October 13-15, 2018 | ASU Tempe campus

Celebrating and examining the impact of Jews and the Jewish experience on the dance field and broader communities

Jews and Jewishness in the Dance World was deliberately inclusive in scope, definition, and audience. The conference featured over 100 movement and dance specialists from eight countries—Argentina, Austria, Canada, England, France, Germany, Israel, and the United States. These include dancers and choreographers, along with videographers, critics, scholars, educators, and dance/movement therapists, among others.

Approximately 40 unique events took place over three days, including presentations, lectures, workshops, booths and roundtables. 

The conference defined Jewishness very broadly as a diverse, ever changing, social construction emerging out of specific historical and cultural contexts that require analysis and reflection. Jewishness covers shifting experiences of Diaspora, the Holocaust, Israel, and Arab-Jewish relations, among other aspects. The event covered different dance styles, including modern, ballet, hip hop and “street” forms, social dance, folk dance, Flamenco and considered developments in the art, educational, commercial and social spheres.

download program book (PDF)

Project rationale

The conference, and related book anthology and film projects planned to follow, address two broad questions:

  • What has been the explicit and implicit impact of Jewish creative artists, thinkers, and organizers on the evolution of dance in education, the concert dance realm, commercial dance world and other specific contexts?

  • How have concerns central to “the Jewish experience,” whether related to identity, history, religious practice, Israel, everyday life and/or conflict and war, influenced developments in the dance field? 

More specifically, the conference considered the following sub-themes:

  1. Jewish Bodies and the Reimagining of Dance Technique
    How have shifting ideas about the nature of Jewish identities/bodies impacted the development of dance technique and dance pedagogy?
  2. Dance, Community and Social Justice
    How have Jewish dance artists, educators, dance scientists, philosophers and program coordinators animated how we conceptualize self/other, community, empathy, and social justice?
  3. Jews, Dissent, and Irony
    How have debate, doubt and humor, as characteristics of Jewish history and identity impacted the evolution of dance performance and scholarship and the development of dance programs in higher education?
  4. Performing Trauma and Transformation
    How have experiences of persecution, war, genocide and the Holocaust and issues related to memory, preservation, memorialization, metamorphosis and transfiguration engaged the dance field?
  5. Redefining Site/Sight
    How have Jewish choreographers, video artists, exhibition designers, presenters and funders restaged dance and transformed our ways of looking at/experiencing dance on the concert stage, in digital media, and in other spaces?
  6. Diasporic Monologues and Dialogues
    How have struggles/experiences of navigating roots, routes, and memories influenced how Jews experience dance and relate to other minorities and diasporic groups/individuals in shaping the dance field?

Conference organizers

Naomi Jackson, Arizona State University

Naomi Jackson is an Associate Professor in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University. Her books include: Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion (co-edited with Toni Shapiro-Phim, Scarecrow Press), Right to Dance: Dancing for Rights (Banff Centre Press), and Converging Movements: Modern Dance and Jewish Culture at the 92nd Street Y (Wesleyan University Press). Her reviews and articles appear in such publications as Contact Quarterly, Dance Research Journal, Dance Chronicle and Dance Research. She has served as a member of the boards of the Society of Dance History Scholars, and Congress on Research in Dance, and organized the ground breaking International CORD Dance and Human Rights Conference in Montreal with Dena Davida in 2005. Her research focuses on ethics, human rights, social justice, Jewish studies, and contemporary trends in dance.

Liz Lerman, Arizona State University

Liz Lerman is a choreographer, performer, writer, educator and speaker, and the recipient of numerous honors, including a 2002 MacArthur "Genius Grant," a 2011 United States Artists Ford Fellowship in Dance, and a Deutsch Fellow. A key aspect of her artistry is opening her process to various publics from shipbuilders to physicists, construction workers to ballerinas, resulting in both research and outcomes that are participatory, relevant, urgent, and usable by others. She founded Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in 1976 and cultivated the company's unique multi-generational ensemble into a leading force in contemporary dance until 2011.

She was an artist-in-residence and visiting lecturer at Harvard University in 2011, and her work, Healing Wars, toured across the US in 2014-15. Liz conducts residencies on Critical Response Process, creative research, the intersection of art and science, and the building of narrative within dance performance at such institutions as Harvard University, Yale School of Drama, Wesleyan University, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the National Theatre Studio, among others. Her collection of essays, Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a Choreographer, was published in 2011 by Wesleyan University Press and released in paperback in 2014. In 2016 Liz was named the first Institute Professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.

Featured guests

Keynote Presenters

Marion Kant, University of Pennsylvania  

Marion Kant is a musicologist and dance historian (Ph.D., Humboldt University: Romantic Ballet: an Inquiry into Gender). From the age of 14 she danced with the Komische Oper under the choreographer Jean Weidt. There she also worked as a dramaturge. She has taught at the Regieinstitut Berlin, Hochschule fuer Musik/ Theater Leipzig, the University of Surrey in Guildford, Cambridge University, King's College London, and at the University of Pennsylvania. She has written extensively on Romantic ballet in the 19th century, education through dance in the 19th and 20th centuries, concepts of modern dance in the early 20th century and dance in exile. Her recent research project looks at dance ideologies from 1800 to 2000. In 2001/2002 she was a fellow at the Centre of Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. In the past years, together with musicians Marshall Taylor (saxophone) and Sam Hsu (piano) she developed a concert series remembering "entartete Musik", music banned by the Nazis in 1930s Germany. Her publications include: "Auf der großen Straße. Jean Weidts Erinnerungen (Henschelverlag: Berlin 1984.) "Tanz unterm Hakenkreuz" (Henschelverlag: Berlin 1996. 2nd ed. 1999.) - English edition: Hitler's Dancers: German Modern Dance and the Third Reich (Berghahn Books: New York/Oxford, 2003) - and Giselle, commissioned by the State Opera, Berlin (Inselverlag: Frankfurt/Main 2001)

Douglas Rosenberg, University of Wisconsin, Madison  

Douglas Rosenberg is an artist working at the intersection of performance and screen media. Significant screenings of his work include, Video Festival Riccionne Teatro Televisione, Riccione, Italy, The Contemporary Art Museum in Buenos Aires, Dance on Camera Festival, New York, Mostra de Vídeo Dansa de Barcelona, Spain, The Video Place, London. He is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including funding from the George Soros Foundation (with Choreographer Ellen Bromberg), The National Endowment for the Arts and the MAP Fund (with Choreographer Li Chiao-Ping). He is the recipient of the James D. Phelan Award in Video from the San Francisco Foundation and his Dances for Television was nominated for an Emmy. As a scholar, Rosenberg has brought attention to the field of screendance and been active in shaping the discourse of the field through his published writing, as well as curation and the organization of numerous conferences. He is a founding editor of The International Journal of Screendance and the author of Screendance: Inscribing the Ephemeral Image, Oxford University Press, 2012. His most recent book is, The Oxford Handbook of Screendance Studies, also published by Oxford University Press. He is Chair of the Art Department and Professor of Art at The University of Wisconsin-Madison and founding Director of the Conney Project on Jewish Arts.

Rebecca Rossen, the University of Texas, Austin  

Rebecca Rossen (Ph.D., Northwestern) is a dance historian, performance scholar and choreographer. She teaches dance history as well as seminars on identity in dance and interdisciplinary performance. Dr. Rossen is a winner of the 2015 Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award, and a recipient Teaching Excellence Awards from Theatre and Dance and Women's and Gender Studies. Dr. Rossen is the author of Dancing Jewish: Jewish Identity in American Modern and Postmodern Dance and has published articles in Theatre Journal, TDR: The Drama Review, Feminist Studies, Opera Quarterly, and Dance Teacher Magazine. She leads the Society of Dance History Scholar's Editorial Board and directs SDHS's Studies in Dance History Book Series. As a dancer, Dr. Rossen performed with numerous companies including Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, Hedwig Dances and the Cook County Theatre Department. Her choreography has been presented in venues throughout her hometown of Chicago, as well as in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Israel. Professor Rossen is a faculty affiliate in Women's and Gender Studies, Jewish Studies and American Studies.

