Author: Jill Kimball

In Feb. 14 performance, a son tells his mother’s story through dance

Marshall weaves together themes of family, jealousy and gender inequality in his cinematic piece.

As a child in the 1930s, Margalit Oved would dance, barefoot and carefree, in the streets of her neighborhood. She was one of nine children packed into a joyful, loving house in the British Protectorate of Aden, now a city in modern-day Yemen.

Another nine children lived in the house next door, but the atmosphere was anything but joyful. Oved’s neighbors suffered from bad luck in love: When each girl came of age, she couldn’t find a suitable man to marry and support her. The family grew bitter, arguing loudly inside the house and sometimes attacking Oved’s family members in fits of jealousy.

“That lack of hope turned them into this monstrous, fighting family always cursing the hope of others,” Oved’s son, Barak Marshall, says.

It sounds like a fable for children, but Marshall says it’s a timeless real-life lesson fit for adults and kids alike: When world leaders don’t give everyone an equal opportunity to succeed, people turn on each other.

Oved told her son this story when he was little, and it left an indelible mark. Decades later, Marshall choreographed a dance inspired by the story titled “And at midnight, the green bride floated through the village square…” Marshall weaves together themes of family, jealousy and gender inequality in this cinematic piece.

On Feb. 14, the dance group BODYTRAFFIC presents Marshall’s work in a performance at the University of Colorado Boulder. Along with “the green bride,” audiences will see two other 21st-century works inspired by ballet, hip hop and jazz.

Though his mother became a famous dancer in Israel and around the world, Barak Marshall resisted the call to dance for a long time. At 25, by sheer accident, he started dancing and soon became a world-renowned choreographer in his own right. His unique social commentary, inspired as much by his mother’s childhood as his own upbringing in violent, fractured Israel, defines his work.

“When I look back, I realize that all my works deal with certain injustice, even though it’s not something I consciously deal with,” Marshall says. “Every single piece addresses societal constraints on a person’s freedom.”

What Marshall hopes audiences see in “the green bride” is that the root issue in his mother’s story wasn’t the unhappy neighbors. Rather, it was the fact that a woman’s ability to marry directly defined her happiness, financial security and social standing.

“In that time, women faced so much violence and had no opportunities to do anything on their own,” Marshall says. “Things have advanced today, but we’re still talking about these issues. It reminds me of that famous quote: ‘The freedom of a country stands in direct relation to the position of its women.’”

In one scene of “the green bride,” the audience sees women vie for the attention of a man only to be thrown aside. In another, women are strung together with rope like livestock. The little scenes are set to old, sometimes misogynistic love songs from the Middle East.

Marshall hopes the theatrical imagery he uses in “the green bride” conveys a lesson: that equality and compassion are the keys to a society’s well-being.

“If we don’t create a society that has equal opportunity for all, we’re going to perpetuate envy and hopelessness and the constant breaking down of others,” Marshall says. “We need to open up the conversation and help the weakest in our society.”

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