After going on birthright israel in 2004, ballet dancer Lisa Oberman knew immediately where she wanted to pursue her professional dance career.
Now almost 20, Oberman is making aliyah and has joined the Israel Ballet, the country’s only major classical ballet company.
“I fell in love with Israel and knew in my heart that’s where I wanted to dance,” she says.
Joining the Israel Ballet is the culmination of a lifelong dream to dance professionally, says Oberman, who attended the Kirov Academy of Ballet (now the Universal Ballet Academy) in Washington D.C., and danced with the U.S.A. Ballet in Illinois.
“I’ve been on stage since I was three years old. At four, I played the lead in Grease. Going away to a ballet school when I was 16 was the natural thing to do.”
Oberman’s mother Deborah, says that when Lisa was young, she took her to see Karen Kain in the Nutcracker Suite. “She turned to me and said ‘One day, that will be me.’ I knew then where her future lay.”
Lisa Oberman credits her dance teacher and mentor Tatiana Stepanova, of the Stepanova Dance Academy, for helping her focus on ballet when she was 14.
“She became my teacher when I was 10, and I still train with her. She could see I was driven, and she encouraged me to become a [classical] ballet dancer.”
She knew she made the right decision about dancing with the Israel Ballet when she met the dance company’s co-founder and co-artistic director, Berta Yampolsky, who was once a prima ballerina with the Odessa State Ballet.
“She went out of her way to make sure I was comfortable,” Oberman says. “She is warm and kind, and ensures that there is no competition among the peers. They are like family to each other. There is so much happiness in the field of art in Israel.”
Dancing is a lifestyle, Oberman says.
“When I take a day off, I feel it. I take a 11/2 -hour class every day, and if I’m in a performance, I have a rehearsal,” she says.
“I also make sure I never eat too much. I eat a little bit at a time whenever I’m hungry because that is lighter on the stomach. To dance, I need to be thin, but I also need to be healthy and powerful.”
When she dances, she says, she speaks through her body.
“I convey a message [with my movements.] I don’t need to speak because the audience can see how I feel.”
Dina Gidron, regional director of the Israel Aliyah Centre, which is affiliated with the Jewish Agency for Israel, says it’s amazing to see how birthright israel can give young Jews such a strong connection with Israel.
“[Lisa] fell in love with Israel, and then she honed into her real passion. I give credit to birthright.”
Oberman says that by making aliyah, “I am following my dream. There are not a lot of teens in the ballet world, but I am committed.
“I’m also committed to living in Israel. When I walk around there I feel no fear. There is a sense of security there.”
The Canadian Jewish News: Birthright inspires dancer to join Israel Ballet
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