Dancing Memory: the Relationship between Memory and Identity as Manifested in Dance in Israel – an Account of Generational Change of Witnessing by Dana Mills

The Holocaust is one of the biggest catalysers of the foundation of the state of Israel as well as one of the most formative elements in the creation of Israeli identity. As such, it has been hugely influential in Israeli artistic language and specifically in Israeli dance. In this paper I discuss the changing nature of witnessing in Israeli dance. I focus on readings of two dance works: Ami Yam, Ami Ya’ar, a dance work performed by the Batsheva Dance Company in the 1960s (choreography: John Cranko) and Aide Memorie, performed by the Kibbutz Dance Company in the 1990s (choreography: Rami Be’er), two works in which the Holocaust plays a central role. I discuss the changing character of witnessing the Holocaust across these two works; and the different identity arising from the intersection between witnessing and art. Last, I turn to a different kind of witnessing, the witnessing of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, carried through in the work of contemporary dance artist in the 2000s by independent dance artist Arkadi Zaides. I argue that although the subject of witnessing has changed, that concept continues to be central to the development of Israeli dance.