Dancer and choreographer Ella Ben-Aharon, a Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist at Kennesaw State University in Ga. Dancer and choreographer Ella Ben-Aharon, a Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist at Kennesaw State University in Ga. Dancer and choreographer Ella Ben-Aharon, a Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist at Kennesaw State University in Ga. (Photo: Gadi Dagon)

Get to know 8 artists bringing their talents to U.S. universities

These multimedia maestros are teaching and performing at a school near year you this fall.

Visiting artists’ residencies and exchanges are a long-held tradition among the world’s colleges to enrich the education of both students and faculty. This year, more than a dozen Israeli artists will participate in residencies at universities across the United States thanks to an initiative of the Washington, D.C.-based Israel Institute.

The Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artists Program was founded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation in 2008 to encourage interactions between artists and their communities. In the past eight years the program has sponsored 78 residencies at 68 academic institutions in North America.

The participating artists, including filmmakers, dancers, choreographers and an experimental poet – nearly all of whom specialize in a multimedia discipline – will spend up to a semester at their host university, during which they’ll teach and present their work to audiences in a variety of formal and informal settings.

“Cultural education provides insights into the fabric of a society in the way that other courses cannot, and the understanding of students enrolled in these classes is deeper and more enriched as a result,” said Ariel Roth, executive director of the Israel Institute.

Below, get to know eight of the artists participating in the program this year:

Ilan Volkov / Orchestral Conductor / Columbia University

Ilan Volkov has conducted some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Paris. He’s also the founder of the annual three-day contemporary music festival Tectonics.

“I’d love to do a new large-scale opera or a vocal piece that blends lots of genres, such as folk music, improvised and electronic music, and which uses a brand new text," Volkov told the Guardian. "Something that would also use multimedia, professional and non-professional artists so that it’s community-based as well. And to be staged somewhere that makes an innovative use of space."

Perhaps Volkov can choose from these jaw-dropping music venues or outdoor opera spaces.


Ella Ben-Aharon / Dancer / Kennesaw State University

Internationally acclaimed contemporary dancer Ella Ben-Aharon began her career with a dance troupe in Israel. Since then she’s added a BFA in Dance from the California Institute of the Arts and an MFA in Choreography from Jacksonville University to her resume, and has taught at UC Berkeley, the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem and the school of the New York City Ballet among others. That's a dancer with a lot of stamina.

Ben-Aharon has a particular interest in multidisciplinary collaboration and has worked with architect Matthias Neumann and video artist Adi Shniderman on several projects. She is currently based in Tel Aviv where she creates and performs.

As for her residency in America, she said: "I think it's always an opportunity to leave the bubble that we're used to living in and have an outside perspective. So first and foremost, I'm always appreciative of that opportunity."


Eran Hadas / Experimental Poet / California Institute of Technology

Eran Hadas bills himself as a “programmer, poet and new media artist.” Hailing from Tel Aviv, he builds computer-based poetry generators for the Internet, which use automated algorithms that allow people to create poems. He's also created software that can turn any sentence into teenage slang. "My goal as a creator with artistic intentions, is not to write software that is exactly like a human, but rather to do other things," he said.

Hadas has also published several books of poetry and hosted a weekly live radio show in Israel called New Media Salon. His work has been exhibited and read all over the world, including at the 2015 Venice Biennale and the Ars Electronica Festival in Austria.


Roee Ben Sira / Musician / Florida State University

Pianist and composer Roee Ben Sira was trained in both classical and jazz, but he specializes in Brazilian choro music. (Not sure what a choro is? Check out our profile of fellow Israeli musician Anat Cohen, whose current passion is none other than the choro.)

His eponymous album "Ben Sira" was hailed as one of the 10 best albums of the year when it was released in Israel in 2015. While at Florida State University, he’ll participate in the Rainbow Concert of World Music in the spring of 2017.


Dana Ivgy / Actress / San Diego State University

Dana Ivgy is the daughter of acclaimed Israeli actor Moshe Ivgy, but she’s earned plenty of kudos on her own merit. She won her second Best Actress award from the Israel Film Academy for her most recent film "Zero Motivation," which also won Best Narrative Feature and the Nora Ephron Prize at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.

In addition to making movies, Ivgy is a writer and director, as well as a founding member and artistic director of the Israeli stage comedy troupe Tziporela. The group made its off-Broadway debut with a show called Odd Birdz. “I’ve been with Tziporela for 10 years,” performing at least twice a week “doing very stupid things,” she told Variety.


Daniel Landau / Music Composition / UCLA

Daniel Landau’s work exists at the crossroads of art, technology and science. His particular interest is exploring the complex relationship between the body and technology. His work has appeared throughout the world including in Jerusalem, New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and Mexico City.

He was trained at the Royal Conservatory in The Netherlands in music composition and new media. He has been a member of the faculty at two Israeli institutions – at Beit Berl Academic College and at the Interdisciplinary Center. He is also the co-founder of OH-MAN, OH-MACHINE, a series of workshops and conferences exploring art, the body and technology.


Nitzan Gilady / Filmmaker / Emory University

Nitzan Gilady is the director of the award-winning feature film "Wedding Doll." The movie has been screened at film festivals around the world and is now playing in several U.S. cities.

Gilady has also made several documentaries on a variety subjects, including Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade and the career of Mili Avital, one of Israeli's most highly regarded actresses. To date, Gilady has earned 13 international awards for his work which have been broadcast all over the world, including on the Sundance Channel.


Ella Rothschild / Dancer and Choreographer / Howard University

Ella Rothschild began her dance and choreography career with Ohad Naharin’s famed Batsheva Dance Company and with the Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollack Dance Company, and she’s collaborated with musicians, visual artists, puppeteers and video artists as both a performer and creator. “I write, I sing, I sculpt and I dance, and whenever I work on a creation, all those disciplines have a crucial part in the creative process so that, eventually, they are all part of the final outcome,” she said.

Her latest project, "12 Postdated Checks," will be performed by Howard University students at venues across New England this fall.

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