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Hello and welcome!

Here you will find Resources for Supporting Indigenous Movements and the Artist Biographies for Empress Archer, followed by The Most Epic Program Notes Ever Written.  Thank you for coming!

Empress Archer Artists


Roy Assaf  

Christian Burns

Charlotte Griffin

David Harvey is a dance artist based in Seattle. Currently he is a company member with Out Innerspace Dance Theatre and has previously worked with choreographers Bobbi Jene Smith, Tom Weinberger, Sarah Foster-Sproull and Kate Wallich. He danced for Alonzo King Lines Ballet from 2008-2014 and continues his relationship with Lines by teaching and choreographing for its education programs. David was an Artistic Partnership Initiative Fellow at The Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU in 2021.

Magdalena Jarkowiec


Melinda Jean Myers

Ohad Naharin

Ella Rothschild 

Ilya Vidrin

Zack Winokur

Aviv Abeba Yossef is a practitioner of traditional Ethiopian dance living in Tel Aviv, Israel/Palestine. Her training comes primarily from the Ethiopian National Theater in Addis Ababa and the Beheltzin Center in Tel Aviv. She has also trained in jazz and contemporary techniques and sometimes incorporates these forms into her choreographic work. IG: @aviv_moveme


Ariel Freedman was born in Philadelphia, USA in 1983. After graduation from The Juilliard School, where she received the Martha Hill Prize, she danced in the companies of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Aszure Barton, followed by the Batsheva Ensemble and Company under the direction of Ohad Naharin. In 2011 she returned to freelancing, touring with Kidd Pivot, performing original work and solo repertoire of Bobbi Jene Smith, and cultivating a sustained collaboration with Ella Rothschild. She taught Gaga and Naharin’s repertoire from 2007-2015, and has performed with Keigwin + Company, Zack Winokur and Michelle Mola/ The Troupe in collaboration with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Liz Magic Laser, Talia Beck, Helen Simoneau Danse, and zoe | juniper. She met Roy Assaf in 2013, beginning an ongoing partnership in which she originates roles in, performs and stages his works. She has accompanied Assaf as artistic associate in commissions for the Royal Swedish Ballet, Gothenburg Opera, TanzMainz, New Dialect, Ballet BC and Nederlands Dans Theater, among others. In 2017 she premiered Empress Archer, a duet co-created and performed with Meredith Webster and produced by The Cambrians, and paired with Webster again for a creation by Charlotte Griffin. In 2019 she co-created Mayagidu with and for the community of Kibbutz Ramat HaKovesh, where she lives. Her work there continued with outdoor workshops and jam sessions in collaboration with dancer and scholar Shani Tamari Matan and graduates of “The Maslool Professional Dance Program.” She participated in Suzanne Dellal Centre's 1|2|3 program for emerging choreographers with the creation of a solo and duet in 2022, emerging with works and colleagues she would then call upon for Choreography, Conversation… and Cookies, an event of performance and facilitated dialogue.


Benjamin Wardell is the founder and creative director of The Cambrians. His first dance job was with Cincinnati Ballet, where he became a soloist before moving to San Francisco to dance with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet. He later joined Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Then at 29, he founded The Cambrians to create independent dance productions. The Cambrians has produced 8 evening-length shows, involving 20 dancers and 46 choreographers living on 5 continents, in forms as disparate as budoh, breaking, ballet, Ethiopian fusion, and stage combat. As a freelancer, Ben has toured internationally with Aszure Barton and Artists and Lucky Plush Productions and performed work with Ron de Jesus Dance, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, and Gustavo Ramirez Sansano. He originated an evening-length show with Alejandro Cerrudo, titled It Starts Now. In early 2018, he co-directed and performed a solo dance-theater performance, Fatelessness, with Theatre Y in Chicago while also performing a full-act dance solo, Inverno In-Ver, co-created with Michael Tilson Thomas and Pat Birch at New World Symphony in Miami. He has participated in several opera collaborations with Chromatic, a production and design company co-founded by James Darrah and Peabody Southwell, and danced as a soloist with Lyric Opera of Chicago in La Traviata and Florencia en el Amazonas. Ben is a dancer devoted to the dance world, a producer committed to production, a human in love with humanity. Working in steadfast pursuit of the advancement of art’s role in our society by facilitating full, authentic expression for himself and those around him is the ever-beating heart of his life and artistic practice. 


