Still kicking after all these years

Rina Schenfeld revisits the bitter memories of her childhood in a touching new work.

schenfeld311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
My grandmother explained once, “as I get older, I think more and more often about my childhood.” It would seem that Rina Schenfeld shares this notion. Her newest work, Hasusa, is a choreographic homage to her youth, more specifically, her mother. Next weekend, Schenfeld will unveil this touching new work as part of the Suzanne Dellal Center’s Hot Dance Festival.
Now in her sixties, Schenfeld has been creating dance for more than thirty years. She is a legendary performer and was a founding member of Batsheva Dance Company. In addition, Schenfeld was one of few Israelis to attend The Julliard School in the early 1960’s.
After sixteen years with Batsheva Dance Company, Schenfeld formed her own troupe. She currently works out of her home studio in northern Tel Aviv. Last year, Schenfeld presented Dance Me To The End Of Love, an evening danced to and inspired by the songs of Leonard Cohen. Her pieces have included hours of footage of her home, her cat and herself. Regardless of the topic, Schenfeld’s works are always personal and honest. With each evening, Schenfeld exposes a new side of herself.
In Hasusa, Schenfeld revisits the sayings she heard as a child. “Why do you need to lift your legs to your ears like a horse,” was a common comment uttered by the legendary dancer’s mother. “Don’t eat standing up, you’ll get fat legs,” was another and even more biting, “what kind of profession did you choose for yourself? You’ll never have children.”
In this poignant and staggeringly personal work, Schenfeld investigates the affect her mother’s bitterness and conservatism had on her and how she developed her own strength despite the negativity and fear surrounding her. It is remarkable to consider that Israel’s most famous dancer emerged from such struggle. “I grew up and became a young woman dancing this pain,” she said.
The stage is filled with physical memorabilia of Schenfeld’s childhood: pieces of string, sand, boxes, flowers and one golden ring. Schenfeld uses hung linens to illustrate the sunny morning when her mother, while hanging laundry on the line, told her of the demise of her brothers and sisters at the hands of the Nazis.
Other props allow Schenfeld to remember being punished for stealing or the small crimes she committed in kindergarten.
Music by Chava Alberstein, John Cage and Frank Sinatra help to recreate the feel of 1950’s Israel.
Joining Schenfeld on stage is her company of dancers, who were collaborators in the creative process of Hasusa. Costumes by the very talented Inbal Leiblich will no doubt enhance the aesthetic experience.
The overall message, however, is positive. Amidst all of the questions Schenfeld asks of her mother like, “why did you cut my beautiful hair” or “why did we stop observing Shabbat?” she finds solace in forgiveness. “Here I am, a dancer,” said Schenfeld, “I’m lifting my legs like a horse. I’m also a mother and I will always love you.”
Hasusa will run at Suzanne Dellal Center on August 20 and 21.
For tickets call 03-510-5656 or visit