Margalit (also spelled Margolit) Oved was raised in Aden, Yemen. Margalit immigrated to Israel in the famous airlift “Operation Magic Carpet” which followed the anti-Jewish pogrom of 1949.
It was Gurit Kadman who, in the 1970s, convinced Margalit to join “The Project for Preserving and Nurturing of the Ethnic Dances,” which had originally been formed in the 1950s to enhance the unveiling of the rich folkloric roots of the various ethnic groups in Israel and strengthening their impact on the formation of Israeli folk dances.
At sixteen, she joined the Inbal Dance Theater Company of Israel, where, as the company’s prima ballerina for 15 years, she toured throughout the world; performing in such prestigious venues as the Martin Beck Theater on Broadway, the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris, London’s Drury Lane, Her Majesty’s Theatre in Australia, and La Scala de Milano in Spain, as well as command performances for the Queen of the Netherlands and the King and Queen of Nepal.
In 1965 Margalit was appointed as lecturer for modern and ethnic dance at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she taught for 22 years. In addition to her classes in dance, Arabic drumming and voice, she created numerous works for the UCLA Dance Company including a much lauded work for Magda Saleh, the former prima ballerina of the Egyptian Ballet, created before the Camp David Egyptian-Israeli Peace Accord.
In 1968, Margalit appeared in the film by Allegha Fuller titled Gestures of Sand. The film explores the patterns of music, movement, ritual, and myth which were integrally a part of the life of the Jews of Aden, Yemen, expressed through Margalit’s unique artistry.
In 1969 Margalit premiered her first one-woman show, comprised of four different dance, theater, and music pieces, prompting the New York Times to write “Margalit has the emotional strength of a giant… How versatile this girl is! She can shift easily from the tragic vein to the most engaging of high comedy and to an equally appealing lyric mood. Her voice is a remarkable one for range and color and expressiveness and when she moves her feet seem to be actually caressing the floor.”
On the heels of this success and with full backing from the National Endowmnt for the Arts, Margalit founded the Margalit Oved Dance Theater Company. Although in its infancy, the company was immediately selected as part of the National Endowment for the Art’s Dance Touring Program as well as its Artists in the Schools Program. While a member of these programs the company held over 100 annual performances as well as numerous residencies, workshops and master classes for primary, secondary and university students.
Margalit married an American, moved to the United States, and settled in Los Angeles, California, where she had a son, Barak Marshall. She taught Yemenite dance in 1978 at Holiday Camp, a folk dance conference directed by Dick Oakes and Diki Shields at the Pilgrim Pines retreat in the San Bernardino Mountains. In 1984, while in California, Margalit taught dance in the dance department at the University of California at Los Angles (UCLA).
In 1994, Margalit, with her son, Barak, went back to Israel and Margalit returned to Inbal as artistic director. While there, she premiered two much lauded evenings and composed and recorded the music for eight new works. In addition, she re-established Inbal’s dance school for underprivileged youth and created an outreach program to teach dance to students in peripheral and low-income communities throughout Israel. It was hoped that with Margalit as it’s director, Inbal would take on a new lease of life but it did not work out that way. So, Margalit and Barak set out on series of tours throughout Israel and abroad. Inbal was renamed the Inbal Ethnic Dance Centre.
In 1996, she left Inbal to join her son’s dance company, Barak Marshall Theaterdance, touring with the company for three years throughout Europe, Israel and the United States. She received rave reviews from Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Le Point, and L’Expresse; as well several honors and awards — among them, the ADAMI award for outstanding performance in the 1998 Bagnolet Festival.
In February 2000, Margalit was commissioned by Ohad Naharin, artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company to perform two original works in his piece “LOL” which was premiered and ran for two months in Stockholm, Sweden. The works were premiered in a joint evening with Anna Laguna of the Culberg Ballet and Nicolas Eck of Netherlands Dance Theater.
In 2001, Margalit was the lead performer in Barak Marshall’s evening length production for the Batsheva Dance Company and “As the Rooster Crowed, the Green Bride Floated Through the Village Square.” Following this she was commissioned by Ohad Naharin, Batsheva’s artistic director, to create and perform two new pieces for the Judiska Theatre in Stockholm, Sweden.
Margalit, in addition to being a superb dancer, performer, and choreographer, is a wonderful actress, singer, and percussionist. Barak became one of the most exciting Yemenite choreographers in his own right, doing the choreography for “Aunt Lean” and “Emma Goldman’s Wedding” (which won Marshall the prestigious Bagnolet Competition award in 1997) in which Margalit was featured. One reviewer said, “Barak Marshall’s choreography is the result of an important working relationship with his mother, Margalit Oved, whose presence on stage is overwhelming. Barak Marshall is certain to be hailed as one of the discoveries of the 90s.” These shows, along with another Barak choreography, “Shoshana’s Balcony” (created in 1999) continue to be presented at venues all over Europe to wide acclaim with Margalit in the lead vocal.
Margalit has created over 45 dance theater pieces as well as composing and recording 17 musical compositions for dance. She is the recipient of the Myrtle Wreath Award for her contribution to the arts. She has recorded a solo album for Folkway’s Records and is the subject of a Ford Foundation documentary film entitled “Gestures of Sand.”
Dances Margalit taught include Ahavat Hadassah, Debka Kalla, Debka Yeshaya-Margalit, Debka Ya Bint Eshech, Hareshut Be’emet Netuna, Hineh Achalela, Im Hashachar, Sapari (The Young), Sapari (The Old), Sar Hamemuneh, Shepherd’s Dance, Yabint Ishech, Yadayim Medabrot, Yesh Li Ima, and Waal Azab Gaal.