Meredith T. Webster grew up in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, studying under Jean Wolfmeyer and then attended the Harid Conservatory and Pacific Northwest Ballet School.  She worked with Sonia Dawkins Prism and Donald Byrd's Spectrum Dance Theatre in Seattle, and earned a B.S. in Sustainable Resource Sciences from the University of Washington before moving to San Francisco to work with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. In her nine seasons as a dancer with LINES, Webster originated many central roles, performed in international galas, and received a Princess Grace Award. In 2014 she became the Ballet Master for LINES, a role in which she served until early 2020.  Meredith has also performed with Sharp & Fine, joined Ledoh/Salt Farm in the butoh-inspired Incognito, worked with Maureen Whiting & Co, collaborated with David Harvey to create the site-specific Ladysmith Draw, and co-created Empress Archer, an evening-length duet produced by The Cambrians of Chicago. Webster has served as a faculty member for all of the LINES Ballet programs and as a guest teacher around the world, and she has contributed as a writer to Dance Spirit and Conversations.  She choreographed and starred in the short film Mirrors, written and directed by Mary Marxen, and worked with Drew Jacoby and SF Danceworks on the film Evidence of it All, in which she performed the lead role, with voiceover by Rosamund Pike.  Meredith participated in the Room to Room project in collaboration with Bruno Roque to make the solo Miles Away, and created the music video Numenon- the result of a choreographic residency at Dancers’ Workshop in Jackson, Wyoming.  She currently sits on the Board of Directors for Maureen Whiting & Co and lives on the unceded Ohlone land of xučyun (Huchiun), also known as Oakland, California.  Since 2021, she has been staging Alonzo King’s work and assisting him in the creation of new work for various companies outside of LINES. 



Patricia Mahoney - Lighting Designer/Supervisor

Patricia is a Stage Manager and Lighting Designer who began her career in college and became intensely active in the field of dance production during her seven-year residency at the Riverside Dance Festival in New York City.  She was the Production Stage Manager/Lighting Supervisor for Alonzo King LINES Ballet for 14 years and toured extensively. She inaugurated the “Lighting for Dancers” course for LINES’ BFA Program at Dominican University, bringing awareness to the role that lighting can contribute to dance.  Patricia has also worked and toured with Axis Dance Company, Flyaway Productions, Liss Fain Dance, Kambara + Dancers, Lar Lubovitch, Susan Marshall, BalletMet, 42nd Street Moon, Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater, Mark Taylor, the Martha Graham Ensemble, Nutcracker Key West, Dancers & Musicians of Bali, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, PCPA and Aspen Music Festival, to name a few. She and her husband Kim enjoy finding inspiration in a wide range of  artistic events in the Bay Area, throughout their frequent travels and in their garden. 


Chuck Wilt - Artistic Eye/Stage Manager

Chuck Wilt is a choreographer, drag artist known as Fuchsia, educator, and the Artistic Director of San Francisco based dance company UNA Productions. Chuck is currently on faculty at the LINES Training Program and Drop In SF and they have taught, created and set repertory for universities, training programs, professional companies, youth companies, high schools, and professional dancers. Chuck’s work through UNA has been presented in San Francisco, NYC, Maryland, Colorado, San Diego, Massachusetts, Tokyo and Kaga Japan, Montreal, Vancouver and Rural BC.

The Most Epic Program Notes Ever Written

The soundscape of the show includes, among other things, text in Arabic, Hebrew, and English.  We provide translation and context below that correspond to the show order (as named in the program).


VI. Ariel’s Solo

  • Protestors chanting during Palestinian demonstration, Shchem Road, East Jerusalem, at the blockaded entrance to the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, May 8, 2021


In her January 12, 2024, article for +972 Magazine, ‘A gentle, powerful light’: Honoring a symbol of Sheikh Jarrah’s steadfastness, Yahel Gazit writes:

“I first met Fatma in the wake of the events of May 2021. That month, Sheikh Jarrah became famous around the world; demonstrations against Israel’s attempts to expel Palestinians from the neighborhood catalyzed the uprising known as the Unity Intifada,’ as well as intercommunal violence between Arabs and Jews in so-called ‘mixed cities’ and a war on Gaza. Fatma, along with her husband, children, and grandchildren — 11 people in total — lived in one of dozens of houses under threat of settler takeover.

Soon after, I began attending and photographing the weekly Friday protests in Sheikh Jarrah, and meeting the neighborhood’s residents. Fatma would often join the demonstrations; several took place right outside her home, on the western side of Sheikh Jarrah — an area known as Um Haroun, where some 40 Palestinian families are at risk of expulsion. These nonviolent protests are invariably met with police brutality, sometimes including mounted officers and the use of batons, stun grenades, and water cannons. 

Prior to 1948, Um Haroun had been the site of a small Jewish community — Nachalat Shimon — whose residents were forced to evacuate during the war and received alternative housing in the west of the city. With Jordan occupying the eastern part of Jerusalem, its Custodian of Enemy Property {CEP} took over the homes of the Nachalat Shimon evacuees and began leasing them to Palestinians. Fatma’s parents, who were refugees from Jaffa, moved into their home {in Um Haroun / Nachalat Shimon} in 1951, and Fatma was born a year later.

After Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 War, the Israeli Custodian General {ICG} took control of the properties but continued leasing them to their Palestinian residents. In 1970, however, Israel passed the Legal and Administrative Matters Law, enabling Jews who owned property in East Jerusalem before 1948 to claim it back from the Custodian {ICG}; no equivalent law exists for the Palestinians who were dispossessed during the Nakba, such as the Salem family {Fatma’s family}. 

When Fatma’s parents died in the 1980s, the Haddad family {a Jewish family} — who claimed to have owned the land prior to 1948 and were granted ownership of the property by the Custodian {ICG}— received authorization from an Israeli court to evict Fatma and her family. This set in motion a decades-long legal battle over the Salem family’s right to remain in their home, which continues until today.”

I (Ariel) joined these East Jerusalem protests a number of times in 2021. They often occurred simultaneously with the Balfour protests a few kilometers away, in front of the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where the overall aim was to hold him and his government accountable to the law and to (non-violently) remove him from power. I attended the Balfour protest many weeks (sometimes days) in a row, and experienced a certain degree of aggression and intolerance from security forces. In Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan (another occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood and site of protests), although I was present in far fewer instances, I witnessed and directly experienced a level of danger and violence by police and military that was new and deeply frightening to me in a crowded, urban setting (when compared, say, to my experience of a non-violent Palestinian march in the rural, open spaces of the West Bank’s Jordan Valley, which was also met with military violence, and which also represented a kind of milestone for me in terms of my understanding of the occupation).


For more: 

+972 Magazine Reporting 

Amnesty International | Apartheid


  • Translation of protest chant heard in Empress Archer, an adaptation of the song Zaffit El Tahrer, (with thanks to Shahd Jabarin for her help):

I don’t want a gift

I don’t desire a gift

I want the flag of Palestine 

to fly over the Maskobiyye {a building in Jerusalem}

I don’t want a ring

I don’t desire a ring

I want the flag of Palestine 

to fly over the courts

I don’t want hattah {keffiyeh}

I don’t desire hattah

I want the flag of Palestine 

to fly over the prison of Shattah


Zaffit El Tahrer (Extended Version)


  • “Gilenu gilenu” Ariel’s Daughter, Harvey (age 4), May 24, 2021

From Hebrew (improvisation in song): “Our age, our age / Time passes / As we grow, we want to return to our age / Because it was katantanisti (invented word playing off the word for ‘small’) it was fantaniski (invented word probably playing off the word for ‘fantastic’) idea / We want to go back to being young. (spoken) Come! That’s it.”


  • Sounds from Kibbutz Ramat HaKovesh, March 2023

(the place Ariel calls home, in central Israel / Palestine, inside the 1948 borders), around the house and yard, Harvey and her father


  • Ahmad talking to his herd, Jordan Valley, May 22, 2021

Ahmad is one of multiple Palestinian shepherds in the Jordan Valley (in the West Bank, referring to the West bank of the Jordan River and a part of Palestine which has been under Israeli military occupation and continuous Israeli settlement since 1967) who have requested and received ‘escorts’ from activists (mostly Jewish Israeli, some international) in the last decade or so, as pressure and harassment from illegal settlers, the Israeli army and police (often working together) threaten their livelihood, way of life, fundamental well-being and survival. I (Ariel) have engaged in this form of ‘protective presence’ work since September 2020. Since October 2023, an astonishing number of entire communities have left their homes and relocated under direct threat of violence combined with the imposition of unbearable restrictions on such basic rights and necessities as access to water. 

