The thinker and the player: Rina Schenfeld pages through her corona diary

Schenfeld, 82, is one of the crown jewels of the Israeli dance community.

RINA SCHENFELD in ‘The Diary’  (photo credit: DOVRAT ASULIN)
(photo credit: DOVRAT ASULIN)
Inside Rina Schenfeld, there are two women. One is a thinker and the other, a player. As Schenfeld is an endlessly creative person, each side receives its own, unique expression. The thinker comes to fruition in poetry. The player emerges in the studio. Together, these two sides comprise a powerful creative engine, one that continues to churn even in the direst of circumstances.
Over the course of the lockdowns, Schenfeld found herself in a new type of routine.
“In the night, I wrote the poems. In the daytime, I danced the dances,” she said over the phone.
Schenfeld, 82, is one of the crown jewels of the Israeli dance community. Through the lens of her career, one can track the rich history of contemporary dance in this country. Her resume includes studies at the Juilliard School, where she became close with legendary choreographer Pina Bausch, engagements working with Martha Graham and Anna Sokolow and being hand-picked as the founding soloist of Batsheva Dance Company. But even as a leading dancer for celebrated choreographers, Schenfeld was always a creator. For the past several decades, she has created elaborate solo works as well as ensemble pieces for her company.
As one accustomed to spending a significant portion of her life on stage, Schenfeld’s life was deeply impacted by the coronavirus. At home in her north Tel Aviv apartment and studio suite, Schenfeld battled with many questions.
“I had these debates with myself. Do I need this dancing, who needs it, is it a sickness or a gift?” she reveals. There were even moments, she divulges, when Schenfeld considered throwing in the towel.
But then, as always, the urge to create pushed her back into the studio.
“Even though there was a lockdown and we weren’t allowed to perform for a whole year, the creation arose in such a strong way,” she says. “I wrote: ‘There isn’t a lot of time left to page through your diary so keep dancing!’”
In her new work, titled The Diary, Schenfeld reads her poetry and answers in movement.
“If reflects the two sides of me, the two different approaches. I am answering myself,” she says.
The piece will be presented in two versions. The first, a solo danced by Schenfeld, will premiere on Thursday evening at her studio on Harav Friedman Street.
“I woke up and said, ‘Enough is enough.’ I’m doing two shows in my studio.”
Part of the solo is danced to Yehudit Ravitz’s rendition of Shalom Hanoch’s “Song Without A Name.” Another element in the solo is a video by visual artist Orna Elstein.
“She is a painter,” explains Schenfeld. “She suddenly sent me this video called My Happy Man. In the hard days, what helped me was to go to nature, to the Yarkon. Her video is on an island in the Seychelles. She sat there and painted. It’s one of the answers to these tough questions these days. I dance to it.”
Following these initial showings, Schenfeld will present the fuller expression of The Diary with the support of six company dancers at the Suzanne Dellal Center on April 22 and 23.
The full work includes Schenfeld’s original solo and ensemble sections.
Going back into the studio with her company was not without complications.
“I have one dancer who is very depressed from the situation. I was also. I have ups and downs. But the creation goes right through. It’s what matters. Every day I dance I am lifted up. And then I come back down. It’s not an easy time. There are some very, very low lows but there is no choice. We have to rearrange everything from the beginning again. The body is a wonderful thing. We have to believe in it and let it speak. And let the dance speak.”
Schenfeld will present The Diary at her studio at 14 Harav Friedman St., Tel Aviv. For tickets call (03) 604-6745 on Thursday, March 11 at 11 a.m. and Friday, March 12 at noon and at the Suzanne Dellal Center on April 22 and 23 (