YOUR DANCE UP CLOSE: "Hope Against Hope": One Tale of an Immigrant Artist — From Russia to Israel, and Finally to Peridance, NYC

YOUR DANCE UP CLOSE: "Hope Against Hope": One Tale of an Immigrant Artist — From Russia to Israel, and Finally to Peridance, NYC

By Valerie Kosnevich

Published on June 14, 2022
Valerie Kosnevich; photo courtesy of the artist

In our new video series YOUR DANCE UP CLOSE (which you may remember as  THE SOCIAL DISTANCE DANCE VIDEO SERIES created during our COVID shut down period) we share the short films and stories of dancers in our community. 

I am fascinated with dancers who come to this country to make it their artistic home. 

Valerie Kosnevich is  determined, curious, and inspiring.  Watching her move,  I can't believe she began seriously studying ballet at the age of 20. This young woman was destined to dance, and I can't wait to see what she will do next.  — Christine Jowers, Editor

ABOUT THE FILM : The dance “Hope against Hope” was created  based on my real life story.

I am Valerie Kosnevich from SochiI, a very small town near the Black Sea Coast of Russia. As a child I studied ballet with a teacher who I only remember as being very strict. She used a stick to correct us. My favorite part of that dance experience was when my mother would bring me cookies with chocolate butter after our dress rehearsals. Of course, I got in trouble for getting crumbs on my costumes.  

My mother encouraged me to escape that very strict situation. Soon I joined up with a good friend of mine who performed street style dancing.  She was part of a very popular dance company in the country called TODES, which had many thriving branches. Through that company I was exposed to a world I had never known before: dance battles and many festivals. I loved it, I loved performing. I wanted to be a dancer but I don’t think my family looked upon it as a worthy occupation.

a girl with wide eyes, braids, performing admist a crowd of clapping children
Valerie Kosnevich as a teen performer in Israel, where she found finally found a dance outlet; photo courtesy of the artist

My father, didn’t see Russia as a place where I would have any opportunity. He is conservative  and Jewish and, although I was not raised in the Jewish tradition, he thought the best place for me to be at 17-years -old was Israel. So he sent me away. I left my dance school and I was devastated.

In Israel, as a new citizen, one must learn about the culture. You go to a place called an Absorption Center where you are prepared  to be engaged in the country and the community. You learn Hebrew,  acquaint yourself with Judaism and the history of Israel. Afterwards one of one of your options is to join the Israeli Army— something I definitely didn’t want to do. I really wanted to dance, and each year counts in this career. Isn’t it better to use your abilities while you have the chance?

 a black and white photo of Valerie Kosnevich in a flower printed dress one hand on her head, one hand under her chin, a wistful look
Studio shot of Valerie Kosnevich; photo courtesy of the artist

Fortune smiled on me. It turned out that there was a dance teacher who came to the Absorption Center once a week to teach hip-hop. I convinced the coordinator of the center that I needed to study dance with this woman in the TABASKO Dance Company. Soon I was teaching dance and choreographing both for the TABASKO Company and the Absorption Center.

While I loved the street dance style I longed for something more lyrical and contemporary—something I hadn’t been able to do since I was a child.  Here I was at 20 -years -old finally trying to get into the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance!

I had never studied ballet seriously in a conservatory setting before.. So, to catch up, I took private classes and studied daily with very young children in pre-professional  ballet dance classes at the Israeli Ballet  andBikurey Ha Itim, in Tel-Aviv.  After all the hard work and private classes ( I wanted to improve all the time) I got into the Academy. Later on these two the two Tel- Aviv Schools helped me secure an  audition and ultimately be placed into the Certificate Program at Peridance Center in New York.

dressed in a black dress, Valerie Kosnevich, in a moment from her choreography, looks downward at her open palms as if in meditation
Valerie Kosnevich working on her solo "Hope Against Hope"; photo courtesy of the artist

My  dream was to come to New York City to study dance. And I am here. Peridance and the Peridance Contemporary Dance Company, are like a home for me. I had always been searching for a place like this to feel at home and to be able to work on my craft.  I just finished choreographing a solo and I am looking forward to more challenges. I want to surprise audiences, to  continue to learn,  and to share my knowledge with students.


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