For More:

Jordan Valley Activists 

Jordan Valley Coalition 

Jordan Valley Solidarity


  • Harvey (age 5) learning to count 1-30 in Arabic with some assistance from Ariel, November 23, 2021. Out of approximately five thousand primary schools in Israel, eight engage in bilingual (Arabic / Hebrew), binational education (Israeli / Palestinian). Harvey attends one of them.


  • “Pro-Democracy” demonstration in Kfar Saba (city in central Israel / Palestine, inside the 1948 borders), March 4, 2023

These protests took place every Saturday evening (following the Jewish Sabbath) for the better part of 2023, since the current coalition government (populated at the highest levels by, for example, violent settlers previously convicted on charges of incitement to racism and support for terrorism) came to power and began to implement so-called judicial reforms. These protests brought together an impressively wide swath of the Jewish Israeli public, while retaining an essentially Zionist spirit, asserting that Israel can be both a Jewish and democratic state while generally censoring discussion of the occupation. Palestinian citizens of Israel were invited to speak on the condition that they not speak about occupation - the elephant in the room. Some potential speakers rejected the invitation for this reason, identifying the occupation as the root source of the problems in our society and region, and unwilling to be silenced in that respect. In many protest locations throughout the country, the Anti-Occupation Bloc, an extremely small faction, would maintain a presence. We would be met with a range of reactions from fellow demonstrators, from encouragement to tolerance to aggression. On the evening Meredith and Ariel attended, during our 2023 rehearsal process, spoken word artist Yossi Zabari departed from the usual messages.


Yossi: (from Hebrew) “But– there is another thing that is important to remember, especially these days: Friends. Partners on the path. They are trying to put us to sleep. And it’s not pleasant to hear, but I say it in the clearest possible way, although it’s neither sexy nor popular: There is no such thing as democracy with occupation.”

Ariel: (from Hebrew) “Thank you! (In English ) He says: ‘People, I’m gonna tell you something, I know it’s not popular to say it, but there’s no such thing as democracy for only Jewish people.’ First person tonight to say that.”

Yossi: (from Hebrew, overlapping Ariel)  “There is no such thing as democracy with occupation. There is no such thing as democracy exclusively for Jewish people. It’s either democracy for everyone, or dictatorship. Now listen. [pauses, then apparently responding to the crowd] Right. DE-MO-CRA-CY! Sure, sure.”


IX. Jazz Dance Prologue

  • Harvey (age 6) singing Ani Avud (I’m Lost) by The Clique from Hebrew

“When you fall asleep, I want to be a dream. When you go, I’m lost, I’m alone. I’m lost, I’m alone (4x). Bye-byeee!”


X. Jazz Dance Proper

  • Ani Avud (I’m Lost) by The Clique from Hebrew

We arrived at this song during the original re-mixing process in Winter 2017, somewhere in the two dozen meters between Ariel’s porch and the porch of her brother-in-law, when we asked for help in coming up with a piece of rhythmic music for a certain chunk of choreography. Ariel’s partner Yair, his brother, and the small crowd of gathered friends were current or former stage workers who possessed a particular intimacy with multiple generations of Israeli rock and musical counter-culture. They threw out many options. Yair suggested this song because of its special sound and the legacy of the band. He recalls that another song (Don’t Light A Candle For Me) on the same 1983 album was banned from play in Israel because of its criticism of the First Lebanon War (1982), and that one of the band members would perform wearing a mask to hide his identity as a soldier in a special unit (the equivalent of US Navy SEALS). Yair’s brother connected Ariel to Dani Dotan, writer of the song lyrics, who gave his blessing for us to incorporate Ani Avud in our work.


When you open a door 

I want to be a lock

When you get dressed

I want to be a sleeve

When you swim in the sea

I want to be a drop

When you dance

I want to be a floor

When you pay 

I want to be a wallet

When you cough 

I want to be a germ

When you read a headline   

I want to be a newspaper

When you put on make-up  

I want to be lipstick

I want to be with you  

I’m alone, I’m lost

When you suddenly light up  

I want to be a match

When you draw 

I want to be a drawing

When you sniff 

I want to be a line

When you aim 

I’m the target

I’m alone, I’m lost

To be with you 

I want to be close

To be in the pocket 

in the hand

I’m lost, I’m so alone

I want to be with you 

I’m lost, I’m alone

When you phone 

I want to be a number

When you smoke 

I want to be a cigar

When you fall asleep 

I want to be a dream

When you leave 

I’m alone, I’m lost


Lyrics by: Dani Dotan

Melody by: Eli Avramov


הקליק - אני אבוד | קליפ


XI. Jumping Jacks

  • Harvey (age 6) singing Ani Avud (I’m Lost) by The Clique from Hebrew “When you fall asleep, I want to be a dream. When you go, I’m lost, I’m alone. I’m lost, I’m alone. I’m lost, I’m alone! Mom, how do you say ‘sleeve?’“


