“Are we the echo whose voice centuries could not stifle?” – Edmond Jabés
I initiated my research using the mimicking technique from my 2018 performance project in which three non-Russian-speaking performers listened to my Babushka’s speaking in Russian via earphones and re-performed it instantaneously, as best they could. What manifested on stage was a kind of gibberish play, in which the performers performed the affect, emotion, and physicality of a language they didn’t understand. I used this practice with Yiddish language and Yiddish body. I watched many Yiddish films like “Tevye (1939),” “Yidl Mitn Fidl (1936),” and “Der Dybbuk (1937)” and mimicked the sound and body language cultivating a vocabulary of words, sounds, tonalities, gestures, emotionalities, and affects. I recorded my re-performances and watched them to document this sonic and physical vocabulary for the future. I also used a similar practice with Yiddish music, listening to hundreds of Yiddish cantorial songs, folk songs, jazz songs, etc., to find patterns in the vocal quality, rhythm, and emotionality. I have since used these vocabularies to create a distinct performance language – improving dance scenes with the specific gestures, vocal qualities, and even creating my own Yiddish which I term “Yidderish” (Yiddish + Gibberish). Many of these practices have been filmed and shared on my instagram, facebook, and through an email newsletter.
After my months of research, I invited collaborators to start generating performative scenes from the Yiddish movement and vocal vocabulary. Now, we are together working on a performance entitled “Undying in Yidderland” which will premiere at Mousonturm in March 2023. This research has affirmed my initial motivations for this work. I believe that by working with Yiddish in a new and experimental way, I am opening up new futures for Jewish culture outside of Jewish nationalism. By embodying Yiddish’s uniquely diasporic and symbiotic nature, I am learning from my ancestors and asking for new techniques to move beyond white supremacy, nationalism, domination and colonialism. This research is necessary and crucial in our world today and specifically in Germany where the legacy of Jewishness is often instrumentalized against its core values.