Chapter 10 Contemporizing (Yemenite) Ethnicity: Hybrid Folklore in Mor Shani’s “Three Suggestions for Dealing with Time” Dance Trilogy for Inbal Dance Theater

In: Imagined Israel(s): Representations of the Jewish State in the Arts
Idit Suslik
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This chapter discusses “Three Suggestions for Dealing with Time” (2016–2020), a folklore-inspired contemporary dance trilogy created by Mor Shani for Inbal Dance Theater. Inbal was established in 1949 by Sara Levi-Tanai as a means to express the Yemenite cultural heritage through Western theatrical and choreographic forms. Although innovative in its integration of diverse cultural and artistic influences, Inbal was labeled as being representative of Yemenite ethnicity, expressing Mizrachi exoticism that did not conform to the collective image of “Israeliness” that promoted a new Hebrew-Ashkenazi-Zionist-secular-Sabra identity or body. Consequently, the company was marginalized in the Israeli dance field, and its controversial position highlighted the ongoing artistic and social tension between Yemenite and Israeli, ethnic and national, and exotic and innovative, art and folklore. Considering Inbal’s complex history, Shani’s dance trilogy unfolds as a choreographic practice of contemporizing the Yemenite ethnicity that has defined the company from its beginning. Through it, Shani explicitly comments on Inbal’s cultural-artistic identity and marginal position throughout the years while affirming Levi-Tanai’s legacy as a source of the company’s contemporaneity. Moreover, by expanding Levi-Tanai’s unique stylistic integration, Shani resonates with her agenda of cultural pluralism, thus realizing Inbal’s potential as a third space through which the “Inbalite” language is updated and included in the choreographic present.

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