Dance: Still spreading her wings

Israeli choreographer, dance critic and author Ruth Eshel examines the last 80 years of Israeli dance in her latest book.

December 18, 2016 20:35
2 minute read.
Ruth Eshel

ISRAELI DANCE critic and author Ruth Eshel. (photo credit: PERRY FARAG)


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Tonight, former dancer and choreographer and current dance critic Dr. Ruth Eshel will launch her second book, Dance Spreads Its Wings: Israeli Concert Dance 1920- 2000, in a gala event at the Suzanne Dellal Center. Eshel, 74, has been a member of the local dance community for half a century and has seen the tides of dance ebb and flow, morph and revert. In this two-volume tome, Eshel delves into Israel’s dance past, marking significant moments and trends that shaped the evolution of the form.

The book is divided into 12 chapters, such as Between Center and Periphery and The Sowing of Seeds – Establishing Stages, which relate to the chronological timeline and the artistic developments of each period.

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“In 1991, I finished my first book Dancing with the Dream, and I knew that I wanted to continue on. I began teaching at the university and writing for Haaretz. In 1995, I founded Eskesta, which is now Beta Dance Group. I was in a very busy period then but I was collecting material all the while. In 2008, I had left the university as well as Beta. I thought that it would take me six months to write this book,” Eshel says with a laugh over coffee in Sarona. “It took me eight years.”

The writing process was, for Eshel, every bit as creative a process as composing her many dances had been years prior.

“It took me a long time to understand the material. I tried many different theories and eventually I came to see dance as functioning along an axis of time where the major factor is change. Each choreographer or company is one ship on that ocean and to survive, they must constantly react to their environment and make choices.

Some ships sink because they change too early or too late, or don’t change at all. Israeli dance is a small seismograph for these waves of change.”

With her seismograph theory in mind, Eshel found that the enormous mass of material began to organize itself organically.

Over a three-year period, she sent the manuscript out to colleagues and friends, meticulously fact-checking and correcting herself. At the end of this process, Eshel was left with hundreds of pages of text and thousands of images.

The final edit, which Eshel chose to publish and distribute independently, comprises a comprehensive and concrete take on the past 80 years in dance.

For more on Eshel’s ‘Dance Spreads Its Wings,’ visit

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