Avirah teaches students Israeli dances at its open dance session held on Wednesday. Benjamin Curtis/Mitzpeh.

By Benjamin Curtis
For Mitzpeh

Margot Hu, a student studying abroad from China, and several other students at this university participated in an open dance session Wednesday held by Avirah, this university’s Israeli dance company.

Held in the Margaret Brent Room of the Stamp Student Union, the night saw Avirah members welcome new students like Hu and teach them some of the dance company’s favorite Israeli dances. There was plenty of anticipation as the night began.

“I’m excited. I’m a little nervous, too,” said Yahel Elimelech, a senior psychology and economics major. “It’s not an audition, it’s a fun vibe.”

Jonah Tash, a member of Avirah and sophomore computer science and math major, knows the importance of the open dance sessions.

“I think it’s a really good way to get people excited about Avirah and dancing,” he said.

While there was plenty to learn, the atmosphere remained light. One of the most active members in the instruction was senior educational neuroscience research major Hannah Weisman, Avirah’s artistic director. 

“I’ve been to all of the open dances,” Weisman said. “I love exposing people to Israeli dance and giving them the opportunity to experience the same joys that I have with it.”

Weisman, who has studied Israeli dance for well over a decade, also stressed the benefits that other Avirah members receive from educating new dancers.

“It’s a really good experience for them to teach. It’s good leadership,” she said.

Avirah members had the chance to teach their guests several styles of dance to songs in multiple languages. While the evening began with more traditional Israeli folk dances, including circle dances, the new dancers were also exposed to modern Israeli line dancing, including learning the choreography to one song in French. 

Avirah members will soon learn who will perform these dances on a more regular basis. The open dance session strategically came immediately preceding the company’s auditions, which will take place at 6 p.m. on Sept. 15 in the Stamp Colony Ballroom. Weisman hopes that some of the students who visited and learned dances will pursue joining the group full-time.

“The idea is, you try to get people to be excited about who we are and what we do,” Weisman said. “We want to give them a little taste [of Avirah].”

The dance company is active in advertising their group, including having a presence at the First Look Fair on McKeldin Mall.

“I found the information about this event at the First Look Fair, and I do not have class, so I decided to come,” Hu said.

While Hu had studied Latin dance for 3 years, there is no previous dance experience necessary to attend Avirah’s open dance sessions. There is also no need for Avirah members themselves to be dance majors. Tash is a STEM major, while Weisman created her major through the Individual Studies program at this university. 

After the group’s auditions, Avirah has a full calendar of events scheduled. The dance company is slated to perform at the New Dances Festival at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and at the Hillel Family Weekend festivities. As a preview of the events to come, the Avirah members at the open dance session performed one of their original choreographies for the attendees, who may soon be dancing in the company as well.


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