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Dancer and choreographer Dorit Yeyni's voice is rich with warm tones as she remembers planning the inaugural performance of Isis, her Jerusalem-based belly dance group, in 2007. "I sat with the dancers and I said, 'We have to find something special for this group. We have to give. To get, you have to give,'" she recalls. Thus began the group's tradition of performing tikun olam, literally "fixing the world," by performing belly dance and donating the proceeds to charity. On December 12 at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem, Isis will hold its third annual benefit, From Isis with Love, for the Jerusalem Rape Crisis Center in Memory of Linda Feldman (JRCC).
When Yeyni surveyed organizations in need for Isis's first concert, the JRCC attracted her attention. Not only could the JRCC use the donation, but the center's mission - aiding local victims of sexual violence - seemed to be a perfect match for a group composed of women. Isis's twenty members, who range in age from 24 to 60 and include university students as well as grandmothers, not only intend to contribute financially to the JRCC but are also planning several belly dance workshops at the organization's shelters during Hanukka.
People often envision one woman dancing by herself when they think of belly dance, but Isis has popularized a mass performance style that packs a powerful impact. Yeyni often choreographs dances for all twenty of Isis's members, expertly maneuvering them across the stage in intricate patterns. Clad in vibrantly colorful and dazzlingly ornate costumes made by Yeyni herself, the women dance in a carefully coordinated unison that amplifies every sway and shake of their bodies.
Isis is also making a name for itself with its unique fusion of influences. In Yeyni's choreography, the rippling arms, rolling undulations, and percussive isolations of traditional belly dance are paired with movements from other genres that she has performed. "Most of the choreography that I'm doing [has an] influence from the Israeli folklore, because I'm dancing Israeli folklore," Yeyni notes. "I'm also dancing flamenco and ballroom dancing, and you can see the influence of all these dancing styles in my belly dance with my group. It's very special, and it's something new in Israel."
For From Isis with Love, Yeyni has choreographed several new dances designed to entrance and entertain. One of them, Shamadan, features three women wearing candelabras on their head. "It's very beautiful and it's very symbolic because [the concert falls on] one of the first nerot of Hanukkah," says Yeyni. In other dances, the performers artfully manipulate other eye-catching props such as gauzy veils, glinting swords, jingling tambourines and flowing oversized fabric attached to the costumes that Yeyni calls "Isis wings."
While Isis will perform most of the evening's dances, the group is also hosting several guest artists on its benefit concert for the JRCC. Celebrated belly dancers Nataly Dvir, Andrea and Rose Shabbat promise to charm the audience with their own creative interpretations of the dance form. Hora Rishonim, one of the country's most renowned Israeli folklore dance groups, will add a different flavor to the evening and rouse the crowd with its contagious energy.
As Yeyni describes her company's upcoming performance, it's clear that From Isis with Love is a fitting name. A deep love for belly dance unites Isis's remarkably diverse members and all of the dancers are passionately committed to the JRCC's cause. "We are very glad to do [this benefit] and to help," Yeyni emphasizes. "We are doing it with pleasure."
From Isis with Love will be performed at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem on Saturday, December 12 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are 75 NIS at the door or may be purchased in advance for 65 NIS at 02-6203456.