How to dance hora

Dancing the Hora: Everything You Need To Know - Smashing the Glass

Image: Blake Ezra Photography (Smashing The Glass Recommended Vendor)

What is, hands down, the most fun and exciting part of any Jewish wedding? In the immortal words of Anthony from Sex and the City, the answer is: “the hora! THE HORA!” 

The hora (sometimes called Jewish Dancing or Israeli Dancing) is a highly energetic Israeli circle dance, and guests are supposed to put as much vigor and enthusiasm into it as they would on their own wedding day. Danced to klezmer music, it’s usually the part of the wedding where you’ll see the happy couple lifted on chairs (equal parts exhilarating and terrifying), or being thrown about on a sheet!

At religious, Orthodox Jewish weddings, men and women dance the hora separately, with a dividing wall, while Reform, Liberal and Jew-ish weddings tend to keep the party in one place.

It’s an amazing challenge for any photographer, to capture the mayhem, and frankly, at this point, brides can forget about their hair and makeup, because things are going to get sweaty!

So, given how integral the hora is to a real Jewish knees up, how do you make it happen? Here are some tips to getting everybody at your wedding involved in this boisterous and brilliant tradition.

Image: David Pullum Photography (Smashing The Glass Recommended Vendor)

Kick off with klezmer music

If your budget can stretch to it we highly recommend a live band. Whether it’s a live band who can play some klezmer classics, or a traditional klezmer band, it’s all in the music. If live entertainment is a little out of budget, we advise putting together a klezmer playlist or asking your DJ to dedicate a special portion of the evening to it. 

There are many traditional melodies to choose from. If you’re not sure where to start, YouTube is a great source of inspiration for hora songs. This video alone is a medley of some of the most popular songs to dance the hora to, to get your playlist going.

Image: York Place Studios ( Smashing The Glass Recommended Vendor)

Learn some basic hora steps 

Chances are, if you’re having a Jewish or Jew-ish wedding, that you’re probably already a somewhat accomplished hora dancer. However, if you’re a little unsure of what happens when you dance the hora, why not brush up before the big day?

Whether you find a local Israeli dance class or teacher to help you out, or you use one of the many YouTube tutorials available, make sure you’re confident enough to whip up enthusiasm among your guests. They will, after all, be following your lead.

Image: David Pullum Photography (Smashing The Glass Recommended Vendor)

Appoint hora dance leaders

Some klezmer bands have somebody specifically designated to get into the fray, encourage your guests to join in and show everybody what to do. This is a really great investment for creating an amazing atmosphere. However, if that stretches the purse strings a little too much, try appointing some more experienced friends and family members to lead the hora dancing when the time comes.

Image: York Place Studios ( Smashing The Glass Recommended Vendor)

When to dance the hora

There’s no right or wrong time to dance the hora. Some couples choose to do so before dinner is served, others to kick off the dancing, while some wait until later in the evening. 

There are advantages and disadvantages to all. The hora is a great way to get everyone up and dancing, because it’s so easy and accessible, so earlier in the evening has its benefits. Having said that, a pre-dinner hora can lack energy and a post-meal hora… well… it’s a lot of moving around after a big meal. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you and what is most important to you, as well as the unique flow of your day. For example, it might be a shame to get everyone out of their seats for the hora, only to seat them again for the meal and lose momentum. Personally, we feel the hora is best danced when guests are really ready to let loose, after all the photos and moments are captured, and when you’re ready for that energy to continue throughout the evening. 

On the other hand (sorry to sound like Tevye), it might be wise to be lifted in your chairs earlier, rather than later, for more safe, sober pairs of hands.

If you’re not sure, chat to your band or DJ and perhaps ask them to use their best judgement where the Israeli dancing is concerned.

Image: Gianni Di Natale

How much time to dedicate to the hora

Generally, the hora is danced for anything from five to twenty minutes. It really depends on the demographic of your guests, how much they enjoy the dancing and how soon they start flagging.

The best thing to do is to have your band or DJ judge the lay of the land on the night, as people might be totally up for a bit more of a dance than you realise, or might tire quicker than you anticipated.

If you have a medley of songs you simply love, and want included, allocating more time to the hora is a good idea.

We love love LOVE the Jewish dancing and our top tip? Have your face glisten with glee (and sweat) during the Hora – totally and utterly go for it – do not worry about your make up or your dress – this is SUCH a joyous moment – be sure to let go!


What to Know About the Jewish Hora Dance

The hora dance (sometimes referred to as the chair dance) is traditionally performed at Jewish wedding receptions. It’s high energy and at some weddings can even go on for hours. It certainly takes stamina, but it’s lots of fun and is often considered one of the highlights of the wedding.

What Is the Hora Dance?

The hora is a traditional dance performed at Jewish weddings where the newlyweds are lifted into the air while their family and friends dance in circles around them. During the hora, the couple each holds one end of a handkerchief or napkin to signify their union.

Here, wedding planner Ruth Spirer takes us through this long-standing tradition.

Meet the Expert

Ruth Spirer is a wedding and event planner in Dallas-Fort Worth. Her company, Weddings and Events by Ruth, has been planning Jewish weddings since 2004.

The History of the Hora Dance

Traditional circle dances are nothing new. For centuries they’ve been practiced in many cultures across the Balkans and Southeastern Europe. The Turkish have their own version; so do the Romanians, the Bulgarians, and the Russians. The modern-day hora dates back to 1924 when a hora was performed for the Jews that were settling land in Palestine. It became associated with joy and has been performed at special occasions like weddings, both in Israel and America, ever since. 

While historical horas were performed with individuals twirling in circles, these days they are done in a group circle. Participants join hands and move in choreographed steps (don’t worry—they are easy to learn). In more traditional Jewish communities men and women dance separately in their own circles. In more modern communities men and women dance together in coed circles with the couple in the middle.

Hora Dance FAQs 

When should the hora be done?

The hora dance is performed during the wedding reception. There is no set rule for when it should be completed, but most couples chose one of two options. “The hora dance can be done as soon as the couple is introduced to the guests at the beginning of the reception,” says Spirer. “Or it can be done after dinner and then immediately open the dance floor for more dances with high energy.”

Who joins into the hora?

The short answer is everybody who wants to and is able. “All the guests join, and this is why at Jewish weddings it is recommended to have a large dance floor and enough space in the ballroom to accommodate this dance,” suggests Spirer.

Who is lifted on the chairs during the hora?

While the couple is always lifted on chairs, sometimes the couple’s immediate family members, parents, and siblings are also lifted into the middle of the circle.

Who lifts the couple onto the chairs?

Anybody can do the honors as long as they are strong enough. It can be hard work, so it’s common to swap people in and out to do the lifting as the dance goes on. Sometimes lifters are appointed beforehand while others spontaneously run into the middle of the circle. Even in traditional weddings where men and women dance separately, it’s common to see men lift the bride as well as the groom. “The groomsmen many times will be in charge of lifting the couple on the chairs during the dance,” says Spirer.

When should you start planning the hora?

It’s best to start planning the wedding reception two months before the wedding, and this includes the hora. Discuss with the DJ or the live band when you want the hora to take place and make sure they are prepared to play the right music. Don’t forget to discuss the length of the dance too!

Who plays the Hava Nagila?

A live band or a DJ can play the music for the hora. Just make sure the musicians are aware that you want to do the hora at your wedding and make sure they know how long you want them to play the music as the length of the dance varies.

Who initiates the hora?

It’s up to the wedding party and close friends and family of the couple to make sure the hora dance goes smoothly. If they get the circles moving, everybody else will follow.

Who dances inside the circles during the hora?

Often during the hora smaller circles are formed inside the larger circle. Because the couple is in the center of the circle, it’s customary to pull different groups in to dance with them. Put one bridesmaid or groomsmen in charge of encouraging guests of the wedding to swap in and out so everybody gets a turn.

What should the napkin be made of?

It doesn’t matter what the napkin is made of as long as it’s sturdy enough to withstand the dance and long enough for the couple to hold on each end. Often, a cloth napkin from the table setting is used. It can also be a piece of fabric that is meaningful to the couple.

How long should the hora be?

The hora can last as long as the couple desires. It can be a quick song or it can last multiple hours with different renditions. At more traditional weddings the hora lasts longer. At some Jewish weddings, the guests only do circle dances at the reception.

13 Jewish Wedding Traditions and Rituals

Basic dance movements "Moldovenyaska"

Moldovenyaska (Moldovan Moldovan, moldovenească; lit. - "Moldavian") - one of the most popular Moldovan folk dances.

Musical size 2/4, fast tempo. In compositional the structure is dominated by the rondo form. All performers stand in a circle, after scatter in pairs and start dancing, then again becoming in a circle after certain set of figures. The circle that usually start moldovenyasku, formed each time with a new figure.

Main dance movements:

one. The position of the legs, arms in the mass dance

2. The main move with a jump (on the spot, with swivel, advancing)

3. Running with kicking legs back (on the spot, with turn, with advance)

four. Lateral move on one leg, the other rises below the knee

5. Seizures with a change of position in front and rear (cross travel)

6. One-leg walk with a jump

7. Lateral stroke with heel strike

eight. Ejections of legs crosswise with a jump on one leg.

9. Small steps on I, III positions

ten. Twin rotations

"Hora" - folk dance - round dance among Moldovans, musical time signature 2/4. Performers hold hands raised from the elbow up.

Main dance movements:

one. Step to the side with the removal of the other leg up 30° to crossed position

2. Small steps on half-toes place, around itself and with advancement in side

3. Step on the edge of the heel followed by dismount

four. Rotation in pairs inward and outward on hops

5. Cross-legged jump

6. "Key" Moldavian (sock - heel, sock - heel with different legs, dismount on two legs and tucked-leg jump)

7. Triple busting with legs

eight. Lifting the girl by the waist in place and with transfer


  1. Studiopedia.Net - Informational student resource [Electronic resource]. - Access mode:

  2. Koroleva E., Kurbet V., Mardar M. Moldavian folk dance / E. Koroleva, V. Courbet, M. Mardar. - M.: Art, 1984.

  3. Dances of the peoples of the world. Moldovan dances - [Electronic resource]. - Access mode:

  4. Almanac of the teacher - the main elements Moldovan dance - [Electronic resource]. - Access mode:


Choir - Dance of the Jewish Renaissance.: Arktal - Livejournal

Published with the kind permission of the author
Shalit Shalit

This tan, "Chore", "Chora", "Chore", "Chore", True. Fervent, impetuous, he responded to the very spirit of the time, he discovered in the repatriates of the 20-30s of the twentieth century such a vitality that they themselves did not suspect. Jewish holidays - a wedding, a bar mitzvah, a folk dance festival, any big celebration - are inconceivable without these incendiary sounds, they have become part of the joy of the people who have been building, building and living in their state for more than 60 years.

Why hora? Where does this word come from? Khoros - hence, probably, both the chorus and the round dance - the word is Greek, but the dance of the chorus or hora (as it is pronounced in Hebrew) is of Wallachian origin, found in Romanian and Balkan folk traditions. To say that our Israeli choir originated in Odessa would be a cheerful exaggeration, but the fact remains: Baruch Kaushansky, the future author of the first choir, was born in Bessarabia, but lived and studied in Odessa, about the creation of the Jewish national dance Baruch Agadati thought about it while still on the Black Sea coast, and when he stepped on the Mediterranean Sea, that is, having arrived in Eretz Israel, he began to put his idea into practice.

The new time demanded a new step, and in the dance, figuratively speaking, a new step demanded new "pas" from the halutzim. So thought Agadati. Menashe Rabbi, his contemporary, a wonderful musician and one of the "organizers" of the entire musical life of those years: "The most difficult problem in our national revival is the problem of creating Hebrew, that is, Israeli art. Agadati occupies an important place among those working in this field. He of those who did not stay abroad, although he was called to cultivate foreign fields, but came to the country of Israel to work for her. He devoted himself to the development of the national dance - a-rikud-a-ivri - back there, in Russia. how Jews dance in different places, believers and non-believers, and looked for their own solutions ... ".

