a project in Rabeah Morkus’s dance studio (in Yasif village in the north of Israel). Arkadi also teaches a group of orthodox Jewish men as part of the ‘other move project’ in Jerusalem. In 2008 and in 2009 he was awarded Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport’s prize for ‘young artist of the year in the field of dance’.
I was able to connect Kara with the Israel Center and helped sponsor a weeklong workshop to bring Arkadi here, which happened last week. I cannot say enough about how well this went! Most of the attendees of the workshops at U.C. Berkeley and Kunst-Stoff Arts space were not Jewish or were unaffiliated Jews, between the ages of 15 and 45. Many of them had never even heard of the Jewish Community Federation. The workshop was expected to accommodate 6-10 people per day, but 25-30 people showed up every day. I took the workshop for one day in Berkeley and one day in S.F.
Arkadi’s visit not only exposed the unaffiliated Jewish and non-Jewish dancers to Israeli art and the use of art as a way to dialogue about the conflict, but Arkadi’s visit also served to enrich the Russian-Jewish community. Arkadi, who moved to Israel from the Former Soviet Union when he was 11 and has since come out, was a great bridge between the LGBT-Jewish community and the Rusian-Jewish Community’s MishMash group (for young FSU-born Jewish professionals from the Bay Area) . These two communities don’t really connect on many political issues (especially Israeli politics) and aren’t usually interested in the same types of events. It was quite a treat to see the things that they do connect on and how these connections overshadow the differences that sometimes keeps these communities apart.