Daughter Of The Arts is pleased to bring you an exclusive interview with Israeli Folk Dance (IFD) choreographers Mali and Moshe. In this candid interview, they reveal how their passion for dance, perseverance and dedication has enabled them to translate music into beautiful dances such as “Isha al Hachof” which was voted the #1 circle dance in 2005.
DOTA: Where are you both from?
Mali: I am originally from Tel-Aviv. I later moved to Neveh Avivim, and finally I settled in MiamiFlorida.
Moshe: I am from Holon. I moved to Kibbutz “Ein Harod,” and I settled in MiamiFlorida.
DOTA: What are your early experiences with music and dance BEFORE folk dancing?
Mali: During my childhood years, my life was completely surrounded by: classical, folk and Chassidic music. Thanks to my amazing father, Itzhak Markovetsky, z”l, (of blessed memory) who was a first violinist in the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as a world renowned klezmer, and a master violin teacher, I was practically breathing music on a daily basis.
Whether listening to his playing, or his violin instructing, or accompanying him to rehearsals or concerts – I was totally immersed in his “sound of music.” In addition, I played the piano for ten years, and was fortunate enough to accompany him in duos for violin and piano. I also played the clarinet.
As for dance, during my early childhood years and much like other “nice girls from cultured homes,” I was introduced to ballet (classical and modern), which I practiced for a few years until my interest shifted to theatre. In my high school and college years in Israel, I was very involved in theater, where music and dance were often incorporated. In addition, as a part of my IDF (Israeli army) service, I was enlisted into an entertainment troupe (Lehaka Tzvaeet), where I was performing for Israeli soldiers via song and dance.
DOTA: Do either of you have family members who participate in any of the arts?
Moshe: My older sisters participated in various IFD troupes (Lehakot Machol), with the most popular one being led by Yoav Ashriel.
Mali: Other than my father, my mother was an accomplished pianist, my late brother was a talented singer, guitarist and an IFD dancer in Moshe Telem’s youth performing troupe, my aunt was an opera singer, and my only daughter Sheli (19) is a wonderful artist.
DOTA: When and where did both of you first start Israeli folk dancing (IFD)?
Moshe: I was 14, at Kibbutz “Ein Harod,” when I started Israeli folk dancing. Occasionally, on Friday nights, I attended IFD sessions at the different kibbutzim in the area. I enjoyed it a lot and eventually was chosen to attend a dance seminar, to train as a youth Israeli folk dance instructor. In addition, after completing my service in the Israeli army, I was accepted into the performing dance troupe called “Tzavta Israel,” which was led by the choreographer Gavri Levi. He previously worked with the well-known “Carmon Troupe.” We performed all over Israel and Europe. Incidentally, “Tzavta Israel” later on (and not before I left for the USA), was transformed, by the choreographer, into the famous “Shalom Israel” dance troupe.
In Miami, I have been dancing for about twenty-four years.
Mali: I started dancing seventeen years ago in Miami, at Connie’s (Connie Goldstein) session. A friend of mine, who is not an Israeli, knew that I had no interest in folk dancing (how funny is that). She asked me to please take her to an Israeli folk dance session, and just sit there and wait until class was over. I thought, of course, that I was doing her a big favor. Little did I know that it was actually she who was doing ME a great favor. From that night on, a new grand passion was introduced into my life.
DOTA: Did you meet through Israeli folk dancing?
Mali & Moshe: Yes, we were both dancing at Connie’s and at Peggy Elimelech’s session in Miami. From the very first moment we started dancing together we felt the unique and incredible harmony and synchronization in our movement and style. It was like a hand and a glove, in a perfect match. Today, thirteen years later, we still marvel at this remarkable sense of harmony, expressed during dancing, or choreographing, or even during a chess game!
DOTA: How and why did you become involved in choreography?
Moshe: Mali has a creative “bug” in her. Whatever she does, becomes a vehicle for her creative drive and expression, (even when she cooks.)
Since she joined the circle of dancers in the Miami sessions, I watched her grow, rather quickly, from a beginner dancer into a guest instructor, and eventually into a session leader; so, it was no wonder she molded quite naturally into a choreography mode. It was simply her artistic need to grow further and deeper into yet another dimension of the Israeli folk dance experience.
