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Bodyspeak: A New Look at the Art of Movement - Part 2

Part 2: Early Life

Avital was born to a Sephardic family in the village of Sefrou near the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. He was the son of loving and hardworking parents and had a particularly close relationship with his grandfather, a respected spiritual leader of the community, successful trader, and benefactor of a charitable circle that performed its offices anonymously. It was called, with wry humor, "The Society of the Lazy Ones." Avital has fond recollections of being an unwitting emissary on their secret missions of goodwill. He also recalls his grandfather's wise counsel.

On one noteworthy occasion, grandfather and grandson joined in the traditional grape stomping in preparation for wine making. Up to his knees in half-fermented grapes, the boy became increasingly talkative. As was his grandfather's custom, instruction came in the gentle form of a story. Avital recounts:

"Before one is born," my grandfather said, "one is given a certain amount of words to use in one's lifetime -a word account in a Cosmic Word Bank. You must be very careful in using words properly, and with measure, and in how you use them to express yourself. Every word you use is out of your cosmic account. That is why you should turn your tongue seven times within your mouth before uttering a word. Otherwise you may finish your quota early in life, and you will find yourself mute." "My grandfather's words made a very great impression on me as a young boy, no doubt contributing to my decision to make my life work" in the Theater of Silence.(7)

Community life in Morocco became a cherished memory for Avital, a remembrance of "utopia" in the root sense of that word - nowhere, in all his travels, again to be found. And the travels were soon to begin.

Possessed of a fierce idealism, he decided, at fourteen - above the strong objections of his family and in a dangerous time - to emigrate to Israel. It was a perilous passage. Jews were prevented by law from emigrating, and Samuel, even though traveling in disguise, was almost captured three times. He eventually reached Israel by ship and entered an entirely new phase - kibbutz life. He studied physics, agronomy, theology, art, and theater.

Avital's interest in theater carried him to Jerusalem, where he met Solomon "Moni" Yakim, also destined to become a renowned teacher of mime and theater.

Another defining moment, a second encounter with the horizon, came for Avital when, in a darkened Jerusalem movie theater - a "cinema paradiso" - in front of a flickering screen, he encountered for the first time the genius of Chaplin. The film was Limelight - one of Chaplin's later works and not his most remarkable - but it had the effect of a revelation on a boy from a Morroccan village. Movement - deft, subtle, expressive movement - was an art in itself. Movement could convey what words could not. Movement could be studied and mastered as an art form. Avital's compass began to point northwest. He talked Moni into taking the next step with him: they would go to Paris to study theater.

In Paris of the late 50's, studying dance and acting at the Sorbonne, Avital found that for the artist both misery and ecstasy were constant companions - the misery of surviving on baguettes and sardines and the ecstasy of artistic discovery. The acknowledged masters of mime - Decroux, Barrault, Marceau - introduced Avital to a vocabulary of wonders.

Continue to Part 3: Teachers and Lessons

"Samuel brings awareness to the soul of people and gives the artists who work under his direction the need, dedication, and love for the world of silence and the beautiful art of movement."


- Marcel Marceau, BIP 1961

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Lafayette, CO 80026

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About LCDS

LCDS is an independent school for self-discovery through the human Arts.  The school offers seminars and workshops teaching the concepts of Theater, Mime, and Movement.