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Artful Action

Being Jewish requires movement
by Naomi Davis |Oct 22, 2015|Comments

This piece was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of the Hillel College Guide Magazine. Read the full issue and sign up for your FREE copy of the next issue at hillel.org/magazine.

Naomi_Davis.MOUNTAIN LOVER. DAYDREAMER. QUESTION ASKER. Adventure seeker. Friendship maker. Passionate dancer. Curious doer. Artistic creator. Jewish thinker. Plant eater. Justice and peace believer. On an endless quest to explore and learn, while finding ways to repair the world.

My newest choreography, “Do you?” is more than a simple question, rather it is part protest, challenge, inquiry and provocateur. The performance asks the audience, the performers, the listeners and even the ignorers to pause, to listen, to learn, to change and to enact change. “Do you?” is a confrontation between our passivity and the choice to think about change making and how we can turn these thoughts into actions. This choreography is another exploration and manifestation of my Jewish identity.

Before becoming immersed in the NYU Hillel community, my understanding of Judaism was very separate from my artistic endeavors. I thought dance happened in the studio and Judaism happened at temple. Dance was on the stage and Torah was on the bimah. Having opportunities at Hillel to delve deeply into Jewish text, healing music and stimulating discussions has allowed me to realize that dance and Torah are one and the same. In order to practice tikkun olam, we must make movement. We must move ourselves to enact change and in the process of discovering how to come together to create, we are creating the most important dance of all, one that cannot be confined to a studio.

I now realize that I can merge my drive to engage with tikkun olam with my artistic process. My choreography implants seeds of thought and moves the audience to join the dancers in harvesting new understandings and perspectives. My pieces are informed and formed by the ever-changing and evolving questions, approaches and processes of nature around us.

I don’t know what it is like to not fall in love with the outdoors. When I step outside, the blades of grass seem greener and the sky seems bluer. No matter where I am, there is a place in my heart that holds the trees and the flowers, the mountains and vegetables, the soil and the butterflies. Etched into my body, regardless of the hours I spend dancing inside, is a yearning to be outside and connect to my roots; the roots that my family has planted in the Rocky Mountains. The roots of appreciation of the natural world, the guidance of your thoughts when led to the noise of the rustling leaves and the love and serenity your family can find on top of a mountain together.

These roots grow even deeper; they go way back to my Jewish ancestors. As the A-minor chord is strummed during Friday night services at Hillel, the music reverberates inside of me and I suddenly feel connected to the memories of the people before me. The feeling that I get on top of a mountain of hope and serenity, the passion and energy I feel on stage, is the same feeling I receive when I am surrounded by my community at Hillel, the mountaintop of my college experience.

Naomi Davis is a senior at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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