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Theodore Bikel performing at John Anson Ford Theatres on August 25 with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony
photo by Guy Madmoni


Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo, who are one of the top tango couples in the world, performing with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony on August 25 at John Anson Ford Theatre
photo by Guy Madmoni


BODYTRAFFIC - ONE OF L.A.'S FINEST CONTEMPORARY DANCE ENSEMBLES
Photo by Christopher Duggan


BODYTRAFFIC - ONE OF L.A.'S FINEST CONTEMPORARY DANCE ENSEMBLES
Photo by Christopher Duggan

 


DANCE TROUPE BODYTRAFFIC WITH THE L.A. JEWISH SYMPHONY, THEODORE BIKEL, & ISRAELI VIOLINIST KOBI MALKIN

By Rosalind Marmel, California Correspondent, September 10, 2013

The hills were alive with the sound of music and dance in the fairytale like setting of the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on August 25th as over 1000 lovers of song, dance, music, story telling and performing arts were spell bound by the talent and emotion that consumed us.  

The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony celebrated its 10th year at the Ford as part of the Ford’s summer series with a concert titled Cultural Collaborations. 

This is what Dr. Ian Drew M.D., the LAJS president and husband of Dr. Noreen Green, the founder, artistic director and conductor said in a message to the friends of the symphony:

“If words could be ascribed to Reb Tevye---who is scheduled to appear on tonight’s guest list, he would have noted our affection for each other and without hesitation pointed skyward, and declared our partnership, ‘a match made in heaven’.

Tonight’s concert is titled Cultural Collaborations for good reason.  Jews have never been soloists.  Except for Moses perhaps!  Collaboration is encoded in our DNA.  Family, community and nation are engrained as the end aspirations of our beliefs.  Almost none of our prayers are offered up in the singular.  In Judaism, the whole has always been greater than the sum of our parts.  For all these reasons, we have learned to find holiness in connection.  Tonight will be no exception.” 

Hannah Drew is the beautiful 16-year-old daughter of Dr. Noreen Green and Dr. Ian Drew. At age 5 she was the 1st place winner of an art contest sponsored by DreamWorks Studio.  Her singing career includes being the Anthem soloist for the Israel Leadership Council Gala Dinner, Beverly Hilton Hotel: Israel Cancer Research Fund Gala Laureate Dinner, Century Plaza Hyatt Hotel, and featured soloist at ICRF’s 2009 Woman of Valor luncheon at the Four Season’s Hotel bordering Beverly Hills.  Hannah led the U.S. National Anthem and the Israeli National Anthem as the sun set above us.

The adored member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Zev Yaroslavsky conducted the orchestra as Hannah sang.  Zev was born on December 21st 1948 in Los Angeles.  He and his older sister, Shimona (Kushner), were children of Russian immigrants, Minna and David Yaroslavsky and grew up in a Zionist household in Boyle Heights.  Their father was a founder of the Hebrew Teachers Union of Los Angeles.  Both parents, who were born in the Ukraine were founders of the labor Zionist youth movement, Habonim, in Los Angeles.  Zev and Shimona’s parents spoke Hebrew only at home, preparing their children for emigration to Israel.  They took their children to Israel when Shimona was 13 and Zev was 5.  Shimona emigrated permanently. 

Zev Yaroslavsky first gained notoriety, as a UCLA student who was orchestrating high-profile protests in Los Angeles against oppressive treatment of Jews in the former Soviet Union.  He continues to fight for every cause he believes in.  His website http://zev.lacounty.gov will keep you interested indefinitely.  
 
Yaroslavsky deferred to Dr. Green to conduct for the rest of the performances.  She is a renowned lecturer on Jewish music, and an accomplished educator known worldwide for her knowledge and skill in presenting music with Jewish themes.  She is the recipient of multiple awards.

