Rena Gluck, dancer who introduced trendy repertoire to Israel, dies at 89

In the mid-Fifties, a Juilliard-trained dancer who had studied with the famed choreographer Martha Graham was placing the ending touches on a small troupe in her new house, Israel.

Rena Gluck’s firm visited theaters, village squares and kibbutz collective farms with trendy dance performances constructed round Graham’s percussive and muscular methods of kind and movement. The circumstances may very well be uncommon, reminiscent of kibbutz tables lashed collectively as a makeshift stage after the night meal.

“We were … always knowing what they had for dinner,” mentioned one of many dancers with Ms. Gluck, Ze’eva Cohen.

For Israeli audiences, nevertheless, the performances have been the beginnings of an inventive shift. Israel had a deep affinity for dance — on the time largely linked to European folks and expressive traditions — however was nonetheless searching for its personal cultural vernacular. Ms. Gluck, who died Jan. 13 at her house in Tel Aviv at 89, helped introduce trendy dance to Israel and construct the foundations for the nation to develop into a world middle for modern and experimental choreography and efficiency.

Part of Ms. Gluck’s legacy is Tel Aviv’s Batsheva Dance Company, the place she was a founding member because it grew to become one of many nation’s flagship troupes. Ms. Gluck additionally mentored generations of outstanding dancers together with Cohen, a famend performer and choreographer, and Ohad Naharin, the creator of an improvisational dance style referred to as Gaga that’s now taught in studios around the globe.

“My first challenge was finding dancers and a place to train and rehearse,” Ms. Gluck wrote about her years after emigrating to Israel in 1954 as a newlywed together with her husband, Moshe Murvitz, a violinist who went on to develop into concertmaster of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

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A defining second got here when Ms. Gluck helped persuade Graham and her firm to make a go to to Israel in 1956.

“It totally changed our perspective,” Cohen mentioned throughout a 2013 tribute to Ms. Gluck. “The dancers were so professional that the Israelis were shocked. They decided that a change must occur because we have to catch up. It’s time to be part of contemporary dance.”

Ms. Gluck and one other former Graham pupil who moved to Israel, Rina Shaham, grew to become sought-after academics of Graham’s type of emphasizing energy and precision.

Gradually, Ms. Gluck melded her personal parts, usually impressed by musical scores. “Uprooted,” among the many first of her works carried out in Israel, was constructed round “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5,” (1938) a part of a sequence of suites by Heitor Villa-Lobos as an homage to the music of his native Brazil and the works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

“This dance expresses the loneliness felt by a newcomer to a foreign land and it was created two years before I had thought about immigrating to Israel,” Ms. Gluck wrote in a 2014 publication for the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance.

But Ms. Gluck was additionally making influential connections in her new nation. Baroness Bethsabée de Rothschild, an heiress to the Rothschild banking fortune and benefactor of Israeli arts, took Ms. Gluck underneath her wing. She upgraded Ms. Gluck’s Tel Aviv studio with a picket flooring, a coveted commodity in Fifties Israel.

Rothschild established Batsheva (the baroness’s first title in Hebrew) in 1964, naming Graham as its preliminary creative adviser. Rothschild later mentioned Ms. Gluck was an inspiration for beginning the corporate.

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Ms. Gluck carried out and directed at Batsheva for 16 years, taking main roles in reinterpreting items that Graham had debuted within the Nineteen Forties together with “Herodiade,” primarily based on a piece by French poet Stéphane Mallarmé; “Cave of the Heart,” impressed by the Euripides drama “Medea”; and the ballet “Diversion of Angels.” In 1974, Graham created the dance “Jacob’s Dream” for Batsheva’s tenth anniversary.

As a choreographer, Ms. Gluck created items that have been carried out in Israel, the United States and Europe, together with “Let the Stranger Come Amongst Us” (1956), with music by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók; and “Women in a Tent” (1966), impressed by baroque music.

“Batsheva had inexperienced but enthusiastic dancers who were fearless and beautiful,” wrote Judith Brin Ingber, an Israeli choreographer and dance historian. “They had already danced on the kibbutz and had served in the army. They had courage.”

Rena Joan Gluck was born on Jan. 14, 1933, alongside together with her twin brother, Milton, in New York to folks who spoke a mixture of Yiddish and Russian at house.

Ms. Gluck was urged to take up dancing at an early age to beat power well being points. A childhood dance instructor, Blanche Evan, advised her college students to translate their feelings into motion.

“We created dances based on the events that we read about in the newspaper, heard about on the radio and in conversations: concentration camps, the Gestapo, coal mine disasters and the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Ms. Gluck recalled. “These were some of the themes of our dances.”

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She graduated from New York’s High School of Performing Arts. After a yr at Hunter College, she joined the primary class within the dance program at Juilliard.

At Batsheva, she had roles together with assistant director and rehearsal director and based the troupe’s junior ensemble in 1976. She left the corporate in 1980, and later led the dance college on the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, together with different roles on the college, till 1997.

Ms. Gluck’s marriage to Murvitz resulted in divorce. Survivors embrace two daughters and 5 grandchildren. A nephew, Andrew Gluck, mentioned Ms. Gluck died of problems from pneumonia. Ms. Gluck’s twin brother died the identical day of the identical trigger.

Ruth Eshel, an Israeli author and dance critic, described Ms. Gluck as a part of a wave of artists and intellectuals that helped reshape Israeli tradition after statehood in 1948.

“The idea [was] that people should spurn the cultural characteristics of the individual Jewish ethnic communities from which they came,” Eshel wrote, “and instead create from this variety of cultures and styles one single core style that would be ‘Israeli.’”

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