Ever since my involvement with the performing troupe, especially from working closely with a choreographer, I was always toying with the idea of creating a dance. But, it only came into fruition after I met Mali and felt the desire to create together with her.
Mali: It is interesting to note, though, that my special bond with Moshe was my catalyst, and the song of our first dance “Ata Li Eretz” – was my ultimate inspiration.
DOTA: What was the first dance you choreographed? How did it come about?
Mali: It was “Ata Li Eretz” (partner, 1997). Moshe came across this beautiful song (music: Nurit Hirsh; lyrics: Yoram Tehar-Lev; singer: Yardena Arazi), and fell in love with it. He then brought it to my attention and I was instantaneously captured. The song is a nostalgic metaphor of love for the land of Israel as seen through a woman’s love for a man. We could not imagine how such a magnificent song was not used yet.
But after further investigation, we found out that Shmulik Gov- Ari had a ten-year-old circle dance to this music that was not done anywhere. I immediately called him on the phone. Luckily, thanks to his generous gesture along with his encouraging blessing, we received the rights to the music and were able to register the dance under our name. I cannot begin to describe how happy and elated we felt to finally be able to choreograph.
Well, being as eager, enthusiastic, and bursting with creativity as we were, we ended up choreographing what was viewed by many critics as a “beautiful and unique dance” but “overly creative,” with too many new elements! So, it did not catch on amongst the Israeli dancers and basically was gone for years to our painful dismay.
Moshe: This is why this year, after almost a decade, we felt we could not simply watch this beautiful song die, so we made some changes and simplified the dance. It proved to be very successful. We taught the 2006 renewed and final version of “Ata Li Eretz” in Israel, this September, in numerous sessions, and we are so happy that both the Madrichim and the dancers received the dance with great enthusiasm and appreciation.The latest news from Israel is that the dance is taking off.
DOTA: Describe selecting the music for “Isha Al Hachof.”
Mali: One of my dancing friends in Miami handed me the music with a request to choreograph a dance to it. We realized soon after listening to the song (lyrics: Naomi Shemer, music: Chagidakis, singers: Haparvarim) that we were blessed with a “rare pearl.” The music, words, and the singing are absolutely haunting, depicting a magical Mediterranean story of lost love. It took us some time to gain the courage to decode the music’s difficult 9/8 rhythm. By the way, usually, when we find a quality piece of music that we love, we worry that it may already be taken. Unfortunately, more often than not, it proves to be the case, as we are geographically far from the “grab bag.” In this case, however, the music was not taken, (lucky for us) probably because of its challenging rhythm.
DOTA: You presented “Isha al Hachof” in Miami 2004. Why do you think it didn’t
catch on right away and then went on to become a wonderfully big hit and so widely accepted a year later?
Mali & Moshe: One of the reasons why it took time, we think, was because creating outside of Israel slows down the exposure pace of the dance. What we can accomplish, for example, in two weeks of physically being in Israel and personally teaching our dance in different sessions, (like in the case of “Ata Li Eretz” [partner] and “Yemay Hatom” [circle], which we exposed successfully this September), we cannot do in a whole year being in Miami.
The other possible reason, particularly in the case of this dance, is that it was not an easy dance to teach and learn, and the Madrichim in Israel usually prefer to quickly teach simple and easy to learn dances. That is why many of them hesitated until the pressure mounted before they attempted the challenge. But once the dancers mastered the steps and the unique rhythm, they were able to appreciate the dance and enjoy it.
We should add that last year in Karmiel, even before the dance was officially voted for, in Israel and abroad, as the #1 circle dance for 2005, we were so fortunate to feel the ultimate honor pride and joy that choreographers could possibly experience seeing their creation danced, for the first time, by thousands and thousands of dancers. Just the thought that we were the ones who created those steps for their enjoyment gave us a euphoric sense of naches.
DOTA: What other dances can you tell an interesting story about their creation or journey?
Moshe: Our first circle dance “Machol Avraham” (originally called “Radio Ramalla,” music and singing by Yehuda Poliker and lyrics by Yaakov gilaad) is a story very close to home. The song refers indirectly to the tragic events that occurred in the mid sixties in Kibbutz Yad Hanna, whereby an Israeli soldier was shot and killed by an Arab sniper. This event marked, back then, the end of the so-called peaceful coexistence period between the Kibbutz members and their Arab neighbors. The fallen soldier’s name was Avraham and he was my brother.
Mali: You can imagine, then, how emotional we both were when we found out that the music was available for us to dedicate the dance to Moshe’s brother Avraham z”l.
We decided to choreograph this dance only to the music of the song and not to its lyrics, because the music was very rhythmic and intense (serving as complete contrast to the sad story it told), and also because of the personal aspect of the lyrics. In most cases, incidentally, especially when working with the more lyrical songs, we take a holistic approach and adhere to both the musical and the lyrical motifs of the song.
While all of our choreographies are done with much love, care and attention to details, “Machol Avraham” is very special for us and was a true labor of love. Unfortunately though, the dance, which was rated as “excellent” by the Madrichim who attended the Hishtalmut, where it was presented, was also deemed “politically incorrect,” and therefore never actually took off in Israel, and is only done selectively abroad.
Mali and Moshe leading their dance “Isha Al Hachof” at Hishtalmut
DOTA: By what process do you choreograph together? How do you decide what elements each of you contribute?
Moshe: Mali is the creative force behind our work. Her background in music and her artistic sensitivity provides her with the ability to understand the inner structure, rhythm, and message of the music. She provides us with the core theme of the choreography and from that point on we proceed by exchanging ideas, steps, and movements.
Mali: We enjoy the process of creating together. We feel that we compliment each other in a most harmonious way. We also share a common taste in quality music and lyrics.
DOTA: Why do you enjoy Israeli Folk Dancing?
Mali & Moshe: Through Israeli folk dancing we feel bonded and connected to our culture, roots and homeland. We also enjoy the social aspects of it, the atmosphere on the dance floor, the group energy, the music, as well as the physical outlet it provides. A complete package deal.
DOTA: Do you find dancers like different types of dances in various parts of the world?
Mali & Moshe: For the most part, the session leaders around the world create their own agenda as to the type of dances they present. Aside from the most contemporary and popular dances, as well as the most classic ones that are featured in most every session, the in between repertoire varies from place to place. For example, you could see sessions that are big on debkas, and others on horas, or on nostalgia, or on the contemporary and so on. We noticed, however, that outside of Israel, dancers seem to enjoy more Oriental – Middle Eastern and even Arabic type music, whereas in Israel more dancers prefer mainstream Israeli music.
DOTA: Do you regularly teach in a group? Where and when?
Mali: A few years back I ran a small group for a few years and at one point I was also invited by Peggy to co-lead with her the Sunday night session, which I did for a year. But now, for the most part, Moshe and I teach our own dances and occasionally are invited to teach as guest instructors.
DOTA: Tell us a little about your participation in the Machol Miami dance camp?
Mali & Moshe: Let us start by commending Peggy for the fantastic job she has done over the years with this camp, and for her dedication in building Machol Miami and bringing it to its present success.
We have always been very loyal supporters of her effort. We are also delighted for the opportunity she provides us for presenting our dances in her camp.
DOTA: What is the most difficult part of choreographing a dance?
Mali & Moshe: As strange as it may sound, the hardest part for us is to find an available quality piece of Israeli music to choreograph to. Most quality music is reserved ahead of time by the more active choreographers in Israel.
As for the actual process of choreographing itself, we find that the most difficult thing for us is to have to occasionally leave out or change a particular combination of steps that we love, for the sake of simplifying the dance.
DOTA: Which dance was the most fun to create?
Mali & Moshe: That’s the hardest question to answer. We feel strongly connected and attached to all our dances, and in a very unique way have fun in creating each and every one of them. Interestingly enough, each dance provided us with a different angle of fun and enjoyment.
DOTA: What would you like to see changed in the IFD community?
Mali & Moshe: We would like to see the Israeli folk dance arena as an opportunity to experience more joy, fun, friendship and unity and less politics and competition.
Mali and Moshe will present their new dances at
Machol Miami dance camp
on December 22 – December 25, 2006
at Sheraton Ft. Lauderdale Airport Hotel