Avinoam Silverman’s new ballet wrestles with his questions about faith and grief

Avinoam Silverman (Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann)

A man dances through the middle of the stage. He carries one woman as another clutches at his heels, dragging along behind him.

The woman in his arms represents the wings of freedom and ambition, the woman at his feet represents the roots of home and family.

The piece, called In Between, is an autobiographical ballet for dancer and choreographer Avinoam Silverman. Born in Jerusalem, he moved to Canada at 16 to attend the National Ballet School, and has lived here ever since. He made In Between in 2018 when the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation (CICF) commissioned him to create it for their Spotlight on Israeli Culture Festival.

On July 10, Silverman is putting on another show in Toronto commissioned by CICF, featuring In Between and the debut of his new ballet Waiting for the Fall.

Waiting for the Fall is autobiographical as well. It has five dancers—four male and one female—representing Silverman, his two brothers, and his parents. Just like In Between, Waiting for the Fall also deals with Silverman’s questions about his Jewish heritage.

In fact, in Waiting for the Fall, there is even a moment where Jewish prayers are recited on stage.

“There’s a section where the dancers are sitting around the table and you hear the prayer for the blessing of the child, which my dad would do… So I incorporate that, and then also the blessing of the bread,” Silverman said, adding that he remixed the recordings so that the name of God would not be spoken.

However, the piece takes a turn around that point. Waiting for the Fall is about how we deal with loss and grief, said Silverman, as well as how intergenerational trauma affects families, so he uses the choreography to explore the full meaning of heritage.

“The boy that gets the blessing, he gets his head slammed into the table quite a few times. But it’s a metaphor. My dad never did that,” Silverman said. “But it’s (about how), in some ways, what he went through, how it affected me. Because what happens to our parents, it just trickles down into us as kids. So it’s a bit of a metaphor, but it’s just done in an artistic way.”

The name of the ballet, however, comes not from Silverman’s Jewish or Israeli upbringing, but from an inspiration that is even further east.

“I read something in a Buddhist book about a leaf. It explains when a leaf falls from the tree, it’s just being a leaf. And it made me think how we strive to just be, as people,” Silverman said. “But then, in some ways, as people, life can get a lot more complicated and a lot more complex. So I wanted to show that struggle, but also how we’re striving for that simplicity, just being like the leaf.”

In Between and Waiting for the Fall were not the first interactions CICF had with Silverman; they’ve been following his career for a long time. CICF supports the Mia Arbatova Dance Competition in Israel (named for the Riga-born ballerina who arrived in Israel in 1938 determined to establish classical ballet there)—a contest that Silverman won at 15.

It was the prize money from CICF that allowed Silverman to come to the National Ballet School in Toronto for the summer, which set the stage for him to move to Toronto and attend the school full-time.

“For CICF, it’s really our privilege to support so many talented young artists, but in this case, it really gives us a sense of pride in that we were able to help him when he was 15 in order to come to Toronto,” said Janet Klugsberg, executive director of the CICF.

“Now we’re able to help him through his career as a choreographer, and helping to produce his works and present those works to the city of Toronto, to the community, really is full circle.”

You can buy tickets to the July 10 show at this link.