Ruth Eshel

Dr. Ruth Eshel has a rich background in performance and research in dance. She danced and choreographed many multi‐disciplinary solo recitals (1977‐1987) and received her Ph.D. from Tel Aviv University’s Theatre Department; her dissertation was entitled “Movement-Theatre in Israel 1976-1991.” Eshel has been a field researcher for the Israel Dance Archive at Beit Ariella (1991‐1995) and a lecturer on the history of dance and dance in Israel at Haifa University (1991‐2005). She went on to research the dance of Ethiopian Jews and established the contemporary Ethiopian dance troupes Eskesta (at the University of Haifa, 1995-2010) and Beta (2010 - 2015). Her film Shoulder Dancing, about her life project with the Ethiopians, opened the Addis Ababa International film festival in 2015. She was co‐editor of Israel Dance Quarterly (1993‐1998), the founding editor of Mahol Akhshav (Dance Today) – The Dance Magazine of Israel (2000-present), and dance critic for Ha'aretz Daily (1991-2017). Her website “Israel Dance Diaries” includes all articles in Israel Dance Annual, Israel Dance Quarterly, and Mahol Akhshav. Eshel is the author of Dancing with the Dream- The Development of Artistic Dance in Israel 1920-1964 (1991) and Dance Spreads its Wings – Israeli Concert Dance 1920‐2000 (2016). She received the Minister of Culture's () and the Israel Artists Organization Lifetime Achievement Award in Artistic Dance. After 40 years she returned to performance at the age of 76 to dance her solo Cloak of Stones.

Articles by this author

Ruth Ziv-Ayal

Ruth Ziv-Ayal (Sprung), a director and choreographer, is one of the most significant figures in Israeli movement theater. She was the first to choreograph in this style, beginning in the first half of the 1970s.

Berta Yampolsky

Berta Yampolsky's story is the story of the Israel Ballet, which began from nothing in a country where modern dance ruled. She was the Ballet's founder and now serves as its artistic director.

Mirali Sharon

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.

Rina Schenfeld

Rina Schenfeld has choreographed solo and company performances that have been presented on the world’s most important stages. She uses the objects of daily life for her props, tests the limits of their usefulness and creates a poetic world with them.

Bethsabée Rothschild

Baroness Bethsabée (Hebrew: Batsheva) de Rothschild, scion of a well-known philanthropic family, was a modest and generous woman with a mighty vision. The foundations she established helped support numerous activities in the United States and Israel, especially dance, music and science.

Oshra Elkayam-Ronen

Oshra Elkayam-Ronen, who belongs to the pioneer generation of Israeli movement theater, is one of the important Israeli choreographers in this style. One can discern two main theoretical topics in her work: questions about the nature of life, and the relationship between men and women. She maintains that she feels like a human being who has been cast into the world, searching for a place to hold on to. She sees life as a paradox but at the same time has a drive to create, ambition to realize herself, “to climb on the ladders”—all of which require incessant pursuit. “The only permanent element that cannot be stopped,” she maintains, “is time, which acts like a local train going through a series of life stations that lead in the end to an unattained goal.” Her work appears as if it were immersed in a pool of fantasy, humor and optimism.

Dance in the Yishuv and Israel

Until 1920, dance—like other artistic activities—was virtually nonexistent in Palestine, then a neglected province of the Ottoman Empire. The Bezalel Academy of Art and Design (founded in 1906) operated in Jerusalem, while Tel Aviv had two modest music conservatories, Shulamit (founded in 1910) and Beit Ha-Levi’im (founded in 1914). Attempts were also made to set up small symphony orchestras and amateur theater, but these soon folded. There were no dance or drama schools or even auditoriums. Under the more liberal administration of the Mandate for Palestine given to Great Britain by the League of Nations in April 1920 to administer Palestine and establish a national home for the Jewish people. It was terminated with the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.British Mandate which went into effect in 1920, waves of immigration increased until, by the middle of the 1920s, the Jewish population reached about ninety thousand. (There were 83,790 Jews in Palestine according to the first British census in 1922). The character of immigration also changed: while previously most of the immigrants had been young idealists who arrived as individuals, most of those who arrived during the third Lit. "ascent." A "calling up" to the Torah during its reading in the synagogue.aliyah (1919–1923) were entire families, primarily from eastern Europe. They increased the population in urban settlements, built on the sands of Tel Aviv, and gave momentum to the development of the arts, particularly dance.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ruth Eshel." (Viewed on July 8, 2020) <>.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox