The Official Leibele Waldman Blog

Welcome to the Official Leibele Waldman blog.

Saturday, February 3, 2018


Hadassah (Spira Epstein)

Hadassah, who was born in Jerusalem and whose original name was Hadassah Spira, became interested in Indian dancing at an early age. She studied dance in the United States and abroad, learning a wide range of Indian styles along with Javanese court dance, Japanese dance and modern dance. Her teachers included Ram Gopal and Jack Cole.

Hadassah, a performer of special eloquence, made her professional debut in 1945 and continued to perform Indian, Israeli, Javanese and Balinese dance through the mid-1970's. She appeared at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass., four times in the 1950's and 60's and toured India in 1959-60.

Among Hadassah's best-known works was "Shuvi Nafshi" ("Return, Oh My Soul"), based on Psalm 116. Her "Tagore Suite," commissioned by the Tagore Centenary Committee, was performed for the first time in 1961.

In Shuvi Nafshi, the work for which she wanted to be remembered, Hadassah used a certain movement which she had seen employed by the Punjabis, North Indian Muslims and among the Dervishes, as well as in Christian sculpture. She used the Cohannic gesture of blessing—a mudra. She used an ecstatic Sufi movement. She used hand gestures seen in pictures of the Dervishes during the 17th through the 19th centuries. She included the horah, the national dance of Israel, the primary dance step of which is common to other ethnic cultures. The music was a cantorial sung by Cantor Leibele Waldman, who sang in the tradition of Yossele Rosenblatt. She wore a simple costume, moving a stylized version of the tallit, the black and white striped Jewish prayer-shawl.

For a more in depth article on her life, please refer to the Jewish Women's Archive Spira Epstein.

HADASSAH, A TRIBUTE a video commissioned for the Exhibit on Hadassah, Dance Collection, Lincoln Center, New York City; remains in the permanent collection. In the video, Marilynn Danitz performs a dance to Shuvi Nafshi.

In the book entitled, "Converging Movements: Modern Dance and Jewish Culture at the 92nd Street Y" By Naomi M. Jackson, she mentions on page 197 with a photo that, "Hadassah's Shuvi Nafshi (1947) was a dance of ecstasy in prayer based on an excerpt from Psalm 116: Return O my soul. The dance was a deeply spiritual expression in which a woman wearing a prayer shawl costume used spins, palm-to-cheek, and upward reaching gestures in an emotional declaration to G-d."

My father had spoken with Hadassah many times and she was a fan of his music. To listen to Shuvi Nafshi, select the play button below.

No comments:

Post a Comment