"Dancing Auschwitz" Elicits Mixed Response

Published: July 15th 2010
in Culture » Art

Still from Dancing Auschwitz video installation.

Australia-based artist Jane Korman has always been a fan of informal group dance videos. It was this, coupled with her family’s “Roots” trip to Poland and the Czech Republic that motivated her decidedly controversial installation piece-turned-Youtube sensation, I Will Survive: Dancing Auschwitz.


“The idea of three generations (signifying the past, the present and the future) dancing to a song representing ‘survival’ flashed through my mind,” Korman tells Shalom Life in an email interview. “Then I found the song ‘I Will Survive,’ so we practiced some simple dance steps. As an artist, I also wanted to convey my thoughts and concerns in a way that would ‘wake-up’ my audience.”


The video features Korman, her Holocaust survivor father Adolek Kohn and her two children dancing to Gloria Gaynor’s “I will Survive” at the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum, along with various other Holocaust locations.


According to Korman, it was easy to assemble her family for the project.


“When I explained to my father that I wanted the family to dance at all the concentration camps and Holocaust memorials that we were to visit - he immediately grasped the idea, and was supportive and cooperative,” explains Korman. “He thought it was an excellent idea to dance as an expression of survival and freedom, after the horror he went through, especially together with his daughter and grandchildren. In response to the video, he and my mother said ‘We came from the ashes, now we dance!’”


This message, though refreshing to many, has not gone without protest.


“Some of the Jewish community thinks it is disrespectful to dance on the graveyard of the murdered victims,” says Korman. “But I knew that I had to create this spirited work to convey an important message. I wanted to create a new response and a fresh interpretation of the Holocaust and its historical trauma.  I felt that people, especially the younger generation, were becoming desensitized and numb to the story of the Holocaust and the images that represent it. I needed to create artwork that succeeded in awaking people and reminding them of the important lessons the Holocaust teaches us.”


And succeeded it has, if the yardstick for success is feedback, regardless of the sentiment. Indeed, many would argue that the job of an artist is precisely this: to provoke a response.


“The feedback has been massive from everyone. I never thought I would receive so much support as well as so much criticism,” says Korman. “We tried to perform at quieter places where there were fewer tourists, so as not to offend anybody. But when tourists did see us dance, while wearing out t-shirts, they were enthusiastic and wanted to take photos or video us. (One man from the USA said that it renewed his faith in mankind to see my father, a Holocaust survivor, dance in front of the Jewish memorial at Dachau.)”


And simply the spectrum of feedback has been overwhelming, says Korman, “full of either hate or love.”


Related articles: (Auschwitz, Jane Korman, Holocaust, survivor, )

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