How to jewish dance

Jewish Dance | My Jewish Learning

In the Bible, the Israelites use dance as a form of religious expression. From images of Miriam leading the women across the Sea of Reeds to numerous references throughout the Psalms, it is clear that dance was an expression of joy, awe and worship.

After the end of the biblical period and throughout most of the Middle Ages, one finds fewer examples of sacred, ritual dance in Judaism. However, because of the mitzvah (commandment) to celebrate a bride and groom, dancing at Jewish weddings was always encouraged. According to Fred Berk’s work on Jewish dance, Ha-Rikud, men and women danced separately at religious functions, but dance was nonetheless an important part of the celebrations.

Elaborate dances honoring the newly married couple have been created over the last several centuries, including the iconic ritual of lifting the bride and groom and dancing with them raised on chairs. Wedding dances continue to be an important part of Jewish cultural identity today; many Jewish American couples who consider themselves secular still feature traditional hora dancing as part of their wedding celebrations.

Hasidism, which began to emerge in the 18th century, focused on praying with joy and passion and seeking connection to God through song and dance. As in biblical times, dance once again became a form for religious expression. The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, and his followers danced in circles, with increasing fervor, seeking a kind of ecstasy through their repeated movements. The dancers would sing a wordless melody (niggun) as they moved, and sometimes their rebbe would dance on his own before the group–creating new movements for the circle to pick up and integrate. This kind of circle dancing, still practiced in some Hasidic communities today, could last for hours.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, another kind of Jewish dance emerged: Israeli folkdance. Pioneers who came to the land of Israel from across Europe brought with them their own native dances. Using this material they created Israeli folkdances, expressing their passion and desire to return to the Promised Land. Dancing barefoot, with fast movements like leaping and running, Israeli folkdances became an important form of expression for new immigrants. As the new state of Israel emerged, folk dancing became a national pastime. Gradually, Israeli dancing spread to Jewish communities all over the world, becoming an important way for Jews in the Diaspora to connect to the Jewish state. Israeli dance has also expanded its repertoire as Jews from different cultural backgrounds, including Yemen and Ethiopia, have contributed to the beauty and diversity of Israeli folk dance.

In more recent times, Jewish choreographers and dancers throughout the world have explored Jewish themes in modern dance. For example, the Avodah Dance Ensemble, founded by Joanne Tucker, has created many modern dance pieces inspired by Jewish liturgy, and has taken its work to congregations and prayer services around the world. Sometimes set in a concert setting and sometimes designed for the synagogue, new Jewish dance ensembles are synthesizing our long history of worship and expression with a renewed passion for dance.

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Pronounced: khah-SID-ik, Origin: Hebrew, a stream within ultra-Orthodox Judaism that grew out of an 18th-century mystical revival movement.

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The History of Jewish Dance

In the Bible, Mishnah, and Talmud, dance is referred to in various contexts as an important ritualized activity and as an expression of joy.

Victory Dances

Biblical dancing to the accompaniment of drums is associated with the celebrations of military victories and welcoming home heroes who have routed an enemy. The women’s role was to receive and extol the fighters.

After the triumphant crossing of the Red Sea, “Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances” (Exodus 15:20-21). On his triumphant return from battle to Mizpah, Jephtah was greeted by his daughter with timbrels and dancing (Judges 11:34).

When David and Saul returned from the battle with the Philistines, “the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with timbrels, with joy, and with rattles” (Samuel I 18:6).

There is a detailed description of a victory parade, where Judith leads the women in the dance, to the accompaniment of a special thanksgiving song: “And all the women of Israel hurried to see her, and they praised her and made a dance for her…And she went out in the dance before all the people, leading all the women” (Judith 15:12-13).

Ecstatic Dances

The most telling biblical evidence of the power of music inspiring ecstasy and the prophetic vision is connected with King Saul. A passage from Samuel tells that Saul goes to the hill of God where he meets a group prophesizing while in motion, accompanied by several instruments.

The text adds: “And the spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon thee, and thou shalt prophecy with them, and shalt be turned into another man” (Samuel I 10:5-6). There is no mention of dancing, which typically accompanies ecstatic practices, but the movement that is an inherent part of the situation described may well allude to its ritual nature.

David’s dance before the Ark was an example of the religious ecstatic dances performed by men. The Psalms exhorted people to “praise God’s name in the dance”–“praise Him with timbrels and dance” (Psalms 149:3; 150:4).

Folk Dances

Detailed descriptions have been handed down to us from the period of the Mishnah, from which we learn that there was folk dancing at religious celebrations. During the festival of Tabernacles, there was a daily procession around the altar in the Temple following the sacrifices.

The celebrations reached a climax in the dances of the water-drawing festival: “Whoever has not witnessed the joy of the festival of the water-drawing has seen no joy in life. Pious men and men of affairs danced with torches in their hands, singing songs of joy and of praise, and the Levites made music with lyre and harp and cymbals and trumpets and countless other instruments” (Sukkah 5:1b).

The Book of Judges (21:21), in describing the annual feast in Shiloh, tells of the bride-choosing ceremonies. The story of the capture of brides by the surviving men of the tribe of Benjamin indicates that choosing brides during the vineyard dances was a recognized practice in Israel.

Others believe it was the celebration of the vines on the Fifteenth of Av. According to the Mishnah, Rabbi Simeon ben Gamliel declared, “There were no holidays for Israel like the fifteenth of Av and the Day of Atonement, on which the daughters of Jerusalem went out in white dresses which were borrowed so that no one need be ashamed if she had none. And the daughters of Jerusalem went forth and danced in a circle in the vineyards. And what spake they? ‘Youth, lift up thine eyes and behold her whom thou wouldst choose'” (Taanit 4:8).

In the Song of Songs (7:1), one finds the rather obscure mention of “the dance of the two companies,” which seems to have been taken from a traditional wedding dance, and may imply two groups of dancers, a type of dancing that can still be seen at Bedouin festivities in the Middle East.

In talmudic literature (Ketubot 17a) the bridal procession was regarded with great deference and was given priority on public thoroughfares requiring even a funeral procession to make way. Dancing in honor of the bride at a wedding was considered an act of religious devotion. Rabbis and scholars performed it joyously, each in his own manner.

Rabbi Judah ben Ilai would take a myrtle twig and dance before the bride singing. Rabbi Samuel ben Isaac, even when he was old, would juggle three myrtle twigs as he sang and danced. Rabbi Aha danced with the bride on his shoulder (ibid.).

In the Diaspora

During the dispersion, the dancing associated with the normal activities of a nation in its own country ceased. The rabbinical authorities often forbade dancing in public.

The many discussions in the rabbinical literature and responsa about dancing include opinions ranging from lukewarm compromise to outright hostility. At weddings and bridal feasts and for the Sabbath and particularly on Purim and Simhat Torah and Lag ba-Omer dancing continued while taking on new forms.

In European Jewry of the Middle Ages, dancing for pleasure was an end in itself. In the medieval ghettos of France, Germany, and Poland, where living quarters were crowded, almost every Jewish community had a wedding-house or Tanzhaus for festive occasions. Here the Tanzfuehrer (dance leader or caