Aviv Dancers Bring Song and Dance to Edmonton

Published: March 26th 2010

Aviv Dancers in action
Pic: Courtesy of Maureen Belej
All performers on stage including singer Sean Sonego
Pic: Courtesy of Maureen Belej
Sari Uretsky-Leung Choreographer and dancer for the Aviv Dancers.
Pic: Courtesy of Maureen Belej

To help kick off the spring season, Edmonton’s Israeli folk dance group, the Aviv Dancers, partnered with local singer Sean Sonego to present an afternoon fundraising event of music and dance. Shalom Life took in the lively Ruach Aviv event (Hebrew for “Spirit of Spring”), held on March 21, 2010 at the TransAlta Arts Barns’ Westbury Theatre, and talked with some of the performers and volunteers. The event was a joint fundraiser for Na’amat Canada Edmonton and the Aviv Dancers.


Na’amat Canada Edmonton is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of women, children and families in Canada and Israel. Founded in 1925, Na’amat is known for helping to start up the Kanot Agricultural High School in Israel in 1952.


“This fundraiser will benefit many at-risk teenagers who attend Kanot,” Darlene Bushewsky, President of Na’amat Canada Edmonton told Shalom Life. “Three-hundred youth attend Kanot, of which 200 live in residence. Many of these teens don’t fit into the regular school system and might otherwise fall between the cracks, ultimately ending up on the street, on drugs, or living a life of crime.”


Bushewsky added that “the other half of the funds will go towards our local Aviv Dancers. The money raised will help with travel costs, new costumes and the expense of attending different festivals throughout the year. It will help the Aviv Dancers to fulfill their mission to be part of the cultural mosaic in Edmonton and spread the message of peace.”


The dance group has performed at a number of local events and festivals, including during Heritage Days, Canada Day, and Family Day. However, they are gaining recognition and would like to expand their horizons to perform for more national and international audiences. For example, in May 2010, the youth dancers will be performing in Vancouver at the Festival Ha’rikud. They have also been invited to dance in Mexico and are hoping to go to the Karmiel Dance Festival in Israel.


The Aviv Dancers, started up in 2006 by choreographer and dancer Sari Uretsky-Leung, includes a group of 20 volunteers that meet on a weekly basis to rehearse.


“They work so hard and they love dancing,” said Uretsky-Leung. “They love having an outlet to express their passion for the Jewish community and culture. The dancers feel this is our contribution to our community.” There is no age limit for dancers, and the group has recently added an intermediate category, for dancers aged 11-15.


Uretsky-Leung is experienced in a variety of dance styles, including jazz, tap, ballet and of course, Israeli folk dance. As she explained, “My aunt runs an Israeli dance studio in Vancouver. I started dancing for her group, and once I choreographed some pieces, that is where my love of Israeli dance was born. In my hometown of Edmonton, there was no representation of the Jewish community in dance or arts events, so I moved back and started up the Aviv Dancers.”


Related articles: (Aviv Dancers, Israeli folk dancing, Edmonton Jewish community)
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