The Jerusalem dance arts center: A professional school for classical ballet and modern dance
The Jerusalem Dance Arts Center was founded in 2006 and established as a not for profit organization in 2009 to promote professional dance education to children and youths from the Jerusalem area. It encourages the love of ballet and music of all sorts, including classical, and teaches that achievements come with dedication and hard work.
Director Audrey Dellisse’s unique philosophy of non- competitiveness, her experience with special needs and her commitment to nurturing self-esteem has helped many girls overcome body image issues and social obstacles at school. She works closely with students’ parents and has seen how students’ academic performance improve with the skills and discipline they have developed at ballet classes
Since opening our dance school, we have taught on average about 70 students per year. At first, most of our students were secular Jews. However, with time the population had become more diverse as religious and even ultra-orthodox Jewish girls on the one hand, and young Palestinians and internationals on the other hand, were attracted to our diverse culture and high level of ballet training.
The Jerusalem Dance Arts center is perhaps one of the most ethnically and culturally mixed educational institutions in the Middle East. An integral part of its mission is to bring together youth from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, to overcome stereotypes and foster shared experience and enjoyment.
Our student body is comprised of secular and religious Jewish students, Arab Israelis and Palestinians, and boys and girls from the international community of Jerusalem including Europeans, Americans, Africans, Asians and others, living permanently or temporarily in Jerusalem.
Most children in Israel live in insular communities and rarely get a chance to interact with other groups. Arabs and Jews, specifically, attend separate schools, ride separate buses and engage in distinct social and after school activities. Their schools even take place on different days (Jews have Saturday and half of Friday off and Muslim and Christian schools have Friday and Sunday off). The studio is the one place they are exposed to other cultures and languages, and to unfamiliar traditions and ways of life. All our students study and dance together in an atmosphere of coexistence where the lingua franca is music and the love of ballet. Classes take place in Hebrew, with English, French and Arabic interspersed to make all the students feel at home and to make sure they fully understand.
Community activity and accomplishments:
Every year the Jerusalem Dance Center produces a major ballet performance at one of the theaters in Jerusalem. So far we have produced full-scale ballet shows such as Swan Lake, Paquita, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, and others. All our students from age 4 to 18, participate in the performance. The children learn that a show requires many months of preparation, they learn to appear with confidence before a large audience, they hone their memory and rely on each other for cues. In some of those performances we even asked parents to participate, an ordeal of many hours of practice which will, no doubt, give these families something to remember for the rest of their life.
To promote the love of dance amongst children from all ages and ethnic backgrounds, we have also performed in community events, at bat mitzvahs parties and before very young audience at the Islamic Museum in Jerusalem.
Artistic director: The Center is headed by Audrey Dellisse, a graduate of the Royal Ballet School of Antwerp, Belgium, and formerly a professional dancer with an international career. Audrey danced for the Geneva Ballet and then in 1996 moved to Israel to join the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company (KCDC) where she danced as principal dancer and soloist for 5 years. Audrey has a special gift for teaching, and is revered by her students. Audrey shows exacting patience and commitment to her students, teaching proper care of the body and inspiring the children with her calm manner and dedication to excellence.
Business manager: Tal Aviran is a native of Haifa and has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Alberta, Canada. He is married to Audrey and has devoted his career to the success of the Jerusalem Dance Arts Center.
Board of Directors:
Wendy Singer, Executive Director, Start-Up Nation Central.
Yaron Aviv, Computing Consultant.
Board of Overseers:
Moshe Cohen: Lawyer.
Yaara Rosner - Manor: Architect and city planner.
“I was so happy to see a Japanese girl from the studio at our synagogue for a recent bat mitzvah. She looked really shy and was standing at the door, so I welcomed her and asked her to sit with me. She asked what we do in “church” and what the kids do after. I thought it was funny that she called it “church”, but I explained and she relaxed and had a really good time!” (Shira Berkowitz, age 11)
“We celebrate all the holidays in the studio- we get dressed up for Purim and Hallowe’en and each kid brings in a treat for their birthday. Last year there were three sisters from Germany- I did not know much about Germany except about the history… these girls were really sweet and we went for juice after class sometimes or roller blading. I saw they were regular kids like us”. (Rachel Berkowitz, age 14).
“My son likes to dance- at school they always make fun of him and try to get him to play soccer. He had the courage to join Audrey’s class and looks forward to it every week. He is the only boy in his group, and stole the show at the end of year performance. He learned that each person can and must find his own passion, his own path. What a gift!”
“In my community girls have to be private, hide their bodies, take care of their families. I am a dentist. I work and do my responsibility to my parents. I also am a person with a soul and creativity inside. I joined the studio as a teenager and have continued into my twenties. I love the sense of freedom, the music, the flowing skirts and satin shoes, the sense of joining with other in the same rhythm. Sometimes the performance is in Ramadan and I participate even though I am fasting. The studio is a second home for me and I want other girls to have the benefit of following their dreams”.
“My body is not the typical ballerina type, and I would not feel comfortable going to a high school for the arts or joining a regular class. Audrey has wrestled with being an outsider, and she has a soft spot for kids like me. When I dance I feel graceful and beautiful. I feel at one with the music. My goal is to do a bit better each week. I come a long distance to class, twice a week, and my family makes a sacrifice for me to do it, but I am sure it will help me in life as well as in ballet, to feel I belong and deserve to have a chance”.
The studio in the news: