IY: I choreographed the first time a Yemenite women hinnah at camp Blue Star in North Carolina in 1973 with Fred Berks camp. Then in 1975, my brother Rehavia and I produced a record with a Yemenite singer in L.A., David Dor. We called it Boi Tieman. It as a collection of the beautiful Yemenite songs that we used to sing at home and they were songs but no dances, so I started to create folk dances to these songs and establish a Yemenite performing group called Finjan. They were performing to this music. That was the beginning of my choreography experiences.
BA: What inspires you to choose certain music and create a dance?
IY Good Yemenite music, that makes me feel that I should have a dance to it.
BA: What do you see as the difference in the trend of music chosen for dances today from when you started creating dances?
IY: The trend through the years was that the folk dances that came out of Israel were the reflection of the most popular music on the Israeli radio. Through the years we moved away from folklore music and from folk dances to a new area of POP music that broke away from simple folk dance steps to something much less creative.
BA: What do you see as the difference in the trend of dances created today from when you started creating dances?
IY: Less creativity and more Israeli folk dancing today is on a very large global demand and we have around 20-30 choreographers running all over the world to many Israeli folk dance camps to teach new dances. On average they produce around 230-300 new dances every year. That pressure depletes the quality of the dances. We do have until now around 4500 Israeli folk dances in total.
BA: We are coming up on the 5th anniversary of singer Ofra Haza's death. Haza and her music had and continue to have a tremendous influence in the dance community.
Did you ever meet Ofra Haza? When?
IY: I met Ofrah on several occasions. At first an Israeli promoter from N. Y., Hayim Tishman called me and asked me to promote her show in L.A. So, I did. Then she asked me if I can help with her movements on stage while she was singing, which I did. I also brought Yemenite dancers with costumes to dance with her. It was a great show. The second time, was when she came to L.A. to record her new CD in Hollywood. Her promoter from Israel, Betzlael Aloni, called me and asked me to come to the studio to listen and perhaps
a dance to a new song, Daw Da Hiya, that she just finished recording. I did go and did choreograph a great dance for her. The music and the steps reflected the silk movements of a snake moving side way in the desert sand.
BA: Bat Melachim that you choreographed in 1995 to an Ofra Haza song is still very popular. In a recent dance camp workshop, you were asked to teach it?
IY: Yes, Bat Melachim is one of my favorite dances. It is a popular dance.
BA: Why do you think Bat Melachim is still so popular?
IY: I think it captures the spirit of the song and dance. They are in harmony.
BA: When you first heard the music to Bat Melachim, with Ofra Haza singing, how did you decide you wanted to make a dance to the music?
IY: First, what stood out is the beat. The second is the fact that she took an old traditional Yemenite men's song, and gave it a new and modern sound. That is what got my attention to this song.
BA: How did the song influence your choreography?
IY: Curiosity and challenge to create the steps to fit this exciting new music. At first I will listen to it. Then, I will cut it to proper measures and then I will start working on ideas of what I want to make out of this dance from the point of view of what I can do that has not been done before. For an example, the opening steps are new, and never done before. In the second part, the side step (7) was never done before. All the transitions and directions are new and challenging, etc.
BA: You have other popular circle dances to Ofra Haza songs: Achot Lanu Ktana (We Have a Little Sister), 1979, Daw Da Hiya, 1992, and Galby 2003 as well as partner dances to: Moche Prachim (Flowers Seller) 1973, Ahavat Shaday (Love of G-d) 1987, Ya Yuma, 1993.
Why do you think you select many Ofra Haza songs to make some of your dances?
IY: I fell in love with her voice when she just started to sing with Schonat Hatikvah theater. She was unknown singer who at that time wanted with her voice and theater stage to express her frustration against the discrimination of the Yemenite Jew in Israel. She moves me to create more than any other singer.
BA: What is important about a new folk dance:
Whether the dance is popular?
Whether the singer or song is popular?
IY: The popularity of the dance is a process that takes place after the dance is created. My main goal is to create and what ever happens to the dance after that is not in my hands anymore. Some of my dances are very popular and some are what I called "ethnic" experience in my case is either Yemenite women or man dance, wedding etc.
BA: How is Israeli folk dancing viewed in different parts of the world?
IY: Israeli folk dancing is popular all over the world and in Israel now it is more than anywhere else 30% - 50% of the adult population are active folk dancers.
BA: What is the future of Israeli folk dancing?
IY: In the future we will see growth (in) the demand for Israeli folk dancing; but with modern technology (there) will be a reduction in the need for dance camps and workshops all over the world. New dances & music are now transferred all over the world in a much shorter time than ever before so ideally choreographers do not have to be physically in one place to teach.
| Israel Yakovee is a certified Israeli folk dance instructor. Israel has taught master classes and workshops in Australia, Canada, Europe, Israel, Japan, South America, and Taiwan and the U.S. He has taught several dance tours across the United States and runs folk dance sessions in Los Angeles with two ongoing weekly sessions in Westwood and one in the San Fernando Valley. He is a Master of Ceremonies, entertainer, and dance instructor, with more than twenty years in the entertainment business and he is a professional disk jockey.
For complete details see Mr. Yakovee's website at: www.iyakovee.com
Ayal'e (2006) - http://www.djisraelyakovee.com/israel_yakovee_dvd_3.html
(link by permission of Israel Yakovee)
Some of Ofra Haza's songs and dances by Mr. Yakovee mentioned in this Q&A may be viewed and heard at the following locations:
This is the site of www.israelidances.com Click on name of each of Mr. Yakovee's dances to see dance details
Bat Melahim http://homepage.mac.com/israeli_folk_dances/iMovieTheater77.html
Daw Da Hiya http://homepage.mac.com/israeli_folk_dances/iMovieTheater238.html
This is the site of Les Posen. Scroll down page to see videos of Mr. Yakovee's dances.
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