Berta Yampolsky

Berta Yampolsky, born in 1934, is an Israeli dancer and choreographer, best known as the co-founder of the Israeli Ballet along with her husband Hillel Markman.


Berta Yampolsky was born in Paris to Russian immigrant parents. Her parents, Yochved and Naftali, immigrated to Israel when Yampolsky was just two years old and settled in Tel Aviv, later moving to Haifa. Her mother, Dr. Shneur Yampolsky, a granddaughter of Shalom Aleichem, completed her medical studies in Paris and practiced there for a year and a half before moving to Israel, where she continued her medical career. Her father, Naftali Yampolsky, studied chemistry and briefly worked in Paris before their immigration to Israel.

Yampolsky began her ballet training at the age of 14 under the tutelage of the Haifa-based teacher Valentina Archipova, where she became engrossed in the world of dance. At the age of 15, she met Hillel Markman, a sailor in the Israeli Navy, who also started his ballet training under Archipova. The two fell in love, got married three years later, and together embarked on their ballet journey.

They moved to London to continue their studies, attending different schools. Berta studied at the Royal Ballet School in London, while Hillel pursued his training elsewhere. Following their time in London, they danced as soloists in various ballet companies across Europe, including Puckin Ballet in Paris, Antwerp Opera House in Belgium, and Basel, Switzerland, where they represented Swiss ballet at the Athens Festival in Greece and New York City's Russian Montecarlo Ballet.

With a wealth of international experience and a string of successes, the couple returned to Israel, driven by deep patriotic emotions and a belief that Israel would warmly embrace and support their journey in ballet.

The couple founded the Israeli Ballet, which made its debut on January 25, 1967, at the "Rina" cinema in Holon. The small chamber ballet company consisted of Hillel, Berta, and four additional dancers. The ballet company's budget was primarily funded by the fees they collected from ballet classes taught throughout the country.

In 1981, choreographer George Balanchine allowed the company to perform his works, including "Serenade," "Four Temperaments," "Symphony in C," "Concerto Barocco," and "La Valse." Balanchine's works were a significant milestone for the Israeli Ballet, receiving critical acclaim both nationally and internationally.

Berta Yampolsky, the artistic director of the ballet company, revealed herself as a creative choreographer, producing more than thirty works, ranging from classical to neo-classical and contemporary styles, all met with glowing reviews in Israel and abroad.

In late summer 2004, 37 years after the founding of the Israeli Ballet, the determined couple realized their dream by establishing the new home for the Israeli Ballet on Mount Nevo Street 4 in Tel Aviv. It was also here that the Israeli Center for Classical Ballet was established.

Berta Yampolsky's creation, "Goreh Leyader," received praise in Haaretz newspaper in 1993: "Yampolsky searched for new movement solutions, which were fresh and intriguing, as if ballet was created by a modern choreographer who knows classical ballet thoroughly and tries to explore how far he can go using the classical dancer's abilities. Yampolsky gave freedom to imagination, without being bound to a specific style, a challenging and grand production."

A quote from a review of her early performance in The Washington Post:

"Berta Yampolsky, seen otherwise only in the opening item, was charming as Estrella; this young lady has the making of a star."

In 2012, Yampolsky and Markman were relieved of their positions at the Israeli Ballet due to allegations of mismanagement and an accumulated deficit of 10 million shekels.

In 2018, Yampolsky published an autobiography titled "The Optimists," which chronicles her and Markman's personal and artistic lives and the circumstances surrounding their departure.

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