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Windows to a Culture

Dancer Idan Cohen in Dancing Israeli Identify

Dancer Idan Cohen in Dancing Israeli Identify (Photo: Jeff Watts)

What do we see when we look at a dance?

In February, Idan Cohen, a renowned Israeli dancer and choreographer, met with Professor Nina Spiegel’s history students, held a master’s class for dance students, performed an evening of dance, and shared the stage with Spiegel in a discussion of how the edgy, modernist feel of Israeli dance grows from and reflects the country’s history and identity.

“As Jews came to Palestine, they wanted to create new forms of expression. It was part of the idea of creating a new society and a new Jewish image—of a strong, tough Jew in contrast to the Semitic image of the time.

“That idea of people leaving their homes and wanting to start a new life became a strong strain within Israeli history and society, and you see it in the dance. It’s bold.”

Nina Spiegel, Schusterman Teaching Fellow in Jewish Studies


“There’s something unique that came out of our historical background. There is a search for a new movement, a language, new aspects of art. It’s a beautiful thing, because it shows a different aspect of Israeli society—the people we are as artists, with things to say that are sometimes an alternative to what you see in the news.”

Idan Cohen, Israeli dancer and choreographer