 We were seduced by the romantic and sensual premiere of “Go Tango!” with the music composed by Benjamin Yusupov one of the most triumphant, conductors and pianists in Israel.  “Go Tango!”  was danced by one of the world’s top tango duos Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrioneuvo.  They are Fox TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographers. They grabbed the attention of audiences with their work on “Dancing With The Stars” and “America’s Got Talent”.  Together they produce “Los Angeles de Tango Cruise” around the world.  For more about these two famed choreographers, instructors, and dancers visit www.ladetango.com

Following that performance out came Zev Yaroslavsky again to everyone’s delight.  Zev appeared to introduce his and the world’s dear friend, actor, singer and political activist, the legendary Theodore Bikel.  At age 89 Bikel is as buoyant as ever.  The two kibitzed.  Theodore said that he was delighted to be anywhere at his age.  Zev presented him with a plaque, in case he did not already have enough.  Needing to come up with something new, Zev said that the plaque was to commemorate Theo’s 1st solo performance at the Ford.  Bikel tossed the comment back at him saying that he would take it home and designate it a special place in the room of his Los Angeles home named Plaqueistan. 

The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony performed the U.S. premiere of Russian composer Eduard Fertelmeister’s, “Reb Tevye Suite for Symphonic Orchestra”.  The suite was based on who some call the, “the Jewish Mark Twain”, beloved author and playwright, Shalom Aleichem’s stories of “Tevye the Dairy Man”.

Just try to imagine what it was like to watch and listen to Theodore Bikel, as he narrated the original Yiddish to English translation of the story that he became most famous for when he starred in the Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof”.  You really had to be there to witness the emotion, laughter and tears, Theodore Bikel shared with the diverse audience.  Since 1967, when he first appeared on the Broadway stage in the role of Tevye in the musical, Bikel has performed the role over 2000 times to date – more times than any other actor. 

Theodore Meir Bikel, was born on May 2nd, 1924 in Vienna, Austria.  His parents being active in Zionism, named him after Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism.  Following the Nazi occupation of Austria, the Bikel family fled to Palestine.  While in his teens, he co-founded the Cameri Theatre there.  It became one of Israel’s largest theatres.  He began his acting career there.  Then he moved to London, after his father obtained British passports to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1945.  In 1948, Michael Redgrave recommended Theodore to his friend Laurence Olivier as understudy for both the roles of Stanley Kowalski and Mitch in the West End premiere of Tennessee Williams’, “A Streetcar Named Desire”.  From understudy he went on to star opposite the director’s wife, Vivian Leigh.  She went on to recreate her role as Blanche Dubois in the film version opposite Marlon Brando. 

After many plays and films in Europe in 1954, Bikel moved to the U.S. becoming a naturalized citizen in 1961.  His film debut was in, “The African Queen”.  On Broadway, he originated the role of Captain von Trapp in 1959 in “The Sound of Music”.  In 1964, he starred in the film version of, “My Fair Lady”.

In 2010, when his 74 year old friend Chaim Topol suffered an injury, Theodore Bikel substituted for him in the touring production of “Fiddler on the Roof” appearing in several performances in Canadian cities.  He had many scheduled performances when he celebrated his 86th birthday in May that year. 

Age hasn’t even almost stopped him.  He has made Los Angeles his permanent home.  Along with who other than Winnipeg’s own, Cantor Herschel Fox, Gordon Davidson, Rabbi Harold Schulweiss and a dozen more, Theodore serves on the Board of Advisors of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony.  Probably he hasn’t changed much from when he co-founded the first folk music coffee house with music industry icon Herb Alpert.  His relentless efforts to preserve Yiddish as a living language have him very busy as a distinguished Jewish activist.  As I said, you had to be there that hot August night!  He even has a web site, www.bikel.com.  What would Shalom Aleichem have written about that?

