May 2013

Presented as part of ADI’s Israeli Contemporary Dance Program

“One does not just watch a dance by Zvi Gotheiner. One enters a world with its own internal logic, a sensual, organic world of movement, language, and images where one is pulled along by currents unseen and inevitable.” 
– Dance Magazine

    Led by Israeli-born Artistic Director Zvi Gotheiner, ZviDance will perform DABKE, a contemporary dance inspired by this ancient Middle-Eastern folk dance. Arabic for “stomping the ground,” Dabke is the national dance of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Palestine; Israelis have their own version. Mr. Gotheiner’s DABKE uses the power of dance to highlight tribal and national identities as well as dissolve those definitions. Reflecting on the recent “Arab Spring” movement that ignited the Middle-East with unstoppable forces for change, Gotheiner aspires to celebrate this trend, and by creating DABKE, acknowledges its ripple effect on all of us.

    Co-sponsored by the Embassy of Israel. In collaboration with the Rockvile JCC.

    Zvi Gotheiner was born and raised in a kibbutz in northern Israel. Zvi began his artistic career as a gifted violinist with the Young Kibbutzim Orchestra, where he attained the rank of soloist and Concertmaster at age 15. He began dancing at 17, and soon after, formed his first performance group. Zvi arrived in New York in 1978 on a dance scholarship from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and danced with the Joyce Trisler Dance Company and Feld Ballets/NY in the US, and with Bat-Sheva Dance Company in Israel. After directing Tamar Ramle and the Jerusalem Tamar Dance Companies in Israel and the Israeli Chamber Dance Company in New York, he founded ZviDance. The Company’s performances have received critical acclaim in New York City at the Joyce Theater, Dance Theater Workshop, the Kitchen, the Angel Orensanz Foundation, the Duke on 42nd Street, Joyce Soho, the Fiorello Festival, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, and Central Park’s SummerStage, as well as a variety of experimental venues. Zvi is a recipient of two New York Foundation for the Arts Choreography fellowships and The National Arts Club Weiselberg Award. He has received commissions from Zurich Tanz Theater, Utah’s Repertory Dance Theater, Colloquium Contemporary Dance Exchange, the American Dance Festival, and the Joyce Theater’s Altogether Different series, Diversion The Dance Company of Wales and Groundworks in Cleveland.
    I see the arts and art making as a powerful vehicle for consciousness. I believe that my ability to reflect on the human condition depends greatly on my ability to raise my own consciousness. Although my work seems to touch on issues, I see it more as story telling and reflection on the human condition, rather than a political statement. I use abstraction as a tool to broaden the scope of story telling, but don’t see abstraction as a superior mode of artistic expression. For many years I created work that observed the collision between man and nature. Lately, I have turned my attention to the mind, reflecting on mediated perceptions and mental patterns. I became interested in what constructs an identity, be it individual or communal, chosen or given. I also find interest in observing rituals in the contemporary milieu, reflecting on psychological coping mechanisms. I find the dance form suitable for these specified forms of exploration, not only for the pleasure I have in making movement and constructing action, but perhaps even more so for the form’s immediacy and accuracy in penetrating the mystery of the human dilemma. The body in motion and the ways it resonates in the context of the present provides an endless supply of material– and fascination – for my creative process.

    While I see the creation of art as an impulse, I have goals for myself as an artist. I strive to be alert, fearless and compassionate.

    A few Words about the creation of DABKE:

    The idea of creating a contemporary dance piece based on a Middle Eastern folk dance revealed itself in a Lebanese restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden.  My Israeli partner and a Lebanese waiter became friendly and were soon dancing the Dabke between tables.  While patrons cheered, I remained still, transfixed, all the while envisioning this as material for a new piece.

    Dabke (translated from Arabic as stomping of the feet) is a traditional folk dance and is now the national dance of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Palestine. Israelis have their own version. It is a line dance often performed at weddings, holidays and community celebrations. The dance strongly references solidarity, and traditionally only men participated. The dancers, linked by hands or shoulders, stomp the ground with complex rhythms, emphasizing their connection to the land. While the group keeps rhythm, the leader, called Raas (meaning “head”), improvises on pre-choreographed movement phrases. He also twirls a handkerchief or string of beads known as a Masbha.

