Ze’eva Cohen, Dancer/Choreographer/Educator

Resident at Westbeth since 1970

My daughter Keren was born in May 1974, four years after we moved to Westbeth. Now that I was a mother, the question of how to find motivation to acquire new repertory and fulfill contracts for touring became a source of trepidation. Whether I should accept the invitation to perform at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park only three months after giving birth, when my body was biologically still making adjustments, was one such question.

Interacting with two artists living at Westbeth saved the day.

Rudy Perez, a postmodern dance choreographer of note, lived on the fifth floor. I approached Rudy, shortly before Keren was born, with a request to learn his signature male solo Countdown. In performance of that piece, I was dressed in black, never moving from one spot, rising up and down from a stool at center stage, smoking a cigarette and marking my cheeks with thick painted black stripes. It was all done in super slow motion without displaying a bit of emotion, and it used to make some people cry. Armed with the nonaerobic Countdown and Anna Sokolow’s Escape (from Rooms), a solo I performed many times, I accepted the invitation to perform at the Delacorte Theater in fall 1974.

After a decade of touring with my one-woman show, I was looking to find a person to assist me with keeping the performance of my large solo repertory fresh and relevant. I needed an outside eye. I found the right person in Ellen Marshall, who also lived at Westbeth. Our first chance meeting took place in the laundry room. During our long discussion that evening, I learned of Ellen’s work with Erick Hawkins’s company and her deep involvement with dance improvisation and several somatic practices.

We rehearsed at the Nancy Meehan Dance Studio on the twelfth floor. After a few rehearsals, it became clear that Ellen’s honest and sensitive feedback was just right. We kept working together for a couple of years until I was ready to conclude the solo career and shift focus to my work as a choreographer.

Photo credit: Peter Ludwig

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