Special Invitees

Wendy Perron, co-curator of Sunday evening performance with Liz Lerman  

Wendy Perron is a dancer, choreographer, teacher and writer who was the Editor in Chief of Dance Magazine from 2004 to 2013. She is the author of Through the Eyes of a Dancer, Selected Writings, 2013. Perron graduated from Bennington College in 1969 and earned a master's degree in 2000. She began her career in New York as a freelance dancer/choreographer at Dance Theater Workshop. She danced with the Trisha Brown Dance Company  (1975 to 1978) and led the Wendy Perron Dance Company from 1983 to 1994. Perron has taught dance at Bennington College, Princeton University, NYU, Rutgers and the City College of New York, and was a Senior Fellow of The Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School. From 1992 to 1994 she was associate director of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Perron has written for The New York Times, The Village Voice, Ballet Review, and the Dance Research Journal. She joined the editorial staff of Dance Magazine and became its Editor in Chief in 2004. In 2013 she became editor at large. In April 2011, Perron was one of three artists inducted into New York Foundation for the Arts' inaugural Hall of Fame. In 2017 Perron co-curated Radical Bodies: Anna Halprin, Simone Forti and Yvonne Rainer in California and New York, 1955-1973 and co-wrote and co-edited a book of the same title.  

Judith Brin Ingber, curator of library exhibit and special honoree  

Judith Brin Ingber has concentrated her life’s work on Jewish dance as a practitioner and research/writer. She is arguably one of the most important contributors to the field of Jewish dance studies in the United States and Israel. She grew up in Minneapolis where her mother was a writer and one of first women Jewish liturgists, and her father was active in causes for Israel, and an amateur archeologist who worked with Yigael Yadin at the historic Massada dig in 1963. She studied ballet with Anna and Lorand Andahazy, and then moved to NY, receiving a BA in modern dance from Sarah Lawrence College. From 1967-1970 she lived in New York where she performed with Meredith Monk and Anne Wilson, taught with Marilyn Wood at the Down Town Community School, and worked at Dance Magazine as an editorial assistant  for editors Lydia Joel and Doris Hering. During this time that she met Fred Berk who had created the Jewish Dance Division of the 92nd St Y, leading to the writing of Victory Dances: The Story of Fred Berk, A Modern Day Jewish Dancing Master (Israel Dance Library, 1985). Brin Ingber lived in Israel from 1972-1977 where she taught apprentices for the Bat Dor and Batsheva Dance companies,  also choreographing a Batsheva Dance Company program for young audiences. She also worked at Inbal Dance Theatre as the assistant for Sara Levi-Tanai. During this time, she and Giora Manor co-founded the Israel Dance Annual. When she returned to Minneapolis, Brin Ingber was the first director of the dance program of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. In 1986 she co-founded the chamber dance and music troupe, Voices of Sepharad, with vocalist David Jordan Harris. Their work celebrates the music, dance, and traditions of the Sephardic Jews from around the Mediterranean following their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Judith choreographed, performed and toured with Voices of Sepharad toured throughout the United States, Canada, Spain, Poland and Israel through 2012. 

Ingber is the author/editor of many key texts in the realm of Jewish dance studies. She edited Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance (Wayne State UP, 2011) following her book on Fred Berk. Other important texts include: “Shorashim: The Roots of Israeli Folk Dance;” Dance Perspectives 59 (1974); CORD’s special Dance Research Journal issue “Dancing into Marriage: Jewish Wedding Dances,” (1985/1986), and editing the special dance issue of Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Review 2000 as well as articles for The Forward, The Israel Dance Annual and encyclopedia entries.

For the Jews and Jewishness in the Dance World conference, Judith is overseeing a special exhibit of photographs and books at the library in connection with the event, and will be honored for her contributions to the field in a special havdalah service on Saturday, October 13. She has also organized a panel on Jewish writing and research, and will participate in other discussions.

Sponsors and support

This conference was made free and publicly accessible, thanks to the following: 


additional support

special thanks

  • Sandy Siegel
  • Steven Weintraub