From her debut at age nine through her performances in her late seventies and teaching into her late eighties, Deborah Bertonoff made dance her life’s work. The daughter of Moscow Habimah Theater star Yehoshua and actress Miriam Bertonoff, Deborah Bertonoff began studying at the elite Bolshoi School of Ballet in 1923. The family moved to Israel in 1928 and together joined the Habimah Theater there, becoming pioneers of Israeli dance. In 1929 she began studying modern and Balinese dance in Berlin, paying for her stay by dancing for Albert Einstein and other wealthy Berliners. She also studied in England from 1934–1939 and won first prize at the Paris International Dance Competition in 1936. Beginning in 1926 Bertonoff began choreographing her own work, incorporating Balinese, African and modern dance with elements like mime, while continuing to perform well-known pieces like “The Beggar’s Dance” from The Dybbuk, a perennial favorite. Although she retired from the stage in 1970 she returned in 1985 with a new version of “Beggar’s Dance” and film roles such as 1992’s Amazing Grace. Along with her dancing and choreography, Bertonoff founded her own dance studio in 1944, training children and professional dancers alike. She was honored in 1991 with the Israel Prize.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Deborah Bertonoff." (Viewed on January 16, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/bertonoff-deborah>.