And here are the words of the writer Asher Barash: "Agadati, and it must be admitted, fell to the lot of the most difficult part of the construction of the House of National Art in Eretz Israel. Poetry has a tradition - no matter how wild, variegated and blurred it sometimes may seem, but still it exists, for music the path of adaptation has been beaten straight from Europe without labor pains and creative pangs.

And here he fully agreed with Agadati: there is no original, national - neither folk nor artistic Jewish dance. We borrowed from others, however, everyone borrows from each other, the main thing is what happens to it later, whether the form and content remain frozen or develop. Agadati noticed several curious things - firstly, the Jew uses special characteristic gestures in the dance, and anti-Semites parody them, as if confirming their originality; secondly, the Jew sometimes performs the same dances more slowly than the original rhythm requires. Sometimes the dancer just freezes, stops - this is a zero movement, the so-called static dance, found in the Far East. Let's remember a song in Yiddish about how a very old woman dances at a wedding: z, z, wee zi gate, wee zi tupet, wee zi steit (look at how she steps, crouches, how she stands) ... How she stands! This property - slowing down the pace and movement - formed the basis of the choreography of his two dances - "Morning Prayer" and "Bacchanal Hebrew". The desire to create a dynamic dance led him to new searches - and not only on stage, but also in life itself ...

Haggadati was often asked how the ideas of his dances were born, and he cited the Rabbi Meir dance as an example: “In my mind, the rabbi saw himself again in Odessa. Imagine the end of the Sabbath. The Jew returns from the synagogue. and fasting. Queen Saturday moves away from him, and this parting is hard for him. But suddenly he remembers that the Hasid is ordered to regret and yearn, everything must be accepted with joy and gratitude. "

These thoughts and this psychology of actions he had to convey, to embody in the dance - from slow, stretched movements, through changing facial expressions - to an inspired, dynamic dance. And he scattered the ends of his coat-bonnets and, starting into a swift dance, at the same time somehow cooled the rhythm, restraining himself, and the movements turned out not sharp, but smooth.

On this basis, he built the choreography of dances close to the religious world - "Simhat Mitzvah" ("Joy of Benevolence") and "Tfilat Shacharit" ("Morning Prayer"). Rabbi Menashe will say that the "step of Apollo" prevails over the "step of Dionysus", that is, aesthetics is higher than emotions. Not a single movement in vain, everything is subject to the plan and verified with geometric accuracy. Such are his dances about the revival of the land of Israel, the next stage of life and work - about the Khalutian life of our predecessors - repatriates of the early twentieth century. This is the dance "Ora Glilit" - about the awakening of Galilee, and "Ehi taimani roked" ("Let there be or long live the dancing Yemenite").

And so, through an artistic dance, he came to the choir - a nationwide, mass dance, the dance of the Jewish Revival.

May 14, 1948 Washington. USA.
Young members of the Zionist organization HaBonim
dance the chorus to celebrate the establishment of the State of Israel.

(Washington DC Jewish Community Historical Archive)

What was dancing here before him? Immigrants from Romania - their chorus, Polish Jews - Krakowiak, Russians - Cossacks, and all "Europeans" together - various Poles. But there were also Bukharian Jews, and Kurdish, and Yemenite, and there were East European Hasidim ... Let's not forget that those who stood at the origins of the young Israeli culture - poets, writers, artists, musicians, sensitively peered into the local color, listened to the sounds and rhythms of Arabic, Druze, Circassian speech and song. And dance folklore, when it comes to that.

Where, how and when did the choreographic drawing of Agadati come to life in a round dance of legs, arms and shoulders? That's how it was. It was 1924. Agadati gathered in his plank house-shed in Tel Aviv, which stood right on a sand dune, next to the sea, all the young shoots of the cheerful and risky theater "Ohel", lined up the guys in a round dance, ordered to stretch out their hands and put them on the shoulders of their neighbors - partners and, humming something unusually simple and cheerful, today it can be depicted in a cartoon, he began to transfer the drawing to the movements of his body ...

