IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Ball and Chain by ChEckiT!Dance at Oholiav event

October 28, 2012 at 3:46 pm, by

On October 11, ChEckiT!Dance performed the original piece “Ball and Chain” during Oholiav’s first event–the opening of the Text/Context exhibit at the Columbia/Barnard Hillel Kraft Center*.  In the piece, choreographer Allison Brzezinski interprets the Shabbat blessing Eshet Chayil, a woman of valor, which tells of an ideal Jewish woman, and puts an interesting historical spin on it.


The piece harkens back to the 1950s as two women, immaculately made up and dressed in aprons, (recently added to the performance) portray the image of perfect domesticity. The dancers, like perfect windup dolls, go about the work of setting their household in order. In the words of the text, “She arises while it is still night, and gives food to her household and a portion to her maidservants.”


As the piece progresses, the music turns into a reading of the words of the blessing. The movements become more and more complex as the text describes the woman planting her fields and vineyards, weaving fine wool and acting as a merchant, providing for her family.

Toward the end of the piece, the music turns to 1960s rock and the aprons are torn off in clear defiance of the role of the woman as simple house-maker.

In the Q & A following the performance, choreographer Allison Brzezinski spoke about how she interprets Eshet Chayil. She pointed out that there are two conflicting visions of an ideal woman–one, the one indicated by the 1950s housewife model, speaks of a woman caring for her home and family. Another, the one connecting to the 1960s feminist movement, values a woman’s right to work, and cast doubt on the homemaker model.

What is so interesting about Eshet Chayil is that the woman in the text seems to do both–she gives food to her household, cares for her husband and children, but she also “works with her hands willingly;” and “like the merchant ships, she brings bread from afar.”

Perhaps this is the reason it is said of this accomplished woman that “many women have done worthily, but you surpass them all.”

As the choreographer so keenly expresses in the piece, the text shows a balance and a tension between a woman who cares for her family and a woman who has a career and, in the fact that both of these are highlighted, provides women with a choice of their own ideal.

Oholiav is holding an event on Nov. 29 and looking for dancers or choreographers who would be interested in participating and leading a short workshop. For more details please contact us on our Facebook page!


  • Brought to you by the Jewish Art Salon, Oholiav, and the Columbia/Barnard Hillel Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life. Exhibits made possiblethrough the support of the Sidney J. Silberman Endowment Fund and in loving memory of Sidney J. Silberman.

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