Levi-Tannai, Sara

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LEVI-TANNAI, SARA

LEVI-TANNAI, SARA (1911–2005), choreographer and teacher. Levi-Tannai was born in Jerusalem to parents who emigrated from Yemen. She worked as a kindergarten teacher for 15 years, including six when she lived in kibbutz *Ein ha-Shofet, where she organized numerous shows and pageants for which she composed and adapted music. She then devoted her life to the promotion of choreography in Israel and especially to Yemenite folklore in song and dance. In 1949 she founded the *Inbal Dance Theater, for which she recruited young dancers originating in Yemen. With this group, she created some 40 different shows, the best known of which were "Yemenite Wedding," "Shabbat Shalom," "The Story of Ruth," "Song of Deborah," "Desert," and "David's Psalm." In 1951, after seeing her works, Jerome *Robbins recommended her to the *America-Israel Cultural Foundation. This enabled her to rent a spacious studio in Tel Aviv and work in a more professional way. Thus, Inbal became the country's first institutional dance company. Later, Anna *Sokolow was brought in to work on technique with the dancers.

Inbal toured extensively in Europe and the U.S., and was highly praised. In 1963, Levi-Tannai was nominated the best choreographer of the year by the Théatre des Nations in Paris. But if she was well regarded abroad she was criticized in Israel for being an imitator and for sacrificing "folkloristic" character to a more "professional/artistic" approach.

Levi-Tannai's works were mainly based on Jewish and biblical folklore, particularly the traditions of the Yemenite community. For her works, typical costumes and music, a new movement language, and a large repertoire were created. Inbal developed its own unique style blending ancient and modern with a theatrical approach. This "Inbalic school" strives to combine movement resources from all of the Jewish Diaspora, as well as the Middle East region, with modern techniques and approaches. As a composer, Levi-Tannai was regarded as one of the founders of a new and original Israeli style of music. She was awarded the Israel Prize in arts in 1973.

add. bibliography:

ied, vol. 4, 155–156.

[Bina Shiloah (2nd ed.)]

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