1888 – 1973
Margalit Ornstein (nèe Oppenheimer) is perceived as the “founding mother” of Israeli dance, a pioneer of modern dance in Erez Israel and of the revolutionary ideas of the new “body culture” movement. Born in Austria, she immigrated to Palestine in 1921 with her twin daughters, Shoshana and Yehudit, and her younger son, David, in the wake of her husband, engineer-architect Jacob Ornstein, who had immigrated a year earlier.
In 1922, Ornstein founded a school of dance in Tel Aviv, the first in the entire country. Herself educated in Rhythmic Gymnastics and other schools of the German “New Dance,” Ornstein’s teaching was influenced by Gertrud Bodenwieser, Rudolf von Laban (1879–1958) and Gertrud Mensendiek. In 1925 she was among the founders of the TA”I (Teatron Erez Israel), for which she choreographed Belteshazzar, Shabbetai Zevi and The Dybbuk. In 1926, she also helped found the Ha-Ohel Theater for which she choreographed The Stories of Y.L. Peretz, The Fishermen, Ya’akov ve-Rahel and Yermiyahu. Between 1924 and 1939 she created dance concerts, which consisted of short pieces performed by her students and her twin daughters. Later, she wrote and continued teaching for many years, laying the foundations of the art of dance in the country.