The Holocaust in Modern Dance: Rami Be’er on “Aide Memoire”

Dance Histories, Events, Israeli Choreographers, Israeli Companies, Performances

Aide MemoireKibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in Rami Be’er’s Aide Memoire.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Suzanne Dellal’s Big Stage festival will close on Saturday, June 6th with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s performance of Rami Be’er’s Aide Memoire (Hebrew title: Zichron Dvarim).   I was struck by the dance’s power when I first saw it last year – but rather than telling you my perspective in this post, I’m going to bring you a different viewpoint: that of the choreographer himself.

Below is a guest post by Rami Be’er, choreographer and artistic director of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company.

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The Holocaust in Modern Dance (guest post by Rami Be’er)

As a son of Holocaust survivors, I tried to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust, but it took me years until I felt mature enough to do so.  My parents filled the house with art and music, raised us in an Israeli Kibbutz, started a new life and never mentioned the past.  Same as with me, it took decades until they started to speak.

When I felt ready to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust, I created the piece Aide Memoire.

In Aide Memoire, I tried to illustrate the feeling of being “trapped.”  The dancers move ecstatically, trapped in their personal turmoil, spinning while swinging their arms and legs, and banging on the wall; some are crucified, unable to move freely on the stage.

Aide Memoire is not only about the Holocaust.  It deals with matters relating to present life and reality.  It deals with violence, wars, and their impact on our lives.  I created this dance in order to scream: Stop the violence!  Stop the holocausts!

The subject of the Holocaust has been dealt with in every form of art, including modern dance.  Some dances illustrate the same feeling of being trapped and having no where to go.  In 1961 Anna Sokolow, a Jewish-American choreographer, created her piece Dreams.  It was an attempt to deal with her night terrors.  Eventually it became a memoire to the horrors of the Holocaust.  In this dance, the dancers stand still, each one clasping a balled fist with the other hand, trying to pull them apart but with no success.

This same feeling of being trapped and enslaved is illustrated also in one of Pilobolus’s dances, Selection.  In Selection, one of the dancers approaches a dancing couple, separating them by his cane and snatching the woman away from her partner’s arms.

In KCDC (Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company), I teach my dancers that the world of modern dance is not detached from reality. Not only do we deal with violence and its effect through dance, we also initiate activities to unite Jews and Arabs in Israel, and do as best as we can in order to open the doors of our dance school to students from all races and nationalities, including foreign students who wish to study abroad.

This is my way to fight against violence.

–Rami Be’er
Artistic Director, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company

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Rami Be’er’s Aide Memoire will also be performed in Herzliya on June 10th and in Jerusalem on June 16th; in addition, the work will tour to Poland’s Bytum International Dance Festival in July.   The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company will also take Be’er’s Upon Reaching the Sun to Hungary, Austria, and Croatia this summer.  See Dance In Israel’s Events page and the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s website for more details.

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