Unfortunately, I missed part of this year’s winner of the LA Jewish Symphony’s Young Artist Competition, Israeli violinist Kobi Malkin’s performance.  Kobi plays a 1771 J.B. Guadagnini violin, generously on loan to him by Yehuda Zisapel.  He performed the world premiere of “Violin Fantasy”, composed by legendary Yiddish theater songwriter Shalom Secunda who is best known for his hit, “Bei Mir Bist du Shein”, and recorded by the Milken Archive of Jewish Music in 2010.  In 2011 Malkin was a winner in the prestigious American-Israel Cultural Foundation’s Aviv Competitions.  Malkin has participated in work shops, with notable artists such as Pinchas Zukerman, Itzhak Perlman and Pamela Frank.  I did see enough of his performance to know that he deserved the standing ovation he received.  You can learn more about Kobi Malkin at www.classicalconnect.com/Kobi_Malkin .

The evening was not over.  In my opinion, the sleeper of the night was the magical appearance flowing from the Hollywood hills, of one of Los Angeles’s finest contemporary dance ensembles, “BODYTRAFFIC”.  The multi-ethnic troupe founded by dancers Tina Finkelman Berkett and Lillian Barbeito in 2007 concluded the evening with a climactic out of this world show of athleticism, dance, and acrobatics as they performed Latvian born (1935) and later Israeli immigrant Marc Lavry’s composition of, “Israeli Country Dances Suite” as a world premiere. 

Los Angeles based, “BODYTRAFFIC” repertory dance company co-founder Tina Finkelman Berkett grew up and was educated in New York attending Barnard College, Columbia University where she performed works of Martha Graham, Jose Limon, and Paul Taylor.  She was a featured soloist in the works of Lila York, Ted Thomas and Aszure Barton.  Tina became Barton’s assistant teaching with him in the USA and abroad.  Tina was a founding member of Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Hell’s Kitchen Dance. 

Co-founder and director Lillian Barbeito has a prolific dance career as well.  She graduated from the Juilliard School on a full 4-year scholarship.  She worked with several opera companies including The Metropolitan Opera Company, The New York City Opera.  She performed at the 2006 and 2007 Grammys, in many music videos and films.  She is an accomplished teacher and emerging choreographer.  She is currently on faculty at Idyllwild Arts Academy and recently completed a Countertechnique teacher training with Anouk Van Dijk in Amsterdam.

Marc Lavry, a prolific composer belonged to an esteemed and exclusive group of artists who gave birth to what is known today as Israeli music. He is responsible for upwards of 400 musical compositions ranging from operas to symphonies, chamber music and popular songs.  Lavry composed the first marching song of the Israeli Defense Forces.  He wrote Lebanon’s first anthem.  Musicologists and music connoisseurs consider him one of the most important composers of the first half of the 20th century.  He was the first to introduce the Israeli Hora dance into concert music. 

The “Israeli Country Dances Suite” highlights 10 different dance forms popular in Israel over the years.  As an encore, “BODYTRAFFIC” and the LAJS performed a hauntingly moving interpretation of “Una Hora” a Ladino song from the Sephardic tradition, choreographed indescribably by Barak Marshall.  It opened with a clarinet solo by Zinovy Goro and climaxed with a magnificent performance by the LAJS. 
Upcoming performances by “BODYTRAFFIC” include September 24th thru September 29th in San Francisco, October 11th and 12th at the Broad Theatre in Santa Monica, California, Fall For Dance, City Center, NYC, October 4th and 5th, Chutzpah! Festival, Vancouver, Canada, February 22nd thru February 24th, 2014 and Dance Affiliates in Philadelphia on April 3rd, 4th and 5th, 2014. 

Jump on trains, buses, planes, bicycles, automobiles and through hoops to see “BODYTRAFFIC” perform.  Their website is www.bodytraffic.com.  On it, you will find information about auditioning and outreach programs.  They have been named Dance Magazine’s 25 to Watch in 2013. 

Mazel Tov again to Dr. Noreen Green and her Los Angeles Jewish Symphony members for another astounding evening at the Ford Amphitheatre.   Their 2012 Chai Celebration was a tough act to follow.  This year’s was even tougher.  Next year’s awaits us.  The LAJS never disappoints. www.lajewishsymphony.org

 

Here are some video links to BODYTRAFFIC:

 
 
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