Not lost in translation

Language not a barrier for Soviet-born actress Yavgenia Dodina, the star of Love and Dance

By YANA IVRII
January 1, 2007 09:16
4 minute read.
dodina film 88 298

dodina film 88 298. (photo credit: Globus Group/July August Productions)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

After an absence of several years, Belarussian-born actress Yavgenia Dodina has returned to Israeli cinemas - and in a big way, releasing two films in the final months of 2006 and preparing for the release of a third early this new year. "No one needs you when you're down," the actress said recently about her character in Love and Dance, the film that marked her return to the big screen in October. That may be true, but it's not an issue Dodina has had to deal with in her own career for quite some time, having long ago carved out a niche for herself in the world of Israeli cinema and theater. When it comes to the country's large community of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, there is perhaps no performer who's succeeded more in entertainment, or conveyed a more fully developed sense of the USSR's former Jews than Dodina. Playing a host of characters from a variety of backgrounds and time periods, the actress has become Israeli cinema's perpetual newcomer, the go-to performer for characters struggling - and, only in some cases, triumphing - in their pursuit of a secure and fulfilling existence in their adopted homeland. A native of Mogilev, Belarus, Dodina arrived in Israel as a 25-year-old, still lacking fluent Hebrew but already carrying dreams of success on the Israeli stage. A graduate of the prestigious Moscow Academy of Theater Arts - GITIS according to its Russian acronym - the actress immigrated to Israel with other Soviet Jewish actors to establish a Russian-speaking theater in their new country, an endeavor that seemed risky at the time but continues to thrive more than 15 years later in the form of Jaffa's Gesher Theater. Now in her early 40s, the actress has won a formidable collection of awards for her stage work, and by the mid-Nineties had begun her ascent within the world of Israeli TV and film as well. An alumna of Moscow's wellregarded Mayakovsky Theater, the actress made her Israeli film debut in 1996, earning her first Israeli Academy Award nomination two years later for her role in Gentila, a male road trip movie in which she played a key part. Her most celebrated recent movie is 2003's Nina's Tragedies, a surprise best film winner at that year's Jerusalem Film Festival and the runaway winner - with 11 statuettes - at the Israeli Academy Awards. But that, as we said, was three years ago. In the intervening period, Dodina has focused on her stage work, finally returning to the big screen in the fall as Yulia, a ballroom dancing teacher trapped in a difficult marriage in Love and Dance. A bittersweet look at the lives of immigrants from the USSR and their Israeli-born children, the story is told through the eyes of the nearly-adolescent Chen (Vladimir Volov), offering a look at the depressed grandmothers, frustrated parents and conflicted sons and daughters of Ashdod's Russian-speaking community. The film's young hero abandons judo to join the world of competitive ballroom dancing, but it is Dodina's Yulia who becomes the film's unexpected heroine, with the dance teacher's skepticism about Chen slowly fading and reemerging as concern for the troubled young boy. But even as the character begins to provide emotional support and advice to her young charge, she continues to reinforce her own thick skin, attempting to prove to the world that, when it comes to her own life, she doesn't believe in tears - or, most of the time, in feelings. A champion ballroom dancer in her former life, the character is a moving symbol of the sacrifices made by Israel's largest immigrant community, with Yulia's distinguished earlier life simply of no concern to the native-born Israelis who surround her. A lucrative professional dancing career has given way to ballroom lessons for teenagers at an Ashdod community center, as well as work as a pharmacy clerk in the evenings. She plays a similarly steely character in her most recent film, Dear Mr. Waldman, which opened in Israel last week and will be screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival later this month. The movie, whose Hebrew title translates literally to Letters to America, explores the relationships between two parents and their son in 1960s Tel Aviv, with the wife (Dodina) and son burdened by the knowledge that the father (Rami Heuberger) lost his previous family during the Holocaust. The final movie in Dodina's unoffficial comeback trilogy, tentatively titled A Touch Away, will arrive in theaters later this year. Known according to fans' tastes as either the First Lady or diva of the Gesher Theater, Dodina's keeping up her work there as well, appearing this month in both Russian and Hebrew as the headlining performer in Medea and in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. Categorizing the actress and her work is hard enough in Hebrew and Russian, and arguably even more difficult in English - her first name alone, depending on which source you're using, can be spelled Evgenia, Yevgenia or Yevgenya, and there are also nicknames including Jenya and Doda. ("Yavgenia," the spelling used in this article, is also the spelling of choice in promotional material for Dear Mr. Waldman.) But when it comes to her own career and sense of herself as a performer, Dodina sees things quite simply. "I feel fully Israeli," she said.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Sarah Silverman
August 26, 2014
Jewish women take home gold at 2014 Emmys

By JTA