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Mirali Sharon

b. 1931

by Ruth Eshel

All her work is characterized by organic integration of music, costume and décor, with the dance being the outcome of an approach to the composer-designer-scenarist-choreographer composite perceived as one fertile, creative team. Another feature of her work is the decidedly vibrant Israeli quality shining through a tissue of otherwise contemporary influences. (“New Directions in Dance,” Ariel, 1976)

Mirali Sharon, whose work has been performed in Israel and at prestigious festivals abroad, is one of Israel’s major choreographers, of the 1970s and 1980s. She belongs to the first generation of native Israeli choreographers, who sought to create contemporary dance with an Israeli character, collaborating with contemporary Israeli artists in music, literature, architecture and the plastic arts.

Sharon, born on October 11, 1931 on Kibbutz En-Harod, was the daughter of two of its founders. Her father, Eliezer Ben-Ezra (1902–1955), was a university graduate and a musician who immigrated to Palestine from Russia in 1920. A man of great enterprise, he established the insurance fund of the agricultural settlements and also initiated an air company for spraying insecticides. In 1923 he married Sara (née Chen, b. Russia 1900, d. 1974), also a university graduate, who had immigrated from Charkow (Ukraine) in the same year as himself and whose work in agriculture on the kibbutz included managing the orchards. In addition to Mirali, the couple had two daughters: Nira (Chen), a musician, born in 1924, and Noa (Chaikin), who was born in 1926 and died in 2002.

From childhood on, Sharon participated, choreographing and dancing, in all the dance events that were customary on the kibbutz at the time, as part of the festival pageants that sought to give new expression to Jewish holidays. Sharon grew up on the prevalent belief that Israelis would be restricted if they did not create a culture and language of movement for themselves. She is connected to the movement for creating Israeli folk dances, which were choreographed by Rivka Sturman, like herself a member of Kibbutz En-Harod. Sharon was a member of the folk-dance delegation to the Jewish Youth Festival in Prague in 1947 and in Budapest in 1950.

At the beginning of the 1950s Sharon left the kibbutz and joined the Israel Ballet Theatre founded by Gertrude Kraus, where she danced in Talley Beatty’s “Fire in the Hills” (1952). At the same time, she studied with Tehilla Rössler, one of the important teachers of expressive dance (Ausdruckstanz), who was renowned for her method. She developed a special connection with Noa Eshkol, who invented the Eshkol-Wachman dance notation system. She was also a dancer in the Movement Quartet.

In 1953 Mirali married Uzi Sharon (b. 1928), a physicist specializing in laser technologies and missiles, who developed the first medical laser for general surgery, which bears his name—Sharplan—and is still the leading system worldwide. He also established a number of hi-tech companies in Israel, the United States and Australia. Their daughter Maya (Wolf) was born in 1969.

Soon after leaving En-Harod, Sharon opened her own dance studio and directed movement for performances by the Ohel Theater (1954), for Lorca’s Yerma at the Cameri Theater (1957) and for the Theater Quartet, Nissim Nativ’s Actors’ Studio, army groups and festivals on agricultural settlements.

In 1958 Sharon traveled to the United States. Unlike most Israeli women dancers, who went there to study with Martha Graham or at Juilliard, Sharon searched for tools to create her own language of movement and therefore studied with Alwin Nikolais, Murray Louis and Merce Cunningham. The Israel Consulate in New York sent her solo performance on tour throughout the United States and Canada. In 1963 she again went to the United States, where she appeared in the dance companies of Nikolais and Murray Louis. In 1967 she founded her own company, receiving excellent reviews.

Sharon returned to Israel in 1970, bringing with her the new ideas of avant-garde post-modern dance, but she discovered that Israel’s leading companies had no appropriate framework for her experimental work. Neither the Bat Sheva nor the Bat-Dor companies found her daringly anti-establishment ideas acceptable and, on the other hand, Israel had no “fringe” companies until 1977. Ultimately, however, the Bat Sheva and Bat-Dor companies, which did not normally welcome Israeli choreographers who had not been members, because they doubted their capabilities, allowed Sharon to work with them because of the favorable reviews she had brought back from abroad. For Bat Sheva, she choreographed Transitions (1971), Lyric Episodes (1972), Taltela (1973), Memories (1974) and Monodrama (1975). For Bat Dor, she choreographed Prisme (1976), He and She (1976), Leda (1978), Hymn to Jerusalem (1978), The Dreamer (1979) and Opus 5 (1981).

Leading Israeli avant-garde composers who wrote music for her include Zvi Avni, Joseph Tal, Mark Kopitman, Mordechai Seter and Yossi Mar Haim. David Sharir, Uzi Sharon, Yigal Tumarkin and Buki Schwartz created sets for her work.

In 1980 she founded the Mirali Sharon Dance Company, for which she created Phoenix (1980), Reflexion (1983), La Folie (1984) and Tehillot (1985). She also re-staged some of her earlier works.

In addition to performing in Israel, Sharon’s company appeared in the United States, Canada and at the Pompidou Center in Paris. Dancers of the first rank, including Rina Shenfeld, Ohad Naharin, Shelly Shir, Nira Paz, Yair Vardi, David Devir and the late David Rappaport appeared in her works.

Sharon also created movement for Habimah and other theater companies, as well as for the Israel Opera. Together with Yonatan Carmon and Rina Sharett, she founded the Israel Choreographers’ Association and was appointed its chairperson in 1983. Between 1980 and 1985 she represented Israel in the Conseil International de la Dance (CIDD). Sharon has for many years been a committee member of the Cultural Authority and has lectured and trained teachers. In 2002 she received an award for lifetime achievement from the Israel Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport.

Bibliography

Doudai, Naomi. “New Direction in Dance.” Ariel, thirtieth anniversary issue, March 1976; Dunning, Jennifer. “Mirali Sharon Troupe in US Debut.” New York Times, October 17, 1983; Eshel, Ruth. Dancing with the Dream: The Beginning of Artistic Dance in Israel, 1920–1964 (Hebrew with English summary). Tel Aviv: 1991; Mirali Sharon file, Israeli Dance Library at Beit Ariela, Tel Aviv; Kisselgoff, Anna. “Dance by Bat Sheva.” The New York Times, May 12, 1972; Idem. “Bat Dor and the Israeli World.” The New York Times, March 13, 1979; Marks, Marcia. “Mirali Sharon and Company.” Dance Magazine, March 3, 1968; McDonagh, Don. “At the Y: Mirali Sharon.” The New York Times, March 4, 1968; Sowden, Dora. “Biblical Ballet.” Jerusalem Post, March 6, 1978; Idem. “The Dreamer.” Jerusalem Post, May 25, 1979; Idem. “Triumphant Tour for Bat Dor.” Jerusalem Post, April 15, 1979; Idem. “Transformed Work.” Jerusalem Post, May 22, 1981; Idem. “Dance.” Jerusalem Post Magazine, July 22, 1983; Idem. “Mirali Sharon Dance Company.” Jerusalem Post, June 13, 1985; Idem. “Multiple Metaphors.” Jerusalem Post, September 16, 1983.

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Mirali Sharon belongs to the first generation of native Israeli choreographers, who sought to create contemporary dance with a uniquely Israeli character. She collaborated with her fellow artists in the music, literary, architectural and plastic arts to choreograph dances with a "vibrant Israeli quality shining through a tissue of otherwise contemporary influences."

Institution: Mirali Sharon, Tel Aviv

How to cite this page

Eshel, Ruth. "Mirali Sharon." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 26, 2014) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/sharon-mirali>.

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