He danced on tiptoe, slightly bending his body, he took his hands off the shoulders of implied neighbors, threw them simultaneously up, to the right, to the left, his legs soundlessly and swiftly made simple and graceful "pas", then flew up above the floor, then weight body moved from heel to toe, then with a jump - in the opposite direction. The young dancers were carried away by the lightness and brightness of the new dance, they wanted to repeat the flexibility and confidence of the choreographer and performer.

This is how the Israeli dance "Hora" was born. I managed to find the collection "Sidrat Rikudei Eretz Yisrael", published in the distant 1946, where its editor, Gurit Kedman, who once started dancing in the Agadati group, wrote about how earnestly they practiced every step and every movement.

"Here we slowly converge, hand to hand, shoulder to shoulder - a circular chain appears, it closes. The common rhythm unites the movements of the legs, and now these are no longer separate dancers, but a single whole - a dancing unit. And the author of this collective dance, which mixed in one impulse elements of both rural Romanian dance, and Russian ballet, and echoes of the Moldavian melody, was almost happy. , the rhythm was important to him - 6/8 and only. And what was his surprise, which turned into complete confusion, when his friend, composer Alexander Boskovich, with a face changed in horror, told him that this was a Romanian anti-Semitic student song! . . And he immediately wrote another, new melody, retaining the rhythm and meter needed by the author, and this is how the first Israeli choir, Chora Agadati, came down to us, and the members of the Ohel theater group carried it throughout the Yishuv – and to Emek Iz Rael, and to Galilee, and to the Negev."

Choir dance in the temporary camp of the Ein Shofet movement, 1934-1937.
(photo from the archive of Kibbutz Ein Shofet)

More than one study has been written about the place of the choir in the life of the builders of this country. Unlike other dances that also became popular, it seemed that no one had ever invented it, it had always been. Everything in it was natural, real: the round dance united souls and thoughts, hands on the shoulders of a comrade and his on yours gave a feeling of brotherhood, steadfastness, intimacy and a strong connection with this land ...

Writer Eliezer Smoly in the book "They Were the First" gives a story about a holiday in a family of novice inexperienced farmers, whose hands are always strained, and the day is filled with worries and difficulties. Today they are no longer the same 18-20-year-old boys and girls who cheerfully started life from scratch ... Today they are burdened with a family, they are farmers, always preoccupied, forced to think about children. But here come the guests. The men rolled up their sleeves and prepared for the feast. They brought two jugs of wine and filled cups and glasses. They drank to the health of the inhabitants of the new farm, wishing them success. These early aged people with wearied hands and broad foreheads for a time forgot their worries and difficulties. They remembered the carefree days when twenty years ago they worked as farmhands on the farms of Galilee. Then they were young, and their girls were gentle and affectionate, and they still had the charm of a distant father's house ... All of them were free birds then - they worked during the day and danced until they dropped in the evening.

Choir dance on the occasion of the founding of kibbutz Shamir, Dec. 1944 (photo from the site "Rokdim")

Wine opened hearts like flowers, eyes sparkled, hands intertwined, legs revived and the choir began - a friendly, strong Galilean choir, full of passion and enthusiasm. Only the workers of Galilee could dance like that twenty years ago.
Who guards Galilee?
We guard Galilee.
Who will build Galilee?
We will build Galilee...

Arms wide open, heads thrown back, breathing became loud, the song stopped, and only the rhythmic clatter of feet is heard: belated youth rages, hearts full of life beat strongly.

They didn’t philosophize, they didn’t talk, here I am – a particle of a great chain that creates a new life on the old earth, but the past became not only a common, but also a personal memory, and the fate of the Jewish people was seen as a personal task. And in some way this dance meant including yourself in this great chain.

When the dance takes root, it becomes a symbol of self-expression of the society, even if it is not immediately aware of it. Why do some dances suddenly die, others arise and spread like an epidemic? Society is changing, and its spontaneous self-expression cannot remain the same.

All who came after Agadati - both composers and choreographers - tried to combine ancient elements of Middle Eastern folklore with Eastern European movements. For some, it turned out very naturally and talentedly. They were creative people, they wanted, as composer Mark Lavry would say, "to sing of the country of Israel - young, under construction, but also ancient, biblical - so far away and so close."

