Dancing Dual Diasporas: Jewishness and Blackness in Dege Feder's Ethiopian Contemporary

What does it mean to find home in the body? Ethiopian-Israeli multimedia artist Dege Feder embodies Jewish and African diasporas in her dances about women’s kinship, refugees, and collective power. As the artistic director of Beta Dance Company in Haifa, Israel, Feder grounds her work in Ethiopian eskesta dancing driven by Israeli contemporary dance compositional devices. Her work’s blended aesthetics display bodily evidence of Jewish diasporic cultures that reflect her migration history from Ethiopia to Israel and between Jewish and African diasporic spheres. In this talk, Kosstrin shows how dancing dual diasporas like this generates corporeal potential for belonging for practitioners who do not feel fully at home in one location or another based on their competing experiences of peoplehood and exile in both places. Reception to Feder’s tours to the United States, moreover, first as a performer in Ruth Eshel’s Eskesta Dance Theater, and then as an independent choreographer, show the divergent ways hybrid American audiences perceive Israel through the work of choreographers in Jewish cultural minorities. Kosstrin argues that the eskesta logic qua Israeli-contemporary compositional vehicles of Feder’s work trace Jewish migrations from East Africa through the Middle East. Feder’s work thus offers a case study for understanding global Jewry that remaps circulations of global Black arts outside of transatlantic histories. 

Dr. Hannah Kosstrin is a dance historian and movement analyst. She researches Jewish and Israeli dance in global contexts. At The Ohio State University, she is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Dance, and affiliate faculty with the Melton Center for Jewish Studies and the Center for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Her book "Honest Bodies: Revolutionary Modernism in the Dances of Anna Sokolow" won Finalist for the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award from the Association for Jewish Studies.