By Samantha Caruso
Avirah, the University of Maryland’s Israeli dance troupe, hosted its first end-of-year showcase Sunday evening at the Memorial Chapel.
The showcase included six dances, each with their own fast-paced choreography and colorful costumes. Avirah performed half of the dances and Yesodot, the Washington, D.C. area’s only Israeli dance troupe for high school students, performed the other half.
Jessica Morris, a junior English major and co-president of Avirah, explained the importance of the group’s first showcase. Usually, Morris said, members only exhibit their work at Israeli dance festivals. This year, she said, they traveled to both Boston and Washington in March.
“Avirah has never had our own final showcase,” she said. “This year, we decided that we were finally in a position to be able to actually have our own showcase … we had been around long enough that we had enough variation in choreographies and we had enough ability to do so with the way the festivals were falling.”
With their hectic schedule of preparing for dance festivals and planning a showcase of their own, Morris said Avirah’s rehearsals have been intense lately.
“The past month and a half has been crazy,” she said. “Usually Avirah rehearsals are intense but the last month and a half has been unreal amounts of intense.”
Each dance was paired with upbeat Israeli music and mixed traditional Israeli dances with modern moves. The performers’ constant smiles and palpable happiness sent contagious positivity throughout the Memorial Chapel.
Katie Friedman, an alumna of Avirah, came back to campus for the showcase. As a former president of Avirah, she loved seeing the troupe’s growth.
“This showcase is something that we’ve been working for in my four years and now they’ve finally been able to have enough people to do it, so it’s really exciting to see how far it’s come,” Friedman said. “It’s nice to see how the Jewish presence on campus is not just with the a capella groups or Hillel, but kind of getting this different facet of expression.”
Adina Schwartz, a sophomore psychology major and co-president of Avirah, has participated in Israeli dance since middle school and felt it important to continue dancing in college.
“I actually did Israeli dance in high school in Yesodot, which is the group we have guest performing,” she said. “One of the things that I really liked about Maryland was that they had an Israeli dance group, which was started by Yesodot alumni. I love it. It’s good exercise and it’s a really good community.”
Schwartz’s favorite part of the event is finally being able to show her friends and family what Avirah truly is.
“I tell people that I’m in Avirah and they’re like, ‘What’s that?’ and it’s hard to explain because it’s a combination of so many influences and cultures. And now my friends and my family get to see what it is that I spend so many hours on,” Schwartz said.
Reyna Fox, a senior dance major, attended the show to see her follow dance majors perform.
“I was friends with a lot of the founding members of Avirah here because they were in the dance major with me, so I thought I’d come and support,” she said. “I’m glad that Avriah is continuing on now that some of the founding members have graduated.”
Mike Fox, the director of Yesodot, explained how the high school troupe is different from Avirah.
“It’s high school teens from all over the D.C. area and we get together once a week to learn Israeli dances and also recreational dances too that they can dance all over the world. Avirah is allowing these college students to continue Israeli dancing and get more people involved,” he said.
Fox also explained the meaning of the word “avirah.”
“It means atmosphere,” he said, “and that’s what the dancers of this troupe create: a fun, energetic atmosphere.”