Renana Raz in We Have Been Called to Go. Photo by Eyal Landesman.
After months of avid concert-going, Renana Raz’s evening of work titled Avodah Ivrit (Hebrew Labor) proved to be more than just another enjoyable evening at the Suzanne Dellal Center. The experience of viewing this concert was so significant that I immediately poured my musings into an essay.
Avodah Ivrit contained two dances, and it was the second – We Have Been Called to Go – which stirred my excitement and sparked my writing. Out of the many dances I had viewed up until this point in March 2008, We Have Been Called to Go contained the most overt onstage treatment of Israeli society. As the work employed and played with cultural symbols, and as the audience reacted audibly, I became aware that I was watching this not as an Israeli but as a transplanted Diaspora Jew. I was fascinated not only by the subject matter but also by the perceptions of viewers from different backgrounds.
Nearly a year later, my understanding of Israeli culture has deepened as I have integrated further into this society as an olah hadasha, a new immigrant. By now I have discovered other works which tackle the issues of Israeli identity and cultural codes. Yet We Have Been Called to Go remains one of the most compelling dances to shed light on Israeli society – and to illuminate my own evolving knowledge and spectatorship of Israeli culture.
Below is my initial reflection on Renana Raz’s We Have Been Called to Go. I first published “Viewing an Israeli Vision with Diasporic Eyes” on March 17, 2008 in my own blog.
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It’s after midnight, and I just opened my Israeli folk dance mix on iTunes to listen to track number 5, the hora that opened Renana Raz’s We Have Been Called to Go. My body is nearly jumping out of my desk chair, searching for the right pattern of mayims as the familiar drums quicken, while my mind is picturing the smaller motions of the four performers in tonight’s concert.
The bodily sensation I am having right now is the same bodily sensation I experienced in the darkened theater. Here’s the amazing thing, though: because Israelis were brought up on folk dance, nearly everyone in that theater had access to the same kinesthetic response.