Teaching advertising through dance

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A hand movement from India
An arm motion from Yemen
A hip gyration from Israel
A leg swing from Romania
All of it intertwined as part of the diverse American rhythm.

 

Fusing pieces of ancestry

Celebrated American-Israeli choreographer Barak Marshall fuses the pieces of his ancestry and identity,  turning them into exotic and enthralling dances. Marshall, former house choreographer for Israel’s world famous Batsheva Dance Company, is teaching at the new Glorya Kaufman School of Dance on the USC campus.

When I heard, I contacted Barak whose breathtaking work I have seen several times and asked  if he would speak about  his form of creativity to my Creativity and Advertising class in the Masters program at the USC-Annenberg School of Communication. His answer was as quick as his movements. He gave an enthusiastic and immediate affirmation and then generously added, “It’s Monday night? That’s our last rehearsal. Bring them and I’ll talk after.”

 

Awe-struck students

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My nearly thirty students, a diverse global group of Americans, Chinese, Indians, Europeans and Middle-Easterners silently (I told them to turn off their cellphones, one of the most overwhelming challenges I throw them each week) lined the walls of the dance studio. They watched another thirty fellow students, dance majors, impressively express a different form of creativity. They were awe-struck—including the brawny basketball player. Watching movement so intimately close-up is thrilling.

 

Death of his aunt

After, Barak invited them to sit on the broad lobby staircase as he addressed the group. He explained that while at Harvard where he studied social theory and philosophy, he never saw himself entering the profession of his mother,  the world famous choreographer and dancer, Margalit Oved. But after the death of one of his mother’s sisters, he worked out his grief dancing the movements of his family in her memory, and recognized his path. The dancing took on a personal meaning and he knew that he wanted to express his own history through dance. His mother is Jewish from Yemen, with an ancestry in India and grew up in Israel. His father is American, whose Ashkenazi family came from Romania. Barak was raised in Los Angeles.

 

Research on body movement

He explained to the students how much research he has done on the body movements of communication and dance from all the cultures that comprise his own DNA and the ways he incorporates them into his unique work.

His passion and reach for emotion and excellence was clear.

 

My students’ before and after

When the students returned to class, I instructed them to move into their creative groups and redo the TV commercial storyboards they had done for homework, pouring in all what they had just learned and felt from Barak Marshall and the student dancers.

There was no comparison to the before and after.

Gary Wexler