Mark, by the way, was our countryman, from Russia, he studied in St. Petersburg, with Glazunov, and in Riga, and in Leipzig. He became a composer and conductor, wrote the most serious music - operas, symphonies, but paid tribute to the Israeli choir, introducing new original elements into it ... For me, he became a real discovery. Hearing the voice of an unfamiliar girl, young Khana Aharoni, who was brought from Yemen as a baby, he decided to write a song for her... It would seem, what else can you think of in a dance whose rhythm was set several decades ago? But Mark Lavri, a European, a former resident of Riga, found such an original form that his choir could be successfully performed on the stage of the La Scala theater in Milan itself, the voice of Khana Aharoni soared off the ground and soared to such heights with its coloratura. By the way, later, when she sang in Yiddish "Oifn vag shteit a boym", no one believed that she was not Mark Lavri's compatriot...

A native of Russia, Ukraine, Romania, an ordinary ringing dance choir could not surprise with a melody, and even its step could be mastered without difficulty, and yet it was a new dance, its figures, its tact, its live chain of young people meant the beginning of a new like not only dance, but also the man himself, uninhibited, new - the owner of the country, its builder and warrior.

Here is the story of Zvi Arad (Girsha-Grisha Rudnik), a poet, writer who came to Eretz Israel from Vilna (Vilnius) in the 30s of the last century. After 60 years, he recalls the role of the choir in his life and destiny... He was young and stood at a crossroads - part of the youth united around the Yiddish language, they were cultured guys, they loved their people, their language, literature. And Zvi knew Yiddish well, but was in love with Hebrew and dreamed of a country flowing with milk and honey. One day he came across Martin Buber's pamphlet Renewal of Jewry, edition 1919 years old.

"Origin, - he read, - is not just a connection with the past ... we Jews must remember: not only the character of the fathers, but also their fate, everything: torment, humiliation, shame, all this played a role in the formation of our being and our properties. We must also feel this and know that the breed of prophets, singers and kings of Judah lives in us ... ".

These words seemed to call him to other latitudes, to other lands... But there was no literature about the settlement building on the Earth of the prophets. And during this period, a guest came to Lithuania to visit relatives, a halutz from distant Palestine. Having gathered young Jewish boys and girls, he told them about the Kinneret group, how they work and how, after 14 hours of exhausting work, having barely washed themselves and changed their shirts, they dance the chorus around the fire . .. His name was Motke. Descendants of his family with the surname Khadash can still be found in Kibbutz "Kvutzat Kinneret" ... Who was Motke Hadash himself? Shepherd among the Bedouins, followed the flock of sheep. This man became for Zvi the embodiment of Martin Buber's idea: "I want my future, I want a new, whole life for myself, for the people in me, for myself among the people."

Chora in Kibbutz "Dahlia"

In his autobiography (it was not published anywhere, I am translating from the manuscript) Zvi writes: and - to be silent, not to chat, not to sing. We sometimes danced for three hours in a row, and with the same zeal as the Hasidim dance. There was something amazing in this dance, like meditation (it is written, we recall, in 90 years). A person seems to be drowning in his own soul, focused, strong, courageous ... A new person was born in me. Well, of course not right away. But if there was any confusion, it was in my head. Legs pleased with ingenuity. The step became easier, the jump more precise, the body more airy. And you, and a neighbor, and a partner opposite. And it seemed that gradually it cleared up in my head - there is only one way, this dance called there, this dance from there - life itself beat in it, juice, the essence of true life. This dance told us more about Zionism than ringing slogans and long lectures... Starting all over again - that was such an attractive force... "
The first big gathering or festival, as it is called today, of folk dance took place in Kibbutz Dalia in 1944. The tradition of national Jewish dance developed. As soon as the creation of the State of Israel was announced, happy round dances arose in all the squares of all cities - both old and young danced the chorus - shots from 50 years ago excite us to tears even today.

The chora reflected the aspirations and dreams of those who created and performed it, it united, it taught: together we are strength, and this is its historical significance.

Learn more