“Neshamah”. The Hebrew word was first memorably used in Genesis 2.7 of the bible, closely translating to a “breath of life, divinity and spirit. Neshamah is also the name and foundation of a newly founded New York based Dance Company created by Artistic Director Hannah Cohen.
Neshamah consists of six dancers including Brianna Dixon, Ricky Wenthen, Steph Grover, Caitlin Sheppard, Tyler Cutler and Cohen herself. Cohen, a soon to be graduate at Hofstra University, officially introduced the Company early this month during her senior practicum dance showcase titled “Introducing Neshamah”. What sets Neshamah apart from most Dance Companies is Cohen’s ability to highlight each dancer’s natural abilities and relationship to dance. Much of Cohen’s choreography is rooted in modern dance and is stylistically considered conceptualism, where concepts and ideas one deals with is created through movement. Cohen recently choreographed a conceptualist piece called “Hayah”, meaning “to be” in Hebrew. She choreographed two dancers equally opposite of each other when they were in contact. However, when they were apart the male dancer would move in such a way to represent love while the female dancer would represent fear. She also incorporated elements of the “Ying and Yang” image. For Cohen, this idea of being or existing essentially is a constant battle of choices made through either fear or love. “People’s motivations and actions are based on the spectrum of fear and love” Cohen says. Cohen collaborates with musician Jordan Chiolis for her pieces. The music is created around the dance rather than the other way around. Cohen first choreographs the dance to a different piece of music to form a structure then once it is choreographed Chiolis creates music based on the dance, which is unique from dance that is choreographed to the music. “It’s great because you’re choreography is not restricted to [pre-recorded] music”, Cohen says.
Cohen had the idea of starting her own company as long as she could remember. Although she has had no formal training, she always danced as a hobby since childhood, even participating in her high school dance team, practicing every dance style from “crumping” to “hip hop” to “modern”. Her passion for dance accelerated due to its ability to express emotion through the body. Many of the dancers she danced with in high school suffered from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. This violence took their control away from their bodies. Being able to express themselves though dance, Cohen says, reconnected them back into their bodies.
Naming her Company came very organically. Cohen, who considers herself very spiritual, was studying the bible when she first stumbled across the word and instantly connected to its meaning. “I fell in love with its reference to a soul associated with breath, and it’s a feminine noun, which is cool cause I’m a chick.”
As for the future, Cohen hopes to make Neshamah successful enough to make a career out of. The Company has been auditioning and waiting to hear back from various festivals in the New York area, but she is not worried. “I don’t care about making money. I am doing this to validate movement as a language” she says. Cohen was also recently accepted into New York University’s performance studies masters program and plans to attend in the Fall. Under their program she hopes to continue creating and broadening her horizons of dance. And so far it looks like she off to a great start.
For more information and updates on Neshamah visit their website: http://neshamahdance.wix.com/neshamah#!dancers/c164h