Part of the Fa-Mi-La

Nima Jacoby digs into memories for her new children’s dance piece

NIMA JACOBY performs ‘Fa-Mi-La Family.’ (photo credit: IDAN LEVI)
NIMA JACOBY performs ‘Fa-Mi-La Family.’
(photo credit: IDAN LEVI)
When she was a girl, Nima Jacoby would be whisked by her grandfather through the artists’ entrance of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to visit his friends in the orchestra. She would greet the musicians, taking lingering glances at their instruments. The viola, which had been her grandfather’s choice, was the most familiar, but over time, Jacoby came to forge special relationships with the cello, harp, flute and oboe.
“When I would sit in the audience afterward, I would remember those moments with the instruments,” says Jacoby over the phone.
In her new children’s dance piece, Fa-Mi-La Family, Jacoby digs back into those memories with her grandfather, seminal Israeli composer and musician Hanoch Jacoby. In this work, created by the Bama Dance Group, Jacoby animates each instrument with movement and personality. Together with her stage partner, the formidable Inbar Tanzer, Jacoby brings the essence of each instrument to life.
“I felt there was something special about my experience of seeing the instruments up close. I used to tell my grandfather what I imagined when I heard the music. I put each instrument in the center. I choose the instruments and show them according to their musical families. Cellos tells a story that I imagine, winds, strings, drums,” she explains.
To bring her vision to life, Jacoby called on collaborators to create an aesthetic language. Actor, singer and composer Israel Bright wrote original text to accompany the movement and Svetlana Livshitz devised costumes to transform Jacoby and Tanzer into wood, metal and wire.
Jacoby, 47, a mother of three children, began her career as a member of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company before relocating to London to pursue a master’s degree at the prestigious Laban Centre.
“I created for years for adults,” she says. “I did Curtain Up and festivals abroad. When my kids were born, I took a break. I had been teaching young kids throughout my career. I saw that I had an ability to reach kids through imagination and play. I found that, in that field, I had a lot of skills and something that was specific to me.”
Since returning from her first maternity leave 15 years ago, Jacoby has devoted her creative passions to engineering deeply engaging performances for young audiences. Her previous works include Boxes and Cinderella’s Dance. She delights in considering the attention span and interest of her small viewers, in tweaking each production to suit developing minds.
She explains that the creation process for children’s works is more complex than one would imagine.
“Our process is long because we really test our material. We show it to students and ask what they think. When the show gets to the stage, after such a long process, it’s precise. Adults can be patient or give the benefit of the doubt; kids can’t. Our challenge is to take abstract art forms of dance and music and ignite the imagination so that the kids will be entranced. That’s why it takes so long to get to it. We are looking for magic through simple tools.”
The payoff, in Jacoby’s eyes, is worth the investment. For one thing, children’s performances are greatly in demand all over the country. If a concert piece for adult audiences is performed 20 times in a year, that is considered a success. A children’s production will run over 100 shows in the same span of time. The other plus is what Jacoby refers to as “the lack of a dark fourth wall.”
“I notice that when I perform for kids, they’re with us, they respond and react. They come up after the show, hop onto the stage and hug us. They don’t have the distance that adults do,” she says. “I feel close to the world of children. Me as a kid and me as a choreographer are connected, we are both playing.”
Fa-Mi-La Family will be performed on November 18 and 19 at the Inbal Dance Theater in the Suzanne Dellal Center. For more information, visit