This artist-scholar collaboration panel aims to show how performance practice and academic research contribute to an original understanding of the embodied mechanisms that regulate the formation of Jewish, Israeli, Arab, and Palestinian identities. How can dance reveal the political strategies of identity formation? How does choreography as a theoretical framework contribute to the field of Jewish Studies? How to integrate performance practice in the political and historical analysis of Jewish lives?
The participants are artists and scholars that investigate Israel/Palestine and the Jewish Diaspora through performance, literature, and politics, in academic and public discourses. Hadar Ahuvia is an Israeli-American choreographer, fellow of LABA – Laboratory for Jewish Culture. She will present EVERYTHING YOU HAVE IS YOURS?, a duet performed with dancer Mor Mender, which investigates how Israeli folk dance informed by Zionist ideology appropriates Arab culture. Ahuvia questions the core principles of Israeli nation-building and its legacy in the American Diaspora, by deconstructing folk dances by Yishuv “pioneers” and contemporary folk dance instructional videos circulating among American Jewish communities.
Melissa Melpignano, doctoral candidate in Culture & Performance at UCLA, is completing her dissertation on the conceptualization of “livability” in Israeli choreography. She will offer a choreographic analysis of Ahuvia’s performance in dialogue with the artist, and contextualize Ahuvia’s work in relation to the global premises of the construction of a Hebrew dance culture.
Shir Alon is graduating with a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at UCLA. Her dissertation analyzes what she calls “literature of stasis” in order to reassess modernist aesthetics in 20th c. Hebrew and Arabic literary works. Through Affect Theory, Alon will illuminate how movement and bodily impassivity inform Ahuvia’s choreography, and how they manifest in contemporary discourses on Israel/Palestine.
Elazar Elhanan is Assistant Professor of Hebrew and Yiddish literatures in the Jewish Studies Program at CUNY. Starting from Ahuvia’s choreographic tactics, Prof. Elhanan will discuss how Zionist cultural politics for the definition of a Hebrew/Israeli culture impact the way American-Jewish and Israeli Diaspora relate to Israel/Palestine. The participants’ diverse backgrounds will enable a nuanced conversation on core issues in the fields of Jewish, Middle Eastern, and Dance Studies.