Six years ago, Carol Solomon attended Yom Kippur services in Copenhagen. Flipping through the back of the English language prayerbook, she came upon a poem, translated from Hebrew, called “The Letter of the Ninety-Three Maidens.” Based on an actual letter that was found after the Holocaust, it tells of young girls at a Jewish school in Cracow who took poison rather than allow themselves to be defiled by Nazi soldiers. Historians question the letter’s authenticity. But for Solomon, “something about this story just captured my heart.”
Which is why Solomon, an L.A.-based choreographer, was inspired to create “Chaya’s Letter,” a full-length dance work that will have its world premiere in Sinai Temple’s Barad Hall on Sept. 4, 1999, just before Rosh Hashanah. But a 15-minute excerpt can be seen by the public on Friday evening, April 16, as part of a Yom Ha Shoah service at the Wadsworth Theatre in Westwood, under the auspices of Temple Shalom for the Arts.
“Chaya’s Letter” features six young female dancers, who in rehearsal displayed their passion for Solomon’s intense, grueling choreography. The haunting score was composed by Chris Ridenhour, husband of one of the dancers, for piano and string quartet. Solomon, who has never before based a dance on Jewish themes, has been encouraged by the support (both financial and moral) she has received from the Jewish community. Michael Berenbaum, president of the Survivors of the Shoah Foundation, endorsed her work as “powerful, indeed at moments awesome,” and calls it a fitting memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
For more information about “Chaya’s Letter,” call the Carol Solomon Dance Co. at (323) 957-9614.