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date: 26 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

In the 1930s, “Jewish dance” emerged in the United States as a category that drifted between ethnic and modern dance. Although some Jewish choreographers were able to transcend their ethnicity through the universalism of modern dance, others, like Belle Didjah and Dvora Lapson, were ghettoized by their overtly Jewish characterizations of Hasidic Jews or exotic Jewesses. Despite their exclusion from modern-dance history, Didjah and Lapson identified with modern dance, reinvented cultural traditions and rituals for the stage, and used the solo form to imagine expanded roles for women. Although some of their dances emphasized Jewish difference over assimilation, they aimed to make a place for Jewish expression on the American concert stage, and to expand possibilities for constructing Jewish-American identities through a mode of performance that was both ethnic and modern.

Keywords: dance, Jewish identity, Jewish dance, Jewishness, ethnic dance, modern dance, Dvora Lapson, Belle Didjah, Rebecca Rossen, ethnography, Hasidic dance, orientalism, United States

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