Repertory Dance Theatre addresses conflict and hope with Gotheiner’s ‘Dabke’ |

Repertory Dance Theatre addresses conflict and hope with Gotheiner’s ‘Dabke’

Company will perform April 14-15

Dabke is an Arab folk dance native to the Levant countries. It is performed in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Hatay and Northern Saudi Arabia at weddings, holidays and community celebrations. And while no one knows where dabke started, the people in those areas do their own version of the dance.

Renowned Israel-born choreographer Zvi Gotheiner has created his own “Dabke” and set it on the Repertory Dance Theatre, which will perform the piece at the Egyptian Theatre this weekend, Repertory Dance Theatre Artistic Director Linda C. Smith said.

“The work is an evening-length piece that has with no intermission,” Smith told The Park Record. “The subject matter is current, and it’s a dynamic and theatrical experience.”

“Dabke,” pronounced DEB kah, is based on the different steps of the traditional dances, and is a performance many people will remember, Smith said.

“It’s a meaty work,” she said. “And while there is nothing overtly offensive, it’s not necessarily family-friendly, because it addresses adult themes of conflict, community and the hope for peace.”

Smith said Gotheiner’s choreography aims for the soul.

“It’s about conflict, not just in the Middle East, but in the world,” she said. “We live in a time where we are being pushed and pulled, and we feel the fear and frustration about what’s going to happen next. And the performers generously open their hearts and souls and deliver the message so deeply.”

Gotheiner originally created “Dabke” for his own company, ZviDance in 2012.

“I saw it and told him I wanted to do it,” Smith said. “So, for our 50th anniversary he suggested we do excerpts and selected scenes that delivered the message.”

The response was so successful that Gotheiner agreed to set the rest of the work on Repertory Dance Theatre.

“In addition, we did a video interview with Zvi where he talked about hi artistic life, growing up in a Kibbutz and joining the Israeli Army,” Smith said. “He also talked about how the Arab culture, which surrounded Israel, really influenced him in terms of music, dance, food and all of the cultural elements.”

Gotheiner wanted to praise, admire and acknowledge this rich culture, Smith said.

“This is timely because lately, when most people think of the Arab culture, they conjure up images of people raising their fists and fighting for territories,” she said.

The 10-minute video precedes the work and sets the tone for the evening.

“Zvi started creating this work by gathering folk-dance videos on YouTube,” Smith said. “He and his dancers then started to learn the different variations to set the basis of the vocabulary.”

Gotheiner and his dancers began to develop movement portraits of people who are experiencing cultural conflicts.

“The work does show a sense of frustration and desperation in some of the sections, but hopefully, the dance will become a work that is about the ability for all of us to come together and feel empathy for one another,” she said. “It ultimately asks if we can get beyond the conflicts and form a large community that binds us together.”

Creating a sense of togetherness is something Smith has done with the Repertory Dance Theatre since its foundation in 1966.

“I like to look at art as something that has the ability to heal when it opens up avenues of understanding so people can have a real personal experience in the theatre,” she said. “I think ‘Dabke’ is one of these works, because I believe the audience can enter the piece in different levels.”

One level is the movement.

“It’s so luscious,” she said. “When people dance a dabke, they get into a mesmerized state of celebration, and this work has that in it.”

The other level is through the music.

“[Composer} Scott Killian, who has worked with us many times, has taken Arab pop music and woven it through a contemporary score,” Smith said.

Music is something that is close to Gotheiner’s heart.

“Before he began dancing, Zvi was a gifted violinist,” Smith said.

He performed with the Young Kibbutzim Orchestra, where he attained the rank of soloist and Concertmaster at age 15.

Gotheiner began dancing when he was 17.

“He started after he saw the Batsheva Dance Company,” Smith said. “That changed his life and he started choreographing right away.”

Smith said Gotheiner used his musical training as a way to set up his works.

“He looked at musical composition as a way to build a dance,” she said. “From the early 1990s to now, Zvi has opened up and developed all kinds of ways to increase his movement vocabulary. He now includes the dancers in the creative process. He is able to bring dancers to an understanding of the deep meaning the movement has for potential of communication.”

Repertory Dance Theatre will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, April 14, and Saturday, April 15, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Tickets range from $19 to $29. Tickets can be purchased by visiting


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