Choreographing the inner child

Rina Sheinfeld tries to recapture the spontaneity and innocence which "get lost in an academic world of degrees and accolades."

dance review 88 (photo credit: )
dance review 88
(photo credit: )
'I appeal to the child in all of us," says Rina Sheinfeld about her new program. "Most of us have a longing for the lost innocence of childhood." Sheinfeld, a seasoned dancer and choreographer, serves in both capacities for her Stories of the Garden of Eden and The Prettiest Girl in Kindergarten - billed for both children and grown-ups, which premiere this Monday and next Saturday as part of the summer-long Mahol Lohet dance festival at Tel Aviv's Suzanne Dellal Center. A founding member of the Batsheva Dance Company, with enormous experience in modern dance, Sheinfeld is also a grandmother. She reached back to her childhood for her new pieces in an attempt to recapture the spontaneity and innocence which "get lost in an academic world of degrees and accolades. In the studio," she continues, "I was jolted by the experience of putting my hair in pigtails. Somehow the feeling was very refreshing, so I began to research my childhood." The opening scene is esthetic and delicately filled with hanging dolls. Sheinfeld, often called Israel's "First Lady of Dance," is asleep under a feather comforter on the floor. The program features many of her usual props, such as plastic bags, balloons and blocks. It's the first time that she is dancing with toy dolls, beachballs, and even a caterpillar. TV personality Kobi Meidan, her son-in-law, is the narrator, and a variety of famous songs accompany the dance pieces. The program has also been influenced by her trips to the Far East, especially Thailand and China. In the evening program for adults, she has added an extra piece for four dancers who perform a traditional Thai dance with long pointed copper fingernails. The program ends with Jacob's dream, with an emphasis on the angel. Here Rina goes back to her repertoire of billowing gigantic silk wings on manipulated sticks to create an imaginative, translucent being filled with light. How do audiences of such a wide range in age relate to an elderly woman in pigtails doing kiddie stuff? Might it not be embarrassing? "I don't think so," says Sheinfeld. "The response has been good. Even three- and four-year-olds came to watch [in the studio]. Babies on their parent's laps sat and cooed. The children's participation and spontaneity was amazing," she says. This all seems fine in the intimate surroundings of a studio, but what happens on stage, where the space, lighting and music may accentuate the fact that she is not a child but a grandmother? "I cannot imagine a young girl performing this," says Sheinfeld. "It wouldn't look right. I definitely need to do it; it completes a circle for me. All the materials reflect years of research and have become a part of me. A younger girl would not have the experience." It's hard to say how the magic of the stage will transform what I saw in the studio. The success of this adventure will depend on the child within her being able to touch everyone else's, no matter what the boundaries. August 14 and 19 at 9 p.m., Suzanne Dellal Center, Rehov Yehieli 5, Neveh Zedek, Tel Aviv, (03) 510-5656. Children's show at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 19.