Born in Kumarno, Czechoslovakia, Yehudit survived World War II as a young girl in the Auschwitz death camp. Upon her liberation in 1945 she moved to Budapest and joined Hashomer Hatsa’ir. In the years 1946/47 she put on two large-scale performances together with her local group to mark International Workers Day (1 May). At these events Yehudit’s special ability to touch people and create impressive dances was already evident.
In 1948, together with her husband Yedidia, she arrived in Israel with the first group of pioneers from Hungary, who established Kibbutz Ga’aton in Western Galilee. During the 1950s Yehudit joined with others, to establish the Dance Section of the Kibbutz Movement Alliance, who worked extensively to introduce artistic and folk dance education to kibbutzim. Following her activity, and encouraged by her colleagues, Yehudit established the Ga’aton Company (1960-1964) and the Western Galilee Company (1965-70) with members from Ga’aton and other kibbutzim from the region. In an interview to the National Kibbutz newspaper she said, that which would later become the motto of her whole artistic and educational enterprise: “The kibbutz built the dance hall before it built the dining room. The kibbutz came in here without shoes. That hall became a temple for the whole region.” Together with her colleagues from the Dance Section, she established in that dance studio the educational philosophy which proposed a combination of technique and creativity in developing the dancer’s body. Her studio and the dancers’ training workshop, that she set up in 1977, became the source of many choreographers and dancers who worked in Israel and worldwide. Her most notable protégé is Rami Be’er, who first came to Yehudit at the age of 3 to learn rhythmic. Since then he worked with her for decades, forming a special bond, until he matured into a well known creative artist.
In 1970 the founders of the Dance Section initiated the establishment of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, which for the first time united all the kibbutz dancers and choreographers. Following a crisis that affected the Company, Yehudit assumed the role of Artistic Director in 1973, and moved the Company to Kibbutz Ga’aton. As Artistic Director she managed to put together a varied and exciting repertoire, and formed warm ties with leading dance figures from all over the world. She enjoyed collaborations with many well-known creative artists, and thanks to her connections, put together a unique and varied repertoire that won the company recognition.
The choreographers with whom she worked included: Mats Ek, Ohad Naharin, Jiří Kylián, Christopher Bruce, Kei Takei, Susanne Linke, Hada Oren, Oshra Elkayam, and many others.
Throughout her years of working with the Troup, in the studio and the workshop, Yehudit nurtured and encouraged her pupils, young dancers and choreographers, and helped them to develop their career in dance.
Throughout her lifetime, Yehudit won many awards, including:
1983 The Leah Porat Prize of the Public Council for Culture & Art.
1990 The Havatzelet Prize for her life’s work in dance and education.
1997 The ISPA Prize – International Society for the Performing Arts
1998 The Israel Prize for appreciation of her life’s work in education and the art of dance.
In her later years Yehudit kept abreast of the activities of the studio, the company and the workshop, although she ceased to manage these enterprises. In August 2013 at the age of 87 she passed away, surrounded by her close family – her husband Yedidia, her three daughters and eight grandchildren, as well as her extended dance family, and was laid to rest in Kibbutz Ga’aton.
On October 20, 2013 one of KCDC’s main building at the International Dance Village in Kibbutz Ga’aton was named the ‘Yehudit Arnon Dance Center’ during a special event which brought together leading dancers, choreographers, dance companies, family and friends for an evening of dance, stories, and commemoration.
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