Meet The Artist. Center Dance Arts, by Elizabeth Hirsch

I will always remember my first encounter with Zippora Karz. It was a breathtaking photograph of the beautiful ballerina. She was poised in mid-air in a classic dance expression realized from years of formal training with the New York City Ballet. Ever since, I had imagined Zippora as larger than life. And that she is, but in ways unimagined, and wonderfully refreshing.

As events co-chair, I get an early glimpse into CDA member events and was excitedly anticipating the evening with Zippora. Jane Jelenko, President of CDA, had told me how special and inspirational this dancer is, but I was still surprised by her free spirit, open heart, and the depth of both her humanity and artistry.

Arriving at the lovely home of our hosts, Gwen and Brian Potiker, I headed to greet fellow dance lovers and noticed a young woman dressed in an understated black sweater and trousers sitting on the couch, and wondered who she was. Moments later I was introduced to the lovely Zippora Karz. The contrast between her picture in mid-air and the youthful, unpretentious woman before me was stunning.

Zippora and I hit it off immediately. We walked into the sunroom to take pictures for CDA archives, and she confided she needed photographs for a magazine cover on which she was to appear, and asked me to take pictures of her with my new camera. Zippora sat, stood, and moved her arms as my shutter captured the first 15 minutes of our acquaintance. I loved Zippora’s uncanny nature and free spirit. The next day we began to correspond and still do.

The group settled into Gwen and Brian’s living room and Zippora told us about her life as a dancer. The backdrop of her youth was a broken home and her early years were filled with challenges. Zippora found her soul and the joy in life when she dances, and like the song, “everything was beautiful at the ballet!”

Zippora’s teacher encouraged her to study dance seriously and helped her navigate the auditions that resulted in her acceptance to the American School of Ballet. She left Los Angeles for New York City to find herself among her true peer group, and finally a home. She had no idea it was possible to become a professional dancer, but with the dawning and realization of this truth at the American School of Ballet, her life course was set to dance with the New York City Ballet.

Just as she began to perform, juvenile diabetes struck when Zippora was 21 years old. Over six challenging years she learned how to manage the debilitating illness relying not upon training, but upon her own natural voice, her courage, dogged determination, and deep love for dance. Throughout this struggle, Zippora continued to perform with the New York City Ballet and became a principal ballerina.

Zippora is a dedicated teacher, committed to the ongoing legacy of George Ballanchine. Her personal journey through the world of professional dance, and her battle with juvenile diabetes formed the core of her discussion with the group. She is an engaging and persuasive spokesperson in the fight against juvenile diabetes and in her ongoing work to preserve the Ballanchine ballets through the Ballanchine Trust.

Disdaining tutus, Zippora loves to dance in free flowing, natural garb. Everything about Zippora is natural and from the heart, unlike many dancers who appear disciplined, focused and contained upon first meetings. Zippora breaks the mold. She is a free spirit who shares her passion, love, struggles, beliefs, fears, and vulnerability openly and joyously and with complete abandon.

The natural conclusion to our CDA question and answer periods with artists is usually welcomed by the audience after an hour of conversation. After three calls by the moderator for closure, our night with Zippora Karz arrived at its natural conclusion. To be continued.

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