At Shakespeare’s Globe theater, Israeli woman directs the fights
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At Shakespeare’s Globe theater, Israeli woman directs the fights

Yarit Dor choreographs stage combat for all-female cast of ‘Richard II’

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Yarit Dor (on bottom), a trained stage combat choreographer, in rehearsals for 'Richard II,' currently being performed at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London through April 22, 2019 (Courtesy Yarit Dor)
Yarit Dor (on bottom), a trained stage combat choreographer, in rehearsals for 'Richard II,' currently being performed at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London through April 22, 2019 (Courtesy Yarit Dor)

It’s safe to say that Yarit Dor is the only Israeli female fight director working in London. She’s not teaching Krav Maga, either, the Israeli martial art of self-defense, although she frequently gets asked about that form of fighting.

It’s a “funny kind of stereotype,” said Dor, who is familiar with a variety of martial arts as a fight director. Krav Maga, however, is not in her area of expertise.

Dor is a trained instructor of stage combat, the theater technique that creates the illusion of physical combat without causing harm to the performers.

“When people first meet me I get a lot of comments, like, ‘You look young,’ or ‘You seem so sweet, you’re a fight director?’ It’s always hard to try and be who you are in this job,” she said. “You have to battle the stereotype of what most directors and producers consider a fight director to look like — the scary, serious, martial-arty, big-muscly male fight director. Yes, I’m a fight director. I’m a woman, I’m short, I look younger than my age and I direct fights. I am who I am.”

This season, Dor is choreographing fights and movement for an all-women-of color production of “Richard II” running February 22 through April 21 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.

Fight directors are usually called in to consult for a certain number of sessions depending on how much violence is in the show, said Dor. In this production, however, she was included as part of the ensemble of actors and creatives for the duration of the rehearsals and production.

The driving concept behind this “Richard II” production is its all-female cast, all of whom are from countries that have experienced some form of imperial colonization; now they’re telling stories of an opposing king in ancient England.

The all-women-of-color cast and ensemble of ‘Richard II’ at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre includes Yarit Dor, a London-trained, Israeli-born combat choreographer (Courtesy The Globe)

“It’s been really interesting in the rehearsal process, chatting to people about their traditions and realizing we have so many similarities,” said Dor. “We talk about how people’s parents immigrated and hear their individual stories. It kind of made me feel, in a sense, that I’m not alone.”

Dor, 33, the sole Israeli in this Shakespearean crowd, was born in Haifa, the daughter of Israeli parents whose families came from Germany and Poland on one side and Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Ukraine on the other. Her great-grandfather used to say his family came from Spain, and would pray in a Sephardic dialect.

It’s a story of migration, like so many others, said Dor.

The conversations that arose were about the similarities between people, food and music, and  wedding customs — “more about what unites us than things that would divide us,” she said.

Dor’s work as a fight director emerged from her training as a dancer and her eventual study in London, where she has lived for the last 13 years.

After studying at London’s Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in her early twenties, Dor volunteered at The Globe. It was there that she learned about the art of stage fighting, which exists in almost every Shakespearean production.

“It was something I’d never seen in Israel,” said Dor. “Stage combat is very old-fashioned in Israel, all sword work is very fencing-based. It was kind of a revelation to understand that this is something that has been going on elsewhere.”

She ended up training and becoming the third female stage combat teacher in London — and began receiving directing jobs.

Dor is also a co-founder of the Intimacy Directors International’s UK branch, helping choreograph safe, consenting intimacy choreography in theater, film and television, in the backlash of the #MeToo movement.

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