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Holocaust Dances: Holocaust Representation in Contemporary Dance
Rebecca Rossen, University of Texas, Austin

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Dancing Testimony, Choreographing Survival Representing Holocaust History and Testimony in Contemporary Dance (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Dancing Testimony, Choreographing Survival Representing Holocaust History and Testimony in Contemporary Dance
Author: Rebecca Rossen
Abstract: In 2005 Ballet Austin premiered a contemporary ballet choreographed by artistic director Stephen Mills based on the life of Holocaust survivor Naomi Warren. The ballet premiered a couple of weeks before the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, which Warren survived along with Auschwitz-Birkenau and Ravensbrück. Since then, the ballet has been performed across the US as well as in Italy, Slovenia, and Israel; it has won numerous awards, including one from the Anti-Defamation league; and is the subject of three documentaries. All of this exposure sheds a light on how Warren’s testimony inspired Mills to make the piece [SLIDE], and, more importantly, how he used “dance as a convener of conversation around issues related to the protection of human rights against bigotry and hate.” In this paper, I will focus on Mills’s project to make the case for testimony dance as a vital approach to Holocaust representation and memory work. Light/The Holocaust and Humanity Project utilized testimony to mobilize Holocaust history, creating visceral connections between past and present in the interest of engaging and activating audiences.
Date: 06/22/2020
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Link to the conference program
Conference Name: American Jewish Historical Society Scholars Conference

"Dancing Testimony/Choreographing Survival" (Book Section)
Title: "Dancing Testimony/Choreographing Survival"
Author: Rebecca Rossen
Editor: N/A
Abstract: I wrote a chapter from my book in progress. This chapter focuses on three full-evening pieces that engage with the testimony of specific Jewish, female survivors: Joseph Mills and Ballet Austin’s Light: The Holocaust and Humanity Project (2005), based on the life of Naomi Warren (1920–2016), a Polish Jew who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau, Ravensbruck, and Bergen-Belsen; Bill T. Jones and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s Analogy: Dora/Tramontane (2015), set to the oral history he conducted with Dora Werzberg Amelan (1920–2020), a French Jew of Polish descent who survived the war working for the Jewish underground in French transit camps; and Szabo and The Symptom’s Sea Lavender and the Euphoria of Being (2016), which provided Fahidi (b. 1925), a Hungarian-Jewish survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Allendorf (Buchenwald), with a platform to tell her own story. Notably, none of these choreographers are Jewish, but staging testimony required each of them to delve deeply into their subjects’ histories while thinking carefully about what they, their art, and their companies could do with and for these stories. Light/The Holocaust and Humanity Project, Analogy: Dora/Tramontane, and Sea Lavender and the Euphoria of Being are unique in their use of dance as a forum for responding to and conveying witness testimony, delving into the depths of each survivor’s trauma, while at the same time, underscoring the complexities (hope, ambivalence, responsibility) that comes with continuing to live. Each work had disparate goals, utilized their source materials differently, and are aesthetically and choreographically distinct. However, all three are examples of what I term testimony dance, dance performances that are based on the oral histories of survivors and utilize a variety of corporeal, visual, choreographic, sonic, and textual means to mobilize testimony, memory, and history.
Year: 2020
Publisher: N/A
Book Title: Holocaust Dances: Representations of the Holocaust in Contemporary Dance (in progress)