Incorporating biblical themes and Sephardic music into her dances, Yardena Cohen helped create a uniquely Israeli artistic culture. Cohen joined the youth group Mahanot ha-Olim while studying at the Herzlia Hebrew Gymnasia in Tel Aviv and helped found Kibbutz Bet ha-Shittah with them before a fellow kibbutznik, American-born Shemaryah Tzameret, gave her the funds to study dance formally in Vienna in 1930. She returned to Palestine in 1933, opened her own dance studio in Haifa, and taught dance in elementary schools while choreographing performance pieces for herself. Her dances rejected formal European traditions and incorporated biblical themes, Middle Eastern costumes, and Sephardic music. In 1937 she won first prize in the National Dance Contest in Tel Aviv. She created two important pieces for kibbutzim, one celebrating first fruits and another celebrating water, both of which incorporated biblical stories and local history. In 1944 a group performed and taught Cohen’s dances at the Daliyyah Folk Dance Festival despite her protests, insisting that what she had created was not just artistic performance but an important piece of popular culture. She continued to teach well into her nineties, and in 2010 was awarded the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Yardena Cohen." (Viewed on December 11, 2017) <https://jwa.org/people/cohen-yardena>.