Marvin Casey (foreground), head choreographer for the Jewish Agency's
new hip hop troupe, Tribe 13, demonstrates the moves at auditions.
August 2, 2010 / 22 Av 5770
"Show us what you got, people!" Marvin Casey, the head choreographer of a soon-to-be launched hip hop dance troupe called Tribe 13 told the dozen of young olim (new immigrants) who had gathered at a studio in Jerusalem for auditions.
After demonstrating what looked like some pretty tricky moves set to a Justin Timberlake song, Casey helped them work out the kinks until they felt comfortable enough for the moment of truth – when they would perform the routine unassisted in front of a panel of judges, American Idol style. From this tryout and a few other auditions in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the judges will choose up to 16 dancers to form the final troupe.
"I want us to be Israel's new oleh dance group so when there is a city or cultural event they will bring us in to perform," said the troupe's organizer, Guy Seemann, 24. The troupe will perform for visiting groups like Masa Israel, Taglit-Birthright and others.
Tribe 13 is sponsored by the Jewish Agency.
But the ultimate goal for Tribe 13 is to give young olim a shared community to help them acclimate to their new country.
"I've been working with the Jewish Agency for couple years on how to improve the situation for new olim when they come to the country," said Seemann, who cited employment, social integration, and language as three of the major challenges facing new immigrants.
A dance troupe like Tribe 13, then, is the perfect vehicle for social integration and social absorption.
"A dance troupe like this is really an opening for even deeper conversations. Because dance makes people happy. Dance and music bring people together. So this troupe of olim can perform all over the country for all of the young people who are coming to Israel all the time. And after the performance is over there is the chance for the personal connections to take place: where people can share their stories and form friendships," said Mati Sharfstein, Director of Aliyah encouragement for the Jewish Agency's Department of Aliyah and Absorption.
Young olim audition for the new hip hop dance troupe sponsored by the Jewish Agency.
And since the troupe will work together with IDC Dancing, the official dance group of the Hertzelia InterDisciplinary Center, this means that native Israelis and new Israelis will be dancing together.
Seemann is himself an oleh. Born in Israel, he grew up in New Jersey and returned to Israel in 2008 on Masa Israel Government Fellows where he interned in the Prime Minister's press office. Currently, he is finishing up his army service and in the fall will begin his new job for the Government of Israel in international policy.
But hip hop has always been a passion of Seemann's. He was in a hip hop troupe in college on which he is basing Tribe 13. "I thought, if we want to help people integrate [in Israel] then why not create a new immigrant hip hop group to around to Taglit and Masa and other big events and say, 'Listen guys, you can make Aliyah. Look at all the support you are able to get and how many friends you can make,'" he said.
In fact, Seemann is dreaming larger than just one dance troupe. He envisions at least 50 chugim (hobby groups) to choose from when making Aliyah. "Then you'll instantly have a social group for meeting [other olim] and Israelis," he said.
But first he's starting with one.
"Right now we're taking it step by step. We're building the dance troupe, they will perform all over and then we'll see what comes next," said the Jewish Agency's Sharfstein.