“It is not always easy for me, exposing some very intimate parts of my life through my work,” said Idan Cohen, one of Israel’s premier dance choreographers. Cohen is the recipient of numerous awards and currently choreographs and teaches at Amherst College for the Five College dance program, which will be coming to Portland for the first time ever.
‘I’ is for Idan
“It is not always easy for me, exposing some very intimate parts of my life through my work,” said Idan Cohen, one of Israel’s premier dance choreographers.
Cohen is the recipient of numerous awards and currently choreographs and teaches at Amherst College for the Five College dance program, which will be coming to Portland for the first time ever.
“I heard and I believe that Portland would be my kind of city,” Cohen said. His schedule here is full to the bursting point.
Over the course of several days, from Sunday through this Friday, Cohen will engage with students at Portland State and in the broader community, be they lovers of dance or scholars of Jewish history.
Cohen will bring his show Israel in Motion to the Bodyvox Dance Center this Wednesday. Dr. Nina Spiegel, a professor of Judaic studies at Portland State, will participate in the event and is “very excited to showcase Idan’s work.”
“This is a wonderful opportunity for students—for them to be exposed to world dance,” added Karin Magaldi, director of the School of Theatre and Film at PSU.
Israel in Motion comprises several different pieces, one of which is a live solo performance titled “Songs Of a Wayfarer.” This piece has only been performed for one other audience (in
Singapore) and the only other place where this piece will be performed is Israel, once Cohen returns there.
Cohen’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor who escaped from Vienna, was a “huge inspiration in creating this piece,” he said.
The solo is danced to the music of famed composer Gustav Mahler. Cohen’s musical choice was also inspired by his relationship with his grandmother.
“My grandmother had a difficult life,” Cohen said. “She was depressed and suicidal. She had a tragic life.”
Cohen and his grandmother had a special connection through classical music, which she grew up listening to in Vienna.
“As a child, I was a classical child pianist prodigy,” Cohen said. “The only moments when I would see her shine was when she would listen to this music.”
Along with this live solo piece, Cohen will show films clips of his repertoire, and there will be a discussion between him and Spiegel.
The show will be a “unique collaboration between an artist and a scholar,” Spiegel said. “It will be a behind-the-scenes look at what is important to him as an Israeli artist.”
The audience will have the rare opportunity to “hear him reflect on his work.”
How does Cohen think about his work? How does he work creatively?
“Look at our times, our generation,” Cohen said. “We are very self-absorbed since Freud and the development of psychoanalysis. We create from the self and express our emotions, and our reflections go from within.
“My work tries to create a certain combination from within, as well as the external space, my social awareness under the wider political and cultural reality,” Cohen said.
“Songs of a Wayfarer” is an example of Cohen’s understanding and integration of his “within” and “external” views of his creations.
“You can glean different themes that relate to his experience growing up,” said Spiegel, who is familiar with Cohen’s work and has met him before.
Israel in Motion
By Choreographer Idan Cohen
Wednesday, April 17 at 7 p.m.
BodyVox Dance Studio
1201 NW 17th Ave
Free and open to the public; reservations are required through the Portland State Box Office
“Contemporary dance in Israel is thriving,” because the creation of dance was “central to the development of Israeli culture and was one of the major ways the Jewish community under the British Mandate in Palestine cultivated their voice,” Spiegel said. It was the “voice of dance.”
This voice continues to be heard across the globe.
“The work coming out of Israel has made a big impact on the contemporary dance [of] Europe and the U.S., and will continue to do so—both in training and technique as well as choreographic style and approach,” said Tere Mathern, a dance instructor at PSU. “The dancers I have seen trained in Israel have incredible versatility, use of weight and fluid spine, a grounded, almost magical ability to move with speed, accuracy and power, and the work has a real passion and athleticism about it that is very exciting.”
This wonderful opportunity to witness such “magical and powerful” elements of Israeli dance is coming soon. This celebration of Cohen’s work and all his contributions to the world of dance is, in a way, symbolic of Israeli’s history, insomuch as it is comprised of many different pieces.
“I am a very personal person, both in my art and when I present my art; doing that is compelling and frightening at the same time,” Cohen said. “I don’t think people think about that. We receive appreciation for doing the thing that we love most, expressing ourselves for a living.
“We expose our most intimate world, and it’s not always easy for me—but without doing that, my work would be meaningless.”