Alumni Spotlight: Sariyah Idan

Watch our Sariyah’s beautiful music video—the first single from her DEEPER THAN SKIN EP.


Photo credit: Lisha Riabinina

Photo credit: Lisha Riabinina

Sariyah Idan is an internationally touring actor, writer, dancer, singer-songwriter, and educator who utilizes interdisciplinary theater and multi-genre music to create transformational experiences. Her work interrogates toxic forms of patriarchy while offering alternative ways of navigating its landscape and embodying a complex identity. Committed to the intersection of multiple narratives through a lens of compassion, she investigates the responsibility that comes with privilege and provides spaces for connectivity. As an educator/coach she passionately empowers the authentic voice of individuals while encouraging communal accountability. Her solo documentary/autobiographical theater show HOMELESS IN HOMELAND, reviewed as “a dramatic tour-de-force…not to be missed (Hollywood Progressive),” 

combines poetry, dance, and seventeen character monologues, to convey a young Jewish-American woman’s struggle to understand her identity, her family, justice, and the meaning of home through the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a singer-songwriter, band leader, and multi-instrumentalist she has played iconic cultural centers including The Kennedy Center in DC, The Skirball Cultural Center in LA, and The Nuyorican Poets Cafe in NYC. Jazz trained, hip-hop educated and influenced by her Jewish roots Sariyah embodies fiery sensuality rooted in cultural, social and verbal poetry. With a passion for ethnomusicology and social movements, Ms Idan intentionally mixes multiple genres not simply as a sonic tapestry of her environment but also as an expression of social activism and is indebted to her mentors, including Melanie DeMore, for guiding her in this practice. Her understanding of world cultures, sounds and rhythms began at a young age touring as dancer and singer with world music and dance ensemble The Vanaver Caravan. Fusicology reviewed her Deeper Than Skin EP as “powerful, soulful, spirited songs filled with stories of joy, struggle, love and social justice”. Her collaboration with world music DJ/producer Haj i Ji drew vocal comparisons to Sade by the Canadian publication The Voice Magazine. With a long list of collaborations in the hip-hop, dub, soul and world music scene, Sariyah is currently working on her debut LP currently being recorded in both Los Angeles and Berlin.

Sariyah began dancing with The Vanaver Caravan at age 4, became a member of the first Caravan Kids group and Youth Company, and went on to perform in the touring Company. This is what she has to say about the 20+ years she spent with The Vanaver Caravan. 

... I think what made a more lasting impact on me is that Livia and Bill live [their] mission as people—it’s not just a job practice, it’s their way of life and thus by extension I believe it becomes a way of life for anyone who spends significant time in their community.”
— Sariyah Idan (known formerly as Saria Idanna, Saria Young, and Sasa)

In what ways do you think The Vanaver Caravan impacted/shaped the life you live today? My interest in cultures. My fascination with ethnomusicology and the fusion of cultural sounds in my own music. The social justice nature of much of my work as a writer and performer. My understanding of “proper body alignment” as a dancer and my subsequent commitment to educating others about it when working with massage clients. My investment in my poetry and theater students to not just focus on their own unique expression to be solid ensemble members, to be accountable to each other. I continue to have a strong appreciation for music and dance traditions because of the curiosity The Vanaver Caravan instilled in me. But I think the strongest way The Vanaver Caravan impacts my life today is by inspiring me to create my own music and movement traditions; ones representative of the coexistence committed counter-culture I was raised in, and mixed with my own identity as an american kid nurtured by the African-American music canon.

Tell us a story! Can you share an event, memory, funny anecdote, or quote from your history with Livia and Bill & the rest of The 'Caravan? So many! Making site specific dance pieces with Rachel Prince and the goats in the goat pen at Summer Dance. Early morning small ensemble school shows with improvised blocking, improvised dressing closets, and ecstatic mind blown kids. Bill looking for his socks while packing up from a show. The encyclopedia of corny, punny, mildly dirty folksy jokes. Livia after one glass of wine and a big concert in Scotland exiting a lounge saying — with her quintessential Jewish mother point— “you all might not fully appreshmiate me now but one day, one day, you’ll appreshmiate me.” All of us doubled over with laughter and appreciation.

Can you give us three to five words you'd use to describe the overall feeling you get when you think of your time with TVC? Rhythmic, community, jokes, van rides, spontaneous, multicultural, spiral of traditions, schlepping, the Tetris of packing.

Anything else you want to say to us? ...I appreshmiate.

Thank you, Sariyah. We love you!

What's all this about? See our Spring Fund-Drive 2018 Letter of Giving

One of the common threads in any thriving, happy, peaceful society, is a feeling among the people, of belonging and being understood. The Vanaver Caravan provides workshops, performances, and on-going school programs that directly help people understand and connect to one-another. 

This spring, our goal is to fill our alumni scholarship fund, which will help bring new students of lower means into our after school and summer programs--into our dance community. 

We have a lot of alumni. Over 50,000 students and dancers across the globe, from more than 1,000 schools. We couldn't get in touch with every one of them, but we have reached out to some of our alumni to see how they are using their Vanaver Caravan teachings to make an impact in the world. For the next 6 weeks, we'll bring you new stories from old friends, just like Rachel's! Next week, we catch up with our beloved Adrienne Barr-Chait.