Ethiopian Israeli dance troupe to perform twice in San Francisco

A troupe of Ethiopian dancers from Israel is coming to San Francisco for two public performances — on Thursday, Oct. 14, in a benefit for a local nonprofit and on Oct. 16 at the Museum of the African Diaspora.

Those who attend either Beta Dance Troupe performance will see “one of Israel’s premier artistic dance groups,” according to Daniel Morgan, director of public affairs for the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco. “Their performances showcase the diverse cultural influences that are the foundation of modern Israeli society.”

The Beta troupe was established in 2005 and is composed of dancers of Ethiopian origin who live in the Haifa area. They will present a program of traditional Ethiopian dances — mainly “eskesta” (shoulder dancing) — and original contemporary dance based on the culture of Ethiopian Jewry.

Dancers from Israel’s Beta Dance Troupe photo/courtesy of beta dance troupe

The Oct. 14 performance will benefit San Francisco Back on Track, a free tutoring and academic mentorship program for underserved urban students. It was created in 1988 in a collaborative effort between Congregation Emanu-El and Third Baptist Church, both of San Francisco.

“We’re all here to help each other,” said Perry Lang, Back on Track board member and interim executive director. “The Bay Area is a wonderful melting pot, and we’ve got to find more avenues to interact with each other in positive ways rather than stay in our silos.”

That performance is scheduled for 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the African American Art and Culture Center, 746 Fulton St., S.F. It will be preceded at 5:30 p.m. by a catered reception and a dialogue about ethnic and cultural diasporas.

Advance tickets purchased by Monday, Oct. 11, range from $35 (performance only) to $75 (entire evening). All proceeds are tax deductible and will directly benefit Back on Track. For more information, call (415) 346-9316 or visit www.backontracksf.org.

The Oct. 16 event is from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St., S.F. It is co-sponsored by MoAD, the Israeli Consulate and Be’chol Lashon (a community building initiative of the S.F.-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research). Tickets are free with museum admission. For more information, call (415) 358-7200 or visit www.moadsf.org.

The schedule at MoAD includes a lecture by Ruth Eshel, the artistic director and founder of the troupe, who will discuss Ethiopian Jews and their migration to Israel. Beta’s performance there will include a demonstration of eskesta.

While in the area, the troupe also will perform for local Jewish day school students.