Jewish National Fund - We Only Have ONE ISRAEL

Inbal: Israel's Dance Theater

by Gad Nahshon

Standing ovation to Inbal, Israel's great dance theater. Inbal toured this country, recently, and in NYC performed only at La-Mama. Inbal, under the artistic leadership, presented a great show, a most professional breathtaking performance. What a great dancing. What a great modern-like choreography. What a great movement and high degree of creativeness!

Inbal was founded in 1950 as a purely authentic Yemenite Dance theater under the leadership of its legendary artist, now 92 years old, Sara Levi-Tanai. She certainly made history. Inbal, thanks to her, became an international acclaimed dance company which all of its members were Israeli-Yemenite born sabras. It's music was Yemenite. It's steps and movements were Yemenite. But, today, Ilana Cohen is the company manager and the leading choreographer: "Today the dancers belong to all of the ethnic groups in Israel. Many are Russian. Others are Ashkenazim," she told me.

Inbal is a professional modern advanced dance group which is still linked to the old Yemenite elements. Inbal's base is in the 'Susan Dallal center' in Tel Aviv. In La-Mama, Inbal presented: Sajurra, Ilana Cohen and music Shlomo Bar, Ruah Kadim (Eastern-Desert Wine) created by Rachel Sela of Inbal. She is one of the founders of Inbal. It is a musical tapestry: Sephardic Jewish prayer, Arab folk music.

'The Story of Ruth' is Inbal's original classic. It used to be one of its landmarks. It was created by the founder of Inbal, Sara Levi-Tanai. This is not just a Biblical folk dance, it is not an attempt to create an ethnic dance. All of the critics have agreed that this story of Levi-Tanai is an 'art dance,' a source of Israel's heritage, Israel's pride.

Born in Israel when it was under Ottoman rule, Sara Levi-Tanai became orphaned and moved to Safed and Kfar Meir-Shafia. Sara Levi-Tanai met a group of young Yemenite immigrants, who eventually became the core of Inbal Dance Theater.

Upon establishment of Israel, prominent Jewish choreographer Jerome Robbins was invited to advise the Norman Fund (now the America-Israel Cultural Fund) regarding which dance institution to support. He discovered Sara Levi-Tanai and recommended Inbal, which was still in its infancy.

Sara Levi-Tanai's greatness lies in her successful integration of Yemenite Jewish culture and her skills. She knew how to transform the authentic material into modern stage art and create her own art.

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