It’s not every day you hear the story of a dancing soldier. In fact, it sounds like something straight out of a fairy tale. But for Sivan Peled, that has been her life for the last few years. Born in Israel, Peled chose to press pause on dance to join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Armored Corps as a tank driving instructor at a desert base. When her service was done, she realized how much she missed the artform and after receiving a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) IMPACT! scholarship, she shifted gears to once again study dance teaching and later choreography.
Below, Peled chats with Backstage about the struggles and successes she’s encountered during her transition from tank trucks to wholeheartedly feeding her creativity.
Tell us a little about your career as a dancer.
In high school, I danced in Kfar Saba, Israel where I grew up. Then from 2012–2016, I did my B.A. in dance education [at] Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and the Arts in Tel Aviv where I created my first piece, “Horses,” which won the audience selection prize at the 2015 Shades in Dance Festival in Tel Aviv...I’m now in my second year of [earning a] master’s degree in choreography at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. My last work, “Planted,” won the unique creation prize at the 2017 Fringe Beersheba dance competition and was invited to participate in the Women in Dance Leadership Conference in NYC. I teach modern dance and composition at the same high school I went to, as well as in the Conservatory of Dance and Music in Kfar Saba.
How did you make time for dance and choreography as a member of the IDF?
I had the option to go into professional dance and not serve in a combat role in the IDF. However, I wanted to give back to the country and do a full service, so I made the decision that this would be a good time to take a break from dance. I was a tank driving instructor at a base in the desert in the south of Israel. My armed service was really meaningful and so much fun; I wouldn’t have changed a thing. When I finished my time in the army, it reminded me how much I missed dancing and it gave me perspective.
How has the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces IMPACT! Scholarship Program impacted your life and creative endeavors?
IMPACT enabled me to begin to pave [my way professionally] and to fulfill my dream as a choreographer. The help [it provided] was something I will forever be grateful for. It’s really exciting to know that there is an organization that cherishes soldiers and their service, and gives back by helping them start to build their lives. I have a big and blessed family with six sisters and one brother, and we had a lot of financial problems [when I was a child]. Without IMPACT, I [would not have had] the means to finance my studies.
What has been one of the biggest challenges you've encountered as a choreographer?
Every day is a challenge [as a] choreographer, especially in Israel—there are a lot of talented choreographers out there and we don’t get a lot of support from the government. There aren’t a lot of places to [present] work to audiences. [You have to] be very creative about how you present your work. Whenever I see something that is relevant to what I do, I try and write letters to gain support.
What advice would you give a dancer who is looking to get into choreography?
You need to speak about what you believe in and have your own movement language. If you don’t find your own signature movement, you’re showing people what they’ve already seen. You have to understand what you are going to say and what you are going to give, and it must be honest and from your heart. You can’t fake it.
What's the major difference you see between the life of a dancer and the life of a choreographer?
A dancer has the ability to let go and do what he’s been asked to do. For a choreographer, it’s the opposite. They can’t let go because they constantly need to push, create, and understand what they want from the dancers.
What's next for you?
Just to keep going and constantly be [working] in movement. I’m afraid for [a] moment [when] I won’t be moving. When I’m in motion and dreaming and creating, things happen. That’s the special thing about creation and dancing: anything can happen at any time. I love the excitement when I’m waiting for an answer. If it’s no, I keep going. If it’s yes, how wonderful!