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Nataly Zukerman rises to the challenge at Boston’s Israeli Stage

Journal Correspondent

“With a lot of concentration, I can walk, dance, stand, and perform,” says Zukerman. Photo by Gadi Dagon

MARCH 22, 2018 – When Nataly Zukerman was a child in Israel, she dreamed of becoming a professional dancer. However, an ill-fated accident at a youth camp when she was 12 dashed those girlhood dreams and changed her life. A structure fell on her, breaking vertebrae in her back and leaving her paralyzed.

After surgery and a six-month hospitalization, Zukerman said she had to learn to walk again. It was a lot of hard work  and still is  to perform simple, everyday movements. She continues to combat her disability with physical therapy, Pilates, and other treatments.

“With a lot of concentration, I can walk, dance, stand, and perform without assistance, but I can’t run,” she said.

Despite her constraints, Zukerman, now 39, has moved full steam ahead to improve her self-esteem and those of other disabled people, and to show the world what can be accomplished when you try.

She is currently in a three-week residence at Boston’s Israeli Stage Company, where she’s performing in several area locations, free of charge, through April 9.

“I am very thankful to be hosted by Israeli Stage and meet the Bostonians I’ve been hearing about,” Zukerman said.

“Sharing the diversity and vitality of Israeli culture is what drives Israeli Stage,” said founder and artistic director Guy Ben-Aharon. “Sharing is an act of kindness, diversity is a celebration of the pluralism that’s possible, and vitality – coming from the Latin ‘vita’ – is life giving. Nataly embodies these guiding principles. Her work shares the experience of being disabled, and does so artfully, and with humor.

“I am grateful to all of our partnering institutions for bringing Nataly into their communities, and for asking important questions about diversity and inclusion in our community, in our city, and in our world,” added Ben-Aharon.

The eldest daughter of Nurit and David Zukerman, Nataly grew up in Aseret, a small village in central Israel, but has lived in Tel Aviv for many years.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in education and directing from the Kibbutzim College of Education, a BA in performance from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and a master’s degree in theater studies from Tel Aviv University.

She received the Best Performer Award at the Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre in 2015 and Best Ensemble Award at the Golden Hedgehog Israeli Fringe Awards in 2016.

“I had the courage to show my disability on center stage only in my 30s,” she said. “I wanted to understand why it took me so long, what held me back. In my shows, I want to expose disabled and non-disabled people to the mechanism that stands behind it and to bring it to center stage. I wanted to start an honest dialogue between disabled people and non-disabled people about the perception of society [regarding disabled persons].”

In Zukerman’s first presentation, “The Other Body,” she came to terms with her disability and accepted the term handicapped.

Her second biographical piece is “Practice Makes Perfect,” where she worked with a running instructor, professional dancer, and her life partner, Tomer Koppel.

In this presentation, Zukerman stretches her physical limitations while coping with challenges of performing activities we take for granted, such as falling, walking, and running Zukerman has worked with Ben-Aharon and award-winning Brookline actor Nael Nacer on a world premiere workshop of her third piece, “The Othering Project.”

“It’s a work in progress,” she said. “It deals with cultural exclusion of different minorities.”

For a schedule of Zukerman’s upcoming performances, go to  www.israelistage.com.

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