Dance choreographed by Moshe Ackman. Photo courtesy of Avirah.

By Haley Kerby 
For Mitzpeh

Avirah, a student-based Israeli dance company at this university, organized and presented a showcase performance this Sunday, highlighting five different folk dances. 

The performance was livestreamed at 4 p.m. Three of the five dances were performed live in the STAMP Student Union, while the other two had been pre-recorded outdoors over Zoom. During the show, group members wore masks and social distanced, with no live audience.

The Avirah dance company has been at this university for many years, starting in the 1990s and then taking a temporary hiatus in 2014. In 2016, Avirah started back up and has continued to dance and perform to this day. There are eight members in Avirah this year, a smaller number than usual, which members attribute to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In previous years, Avirah has performed up and down the East Coast, as well as in local high schools and festivals. At the end of the year, the group always organizes an end-of-the-year performance showcasing their favorite dances.

Due to the pandemic, Avirah was unable to travel and tour this year, and instead, only performed at the end of the year showcase.

The theme of the showcase this year was the journey the group took to end up where they are today, still performing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was all inspired by a disco dance class that I took last semester, but the steps were originally mine,” said Moshe Ackman, a senior aerospace engineering major, who choreographed one of the dances.

Another dance, the Yemenite-style Avirat HaShabbat, was put together by Avirah’s president Deborah Brown, a junior supply chain management and operations management and business analytics major and copy editor for Mitzpeh. Brown was inspired by an Avirah dance that was created in 2018. 

“This dance has been three years in the making,” said Brown.

Final performance

Final performance featuring the dance Miriam Hanevia. Photo courtesy of Avirah.

In addition to the five dances, a pre-recorded performance by the D.C. area high school Israeli dance troupe, Yesodot, was also shown during the showcase. 

Brown, Avirah’s president, said she has grown a lot as a leader this year, by bringing this performance together — organizing the technical aspects, figuring out costume changes and reserving the space for the showcase. 

The pandemic may have caused more precautions to be put in place, but this never stopped Brown or Avirah. Safety was one of Brown’s biggest concerns this year.

“It’s been a different year than normally, but we have continued to tell them that my goals were always transparency and safety,” said Brown. “It’s been a challenge from my side, but it’s so rewarding and so worth it. I love dancing so I would do it again every year.”

Berger, the only freshman in Avirah, said her favorite part about being in this group was how welcoming everyone was.

“They make an extra effort to be welcoming…. I never felt out of place being the only freshman, and I never felt alone.” 

Ackman, who has been a part of Avirah for all four years of his college experience, said that although he will miss hanging out with the members every week after he graduates, he will continue Israeli dancing in the future because it’s what he loves to do. 

This year’s Avirah Showcase is available for viewing on their YouTube channel.


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