Four Jewish performing arts groups at UMD bring new plans to a new year

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Avirah, the Israeli dance company at this university, performs Israeli dancing for many different kinds of events. Photo courtesy of Sarah Paley.

By Mohan Xu
For Mitzpeh
@XuMohan1

There are four main Jewish performance groups at this University: Avirah, Rak Shalom, Kol Sasson and Mezumenet. Each semester, all of these groups have big plans.

Avirah is the Israeli dance company at this university. Currently there are 12 members. Their members choreograph original dances in different styles based on classic Israeli dance steps.

“Israeli folk dancing shows Jewish culture by its inherent connection to the state of Israel and as a way of uniting all Jews, even those living in the diaspora,” said Avirah president Sarah Paley, a senior finance and information systems major.

This spring semester, Avirah will have their largest performances of the year. Paley said their plans are to prepare choreography and get ready for the big stage.

In addition to the final performance, Avirah also has other performances. On March 22, they will be in the Boston Israeli Folkdance Festival at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium and on March 29th at the DC Israeli Dance Festival at the Berman Hebrew Academy. They also plan to have open dancing sessions throughout this semester.

Compared to the fall semester 2019, Paley said that in the spring semester Avirah will pick up the pace. In the fall, they learned new choreography for the whole year. This spring semester, Avirah will start the “cleaning” process, which means “reviewing choreography, clearing up inconsistencies among us, going over minute details not covered in the choreography learning process,” Paley said.

After the festival season, Avirah will begin to prepare for their own Showcase performance at this university. Paley said, “We perform past years’ dances in our repertoire in addition to one or two new pieces.”

Through Israeli folk dancing, Paley said Avirah wants the audience to see the members love dancing and that they consider each other part of a family.

“Although not all members of Avirah are Jewish, we want to show that we are proud to present the dancing style of that community,” Paley said.

Currently, there are 13 members in Rak Shalom. Photo courtesy of Noah Broth.

Rak Shalom was founded in 2005 at this university and has received numerous awards.  Their president is Noah Broth, a junior finance and information systems major.

Rak Shalom’s repertoire is “unique,” according to Broth. He said they choose their songs not because they are famous or recognizable, but because of the “special features of each song.” He emphasized that the most important part in choosing a song is “making sure that the song stands out to us whether it is because of a pumping bass line or the meaning behind the words.”

Rak Shalom has other songs they love to sing simply because these songs make them happy. They also have songs that connect with God.

“This semester looks like it’s going to be pretty exciting,” Broth of Rak Shalom said.

He highlighted two important events for Rak Shalom. First, Kol Haolam, the National Collegiate Jewish A Cappella Competition, which will be held at the end of February. Second, Rak Shalom has a Florida Spring Break Tour.

Additionally, Rak Shalom has three new songs this semester. According to Broth, two of the songs are English songs that “fall into the genres of alternative rock and pop.” The third song is in Hebrew and it is Jewish pop.

Kol Sasson was founded in 1997. They perform songs across the country at synagogues and organizational events, such as the International Hillel Summit and White House Hanukkah reception. Their current president is Hannah Wandersman, a sophomore supply chain management and marketing major. Kol Sasson sings Israeli pop, traditional Jewish melodies and popular English songs.

Kol Sasson has recorded nine professional CDs. Last semester, they finished recording the most recent CD, which will be released later this spring. This CD has 12 songs and features all the same songs they usually sing. During spring break, Kol Sasson will tour in New York and New Jersey.

“We are gone all of break traveling around the city that we choose, performing at different synagogues, schools and community centers while also doing some fun stuff and bonding,” Wandersman said.

“We want to share our music with everyone,” Wandersman said.

 

Mezumenet’s repertoire includes a variety of music styles, ranging from Israeli pop and liturgical music to mash-ups and medleys. Photo courtesy of Rakha Wibisana.

Mezumenet was founded in 2008 and is an all-female Jewish a cappella group. Currently, they have 13 members. Mezument’s president is Rachel Shovmer, a junior chemical engineering major.

This spring semester, Mezumenet will compete in the Kol HaOlam collegiate Jewish A Cappella competition at the end of February. Last year, Mezument took second place and alumna Jenna Marcus’s rendition of “Eshet Chayil” won best arrangement, according to Shovmer.  Mezumenet also will add two songs to the spring concert. This concert will include Hebrew and English songs, including a Panic! at The Disco medley and a Hebrew ballad.  

“We’re always eager to share our voices since we’re firm believers in the power of song,” Shovmer said.

All four of these performance groups will have their final performances at the end of the spring semester. On May 3, Avirah’s showcase will be held in the Stamp Colony Ballroom, Mezumenet’s spring concert will be held in Ulrich Recital Hall and Kol Sasson’s performance will be held in the Hoff Theater. On May 10, Rak Shalom has an end-of-semester performance in Ulrich Recital Hall. The community is invited to all of these performances.

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