Ze’eva Cohen, Dancer/Choreographer/Educator

Resident at Westbeth since 1970

The early 1970s were a turning point in my life, and moving to Westbeth with my former husband, Peter Ludwig, was central. My good luck struck twice. In addition to moving to my dream home to live among fellow artists in the bohemian West Village at a price we could afford, I was hired by Joe Papp, founder and artistic director of the Public Theater, to choreograph the play Mod Donna, a women’s lib musical that he was directing.

We lived on the ground floor in a studio apartment next to our neighbors, Bruce and Francia Tobacman Smith, as well as Jon D’Orazio, who are all still living at Westbeth. We were all young artists of different disciplines, and it has been a pleasure to witness how we have grown and developed as artists over the years.

I remember knocking on Bruce and Francia’s door after a few days at Westbeth to inquire if they were experiencing mice traversing their home, and what to do about it. The upshot was that Peter went to get the cat from his parents’ Brooklyn home. But when the cat saw the mice he went into hiding. Westbeth was still not fully inhabited, and there were a lot of half-built cavernous spaces, some of which became a refuge for wild parties.

One day, after an early performance of Westbeth dancers at the not-fully-constructed Cunningham Studio on the eleventh floor, I was approached by a volunteer lawyer for the arts. For over two years, he helped me incorporate and become a not-for-profit organization that made it possible to obtain grants from NYSCA and the NEA, without which my one-woman show of the 1970s and 1980s would not have been possible.

My long and satisfying career as a dance artist was thus launched.

Photo credit: Peter Ludwig

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