The Arty Semite

Terezín Legacy Endures Through Dance

By Stacey Menchel Kussell

  • Print
  • Share Share

Photo by Julie Lemberger

“I am a child of survivors, so I think about the Holocaust every day,” said Carolyn Dorfman at the recent “In the Spirit of Terezín Artists” dance showcase at the 92nd Street Y. “My family’s trauma and triumph comes out in my dances. It is impossible to escape it.”

Dorfman’s “Cat’s Cradle” was one of seven pieces presented in the program on January 20, commemorating the artists of the Terezín concentration camp. The performance was part of a five-week series, “Will to Create, Will to Live: The Culture of Terezín,” which continues through February 16.

Devised by the Nazis in 1941 to hold Jews from occupied Bohemia before their deportation to Auschwitz, the Terezín camp held a large number of visual artists, musicians and poets whose creations endured after the war. The performance consisted of original choreography by Dorfman, Dana Boll, Aviva Geismar and Laura Shapiro, and two works by the famed Anna Sokolow restaged by Samantha Geracht Meyers and Ze’eva Cohen. These pieces honored the legacy of Terezín, exploring themes of struggle and survival.

Dorfman and Boll presented pieces that delve into the concentration camp experience. Dorfman set “Cat’s Cradle” to the music of Bente Kahan who composed songs adapted from the poetry written in the Terezín ghetto. In shabby work clothes, her eight dancers moved seamlessly, portraying women and children imprisoned yet forced to perform in a cabaret. Boll’s piece, “Bella’s Dream,” was inspired by the story of her grandparents’ escape from Poland. The five performers incorporated text with choreography to re-create their journey from the camps through Uzbekistan to the United States.

Shapiro and Geismar choreographed solo works. Shapiro performed an excerpt from her dance-theater piece “Letter from Poland,” inspired by a note sent to her grandmother in 1937 from an unknown relative. An array of suitcases, bags, hats and maps heighten Shapiro’s sense of wandering and displacement as she contemplates the fate of this mysterious family member. Geismar, whose dynamic gestures are reminiscent of German expressionist Mary Wigman, exhibited incredible dramatic range playing both the part of a prosecutor and a defendant in “The Unbidden and Unhinged.” She presented a second solo “Yelena,” danced by Donna Costello, which investigated inner struggles of the female protagonist in Chekov’s play “Uncle Vanya.”

Cohen and Geracht Meyer’s re-staging of Anna Sokolow’s choreography was particularly stunning, and the works, both over 30 years old, had timeless appeal. Mariah Steele danced an effortless rendition of “Dreaming,” a piece choreographed for Cohen in 1975. The Sokolow Theater/Dance Ensemble closed the show with “The Unanswered Question,” the powerful study of mental breakdown. The large cast featured dancers of all ages, who commanded the stage with Sokolow’s meditative movement style.

As the six choreographers spoke with the audience at the end of the show, they represented not only the legacy of the Terezín artists but also that of Jewish choreographers in New York. When asked about her choice of artists for the show, Catherine Tharin, the curator of the program said, “All of these artists had a connection to Terezín, but also to each other. They represent a whole generation of dance.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Stacey Menchel Kussell, Terezin, Theresienstadt, In the Spirit of Terezín Artists, Carolyn Dorfman, Dance, Anna Sokolow, 92nd Street Y

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.