    As a child and teenager growing up in a Kibbutz in northern Israel, Friday nights were folk dance nights, This tradition continues today. One of the most beloved of these dances is a Debka, albeit an Israeli rendition of the Arab Dabke. The Israeli Debka and the Arab Dabke are linked historically. During the first decades of the 20th Century, Jews migrated from Europe to Palestine in large waves. The leaders and intellectuals of this movement made a deliberate effort to create an authentic Israeli culture that differed from the old world image of European Judaism. No longer the meek, the victim, the wanderer, these Jews were viral, masculine, and rooted to the land. Although forever in territorial conflict with their neighbors, the Israelis borrowed elements from Arabic culture that captured the sound, color, taste and rhythm of the Levant. Dabke is a case in point.

    I have great admiration for the Dabke dancers of the Middle East. They are magnificent, athletic, loose, spontaneous and on occasion ecstatic. I have watched hundreds of Dabke clips on YouTube. This virtual expedition has shown me the importance of Dabke as a cultural sharpener as well as a diffuser of Middle Eastern identity in that all speak it’s language. I decided to craft a choreographic process, using the internet as my research tool in order to learn the Dabke form. I invited each dancer in my company to select their favorite Dabke clip from YouTube. Together we studied the dancer’s movement, phrasing, rhythmical foot work, hand gestures and general body language. We then fused this material with contemporary movement. Our intention was not to reconstruct a traditional Dabke dance per se, but to use it as inspiration for exploring a different movement sensibility.

    ZviDance, a company comprised of athletic and lyrical dancers, blends contemporary aesthetics with lush, full-bodied movement. A world-class dance company, ZviDance exists to share with audiences the choreographic vision and movement vocabulary of Israeli-born Artistic Director Zvi Gotheiner. Each piece defines a unique set of relationships and experiences, boldly addressing the depths of the human experience

    ZviDance brings its audiences a passionate vision of community in a modern age. A collaborative alliance among artists, the company’s stirring work celebrates diversity by melding movement genres into the distinct dance vocabulary constantly evolving and refusing to succumb to dialectics of the medium.

    Led by Israeli-born Artistic Director Zvi Gotheiner, the company is shaped by a collaborative model of creation, involving the ensemble and designers from the initial research phase, so as to constantly push the methodology and ethics of a creation process within an inter-disciplinary format.

    In the last 20 years of existence, ZviDance has received critical praise and stable funding for its artistic projects, a work that fearlessly refuses to be bounded to specific thematic or aesthetic dogma. The company performs frequently at home in such New York venues as the Joyce Theater, Dance Theater Workshop and Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors. ZviDance has toured across North America to festivals such as Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and The American Dance Festival, and abroad to Germany, Poland, Russia, Israel, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Japan.


    “We had Zvi and his company at ADF for our 75th Anniversary. His work swept us into an emotionally charged universe with rigorous, thought provoking and passionate choreography. His virtuosic dancers were power in motion and had our audiences on the edge of their seats.”
    -Jodee Nimerichter, Co-Director
    American Dance Festival

    “Gotheiner is one of those rare choreographers who is able to convey human dilemma and aspiration through movement and form and make traditional modern steps resonate with individuality.”
    -The Village Voice

    “…heroically surging, exalting dances, the Gotheiner hallmarks.”
    -The New York Times

    “…the power of their charisma is sensational and brings emotional qualities of human life into impressive movement codes.”
    -Stuttgarter Zeitung

    “…lush, open, flowing, often airy, but precise movement style, while simultaneously illuminating each dancer and his gifts.”
    -Dance Magazine

    “…capable of transfixing its observers and then transporting them to a different emotional plane.”
    -The Salt Lake Tribune

    Co-sponsored by the Embassy of Israel in collaboration with The JCC of Greater Washington. zvi-sponsors