A renowned dancer and choreographer, Hadassah Spira Epstein was a pioneer in introducing dance traditions of other cultures to the American public through her fusion of ethnic dance forms. Epstein noticed the similarities between Hindu music and dance and Jewish traditions upon witnessing a traditional Whirling Dervish dance in the 1930s. She began studying dance under Ruth St. Denis and Jack Cole, noted modern dancers who were influenced by Hindu traditions, and learned Javanese and Japanese dance styles from other performers. She debuted her own choreography at Times Hall in 1945 and was soon performing everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Jacob’s Pillow. She created her own dance company in 1950. In 1947 she created her signature piece, Shuvi Nafshi, which blended elements of Hindu and Jewish dance and gestures and which debuted to great acclaim. Two years later, she created Broadway Hindu to lampoon jazz clubs that vulgarized Hindu culture. She also created pieces to honor Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. During a 1959 tour of India, she garnered high praise from government officials and artistic luminaries alike. In later years, she taught dance to students of all ages.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Hadassah (Spira Epstein)." (Viewed on September 22, 2019) <https://qa.jwa.org/people/epstein-hadassah>.