RIna Shaham (Rosalind Gologorsky) has developed from a modern dancer in one of the most important companies in the world, to be the one to establish independent dance in Israel. She was born in New York City and started dancing at age 16 in California, with Hilda Hoppe. Benjamin Tsemach who was director and choreographer of an important dance company in Los-Angeles, CA (years later moved to Jerusalem, Israel) has discovered her talent and invited her in the early 50’s to dance in his productions. The company consisted of mature dancers, and Rina, who just began her career, was worried. “I will take care of you,” said Tsemach, who extracted all her talent a step at a time, and one of his many gifts was his insight to her performing abilities.
“Fire in the Hills”, Choreographed by the world renowned Tally Beatty Rina started performing professionally, and she states that performing induces rapid progress intellectually and emotionally. Later she studied with Merce Cuningham in New York City and continued her education with Louis Horst (who was Martha Graham’s musical director and choreographic teacher), as well as with Martha Graham herself. Within a short time her talent was recognized and she joined Graham’s company (on a scholarship).
She recalls rehearsing “Appalachian Spring” as an exciting experience, which also introduced her to “New England” culture. Louis Horst’s influence was monumental in bringing her into a world of music & sound.
At that time she fell in love and was married to a young “shaliach” David Shaham (who was a U.S. representative of the “Ha’shomer Ha’tsair” idealistic youth movement). “Love and compassion is the center of life, and then there is fate” she says years later. Thus, on 1951 she left New York City, “Appalachian Spring” premiered without her, and she moved to Israel (Kibutz Beit-Alfa in Beit She’an valley).
This dramatic change from a big metropolis to the Beit She’an valley of the 1950’s, generated a new independent and individualistic approach that was in contradiction to her earlier career with an established American company.
“Fire in the Hills”, Choreographed by the world renowned Tally Beatty was her first dance performance in the Holy Land. This the main production of “Israeli Dance Theater” -a company established by German born artist Gertrud Kraus on a biblical subject. The great dancer outshined everyone else on stage with her amazing technical ability. The power of this very original work was enhanced by a first time appearance of male dancers, among them Arie Caleb, Yonatan Karmon and Shimeon Levi. The original piano score was by Chanan Winternitz. The combination of the American schooling (Shaham) and the European (Kraus) was a first for the audience as well as for Rina who was used to different ways of working.
Tally Beatty has conducted dance classes before the rehearsals. The musical accompaniment (percussions) and the particular instructions were all new to the Israeli born dancers who felt disconnected and rebelled, but Rina felt at home and flourished. The success was extensive. Rina saw this as an idealistic endeavor, even with the lack of good working facilities. She danced with emotional abandonment that was to become one of her trademarks, and so she penetrated the hearts of the Israelies. Her name grew with her constant activities, and she was invited to dance the role of the princess in the production of “A soldier’s Tale” with “Habima” National Theater. (she also choreographed it).
She had the privilege of working with Jerome Robbins on his Ballet “Interplay”. Robbins was brought to Israel by the American Israel foundation to teach. took dancers and worked on Interplay. “He is a great creator, who designs his ideas with sensitivity out of his internal world”. He suggested that the foundation bring Anna Sokolov from New York. She started the Lyric Theater, had 2 seasons, with much success.
Rina’s inner intensity and thoughts brought her to her first solo recital (1954). “It was an inspirational evening, consisting of one of the finest dances ever created in Israel”. “The Cursed Water (biblical theme) was a perfect dance, which demonstrates the modern technique with great dramatic power” wrote the critique of the daily paper “Davar”.
When Anna Sokolov arrived in Israel, Rina found another listener. Sokolov who worked with some of the greatest dancers in the world has immediately recognized the potential: “Rina Shaham has a true talent for dance” she said. She chose Rina for the main part of “A Soldier’s Tale” as part of the Lyric Theater. This time she choreographed the pricess as a satire (the previous time it was romanticized).
The two women developed a life long deep relationship based on trust, collaboration and adoration. When Martha Graham established the Bat-Sheva Dance Company in Israel, Sokolov (a former principal dancer with Graham), as well as the rest of the dance community were puzzled when Rina was not invited to join. Sokolov said to our reported several years ago: “some people who are famous in the world of art, will turn out to have plain, bitter personalities”. Her prophecy has turned true. Rina Shaham, was pushed aside forcefully and fought for survival against all these dancers who were heavily aided by the establishment. This was an unequal struggle, but the end was sure. They had the big stages, power and budgets, but she overcame this with her talent.
Rina learned to work in the most difficult of conditions, but she always has drawn dance lovers to her productions. She had an audience even when competing with other performers. People who really understood dance wanted to see her over and over again, experiencing the ultimate truth in her choreography. Her dancing was powerful, her technique amazing, and she gave just the right portion of self-expression and technical accuracy. Inspiration filled the halls.
Her struggle for her place in the dance community never eliminated her compassion. She always gave generous help to young artists who later became part of the dance establishment and took over. She offered them whatever equipment she had, costumes, and advice.
In 1963 Israel learned the power of Rina the dance teacher. She established her own dance company that included her students: Uri Oren, Ophra Ben-Zvi, Lea Levin (later a member of Bat-Sheva company and wife of Donald Mckale – an important figure in the American dance scene), Nava Rubinstein, and Ehud Ben-David (later a principal dancer with Bat-Sheva company).
Her vision and ideas continued and in 1975 she initiated the Bat-Sheva 2 Dance Company, now called the Bat-Sheva Ensemble. This was a place for young dancers and choreographers to develop and later become part of the mature Bat-Sheva Company, a place for new creations.
In parallel, she continued running her own company. Among other dancers were: Rony Segal (Yardena Choen’s student), Tirza Shpanhof, Tal Haran, and Dalia Raz, and Ofer Zaks.
“Dancers should constantly expose themselves to the wonders of the world around them and to the secrets of other arts, thus enriching their inner world.”
She created greatly intense dances. Movement structure was always precise and original. Her works show depth, life philosophy, musical sensitivity, sincerity and love for dance, essential factors which turn a dance work to great art.
For many years she taught dance to actors in the Theater Department of the Tel-Aviv University as well as choreographing their theatrical productions. She also headed the dance department at the “Wizo” Performing Arts High School in Haifa. Dance students are privileged to perform great pieces and be challenged with the demand and content of this powerful art.
Rina Shaham, one of our greatest dancers and choreographers has had sense of truth coming from her intellect and emotional make up. She never compromises.
“Dance is the art of NOW, yesterday is History and the future unknown. This immediacy is understood instinctively by the dancer whether in class, rehearsal, or on stage, and this is the power of dance!”.