XII. Practice

  • a sound score composed by Meredith using the breath and words of the late Thich Nhat Hanh, who can be described by a multitude of titles and accolades, but perhaps most indispensable among them: a teacher. He is the author of many books sharing Buddhist practices with the West, including The Miracle of Mindfulness.  The sound samples that inspired us were excerpted from an interview with Master Thich for the OnBeing Podcast with Krista Tippett: 


Krista Tippett: “ actually wrote The Miracle of Mindfulness in those years when you had somewhat withdrawn from that great political and social activism of the 1960s. And so I wondered if mindfulness, that emphasis on mindfulness, was really the core of the learning that you took away from those years of such turmoil and activism on your part.”


Thich Nhat Hanh: “Well, that was the practice that kept us alive, helped us to survive. And The Miracle of Mindfulness was written for our social workers, first, in Vietnam, because they were living in a situation where the danger of dying was there every day. So out of compassion, out of a willingness to help them to continue their work, The Miracle of Mindfulness was written as a manual practice…When you practice looking at people with the eyes of compassion, that kind of practice will become a good habit, and you are capable of looking at the people in such a way that you can see the suffering, the difficulties. And if you can see, and then compassion will naturally flow from your heart. It’s for your sake, and that is for their sake, also. In The Lotus Sutra, there is a wonderful, five-word sentence: ‘Looking at living beings with the eyes of compassion.’ And that brings you happiness. That brings relief into the world. And this practice can be done by every one of us.”


That was the practice that kept us alive.

When you practice looking at people:

That was the practice that kept us alive.

When you practice looking at people

Looking at people

That was the practice that kept us alive

Helped us to survive.

Looking at people

When you practice (practice) looking at people

When you practice practice practice

That was the practice that kept us alive.

When you practice practice

When you practice practice

That was the practice that kept us alive

Helped us to survive 


  • Harvey (age 6) translating the song Ani Avud (I Am Lost) by The Clique

(see above for translation)


XIII.  Foot Dance

Madama Butterfly is an opera with music written by Giacomo Puccini, which has historically included negative tropes of gender, culture, and race.  The Humming Chorus is performed as the central character (Butterfly, a geisha) is quietly sitting vigil in Japan, waiting optimistically for the American naval officer she married to return.  Tragically, he never intended to honor his commitment, despite impregnating her.  He eventually does return…but with his American wife who intends to “adopt” the child.  Butterfly is driven to suicide.

The Foot Dance originated in our wildly joyful collaboration with Charlotte Griffin, during one of our very first residencies in the life of this work. It survived the remixing process and the ensuing 10 years nearly untouched. it revealed itself to be the heart of the work; there was alchemy between the sound and the movement.

When we spoke with Charlotte about our 2024 Empress Archer performances, Charlotte raised the question of the music’s history. She generously offered to collaborate on a new version of the Foot Dance score. We considered, and struggled with, the question and its implications. Meanwhile, the long, painful and, yes, complicated legacies of racism and colonialism spiraled into immense tragedy around us.

In the end, we decided not to make any musical changes to this section, and instead to embrace this moment in the piece for all it has illuminated for us. Our choice to detach the music from the opera and place it in a different context does not intend to artwash its history or deny the negative consequences of Orientalist stories like Madame Butterfly.  We acknowledge that this choice may still be objectionable to some. Yet as artists we see it as our honor to envision what is possible. We can transform that which never served us into that in which we can believe, and that on which we can act. We humbly propose a different sort of optimism, a real and unbreakable hope born of alignment, listening and tenderness.


“Inside the word ‘emergency’ is ‘emerge’; from an emergency new things come forth. The old certainties are crumbling fast, but danger and possibility are sisters.”

― Rebecca Solnit, 

Hope in the Dark: The Untold History of People Power

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