Agadati (Kaushanski), Baruch

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AGADATI (Kaushanski), BARUCH

AGADATI (Kaushanski), BARUCH (1895–1975), dancer, visual artist, filmmaker, and cultural animateur. Agadati was born in Bessarabia (Russia). As a teenager, he arrived in Jerusalem and enrolled in the Bezalel Academy for Fine Arts, founded and run by the sculptor Boris *Shatz. He was then one of many students from abroad (mainly Russia) who enrolled before World War i in Bezalel or in the Herzliyyah Gymnasium in Tel Aviv. In the summer of 1914 when wwi broke out, Agadati was visiting his parents abroad and could not return for the next term.

In Odessa he studied visual arts as well as ballet. At the age of 18 he became soloist of the ballet company of the municipal theater there. He was interested in Jewish culture and prepared a series of cartoon portraits of types of men of the shtetl which he performed with great success.

Agadati returned to Ereẓ Israel in 1919. After a few months he began to perform what he called concerts, dancing solos with the accompaniment of a piano. He was deeply influenced by the "constructivist" abstract painting style prevalent in Russia at the time, making his movements slow but powerful, sculptural, and cubistic, and designing his own costumes in abstract forms. He soon added new "portraits in movement" to his shtetl characters, such as an effeminate Arab dandy from Jaffe and a Yemenite agricultural worker from Petaḥ Tikvah.

In the mid-1920s he published a book on "The Hebrew Dance," calligraphically handwritten in a limited edition of only 100 copies, with many photos and illustrations. He also began organizing Purim balls, which developed into the Tel Aviv *Adloyada – a procession of floats and much dancing.

Every year Agadati would tour in Europe, to great critical acclaim. His attitude to the musical accompaniment was radically new: sometimes he would let his accompanist play the music and only after the end of the music would he dance in silence – to the music he had just heard. In 1929 he decided to go a step further and composed a dance to be performed in total silence – an approach used many decades later by Jerome *Robbins (in Moves) and Merce Cunningham. In 1929, however, the audience was unprepared for such a radical experimental approach and after Agadati finished the performance there was no applause. Agadati felt he had lost contact with his audience and decided to stop dancing altogether.

He turned to films and directed and produced (with others) the first Hebrew-speaking movie. He also returned to painting. His wooden shack in Tel Aviv became the unofficial center of modernist artists active in Ereẓ Israel in the 1930s and 1940s. "Agadati's Shack" was later torn down by small-minded municipal officials.


G. Manor, Agadati – The Pioneer of Modern Dance in Israel (1986).

[Giora Manor (2nd ed.)]