BERTONOFF, DEBORAH (1915– ), mimic-dancer, teacher, and researcher of dance; one of the pioneers of dance in Israel. Daughter of Yehoshua Bertonoff, a veteran of the *Habima Theater, she was still a child in Russia when she danced "The Beggars' Dance" in The Dybbuk directed by Vakhtangov. She immigrated to Israel in 1928 with Habima. In 1929 she went to Berlin and studied dance at the school of Trumpy Skoronel. Upon her return to Israel in 1932, she produced recitals concentrating on the description of individual personalities and the dramatic stories of people's lives: Individuals at a Jewish Wedding, Two Jews Are Conversing, and The Maker of Magic. In 1934, she went to study in England at the schools of Kurt Jooss and Sigurd Leeder. Bertonoff was awarded a first prize for mimic-dancing in Paris in 1936.
She opened a studio in Tel Aviv and produced Exodus from Egypt (1946) to the music of Yosef *Tal. This was a work of solo dances and readings whose subjects were national-biblical and which later (1957) became Memories of a Nation. Her first Broadway performance was in 1948. She represented Israel in the Theater of Nations in 1962. Thanks to a scholarship from UNESCO, she was able to go on research trips to Ghana in 1960 and 1965 and to India in 1966. Bertonoff left the stage in 1970 and, after a 15-year hiatus, returned to the stage in a recital that was a reconstruction of her dancing from the past. In 1991, she received the Israel Prize for dance. She wrote Dance Towards the Earth (1965), Spirit Possessed (1965), Dance Towards the Horizons (1968), Dance, Drums, Drama (1979), and Journey to the World of Dance (1982).
R. Eshel, Dancing with the Dream – The Development of Artistic Dance in Israel 1920–1964 (1991), 23–24 (Hebrew).
[Ruth Eshel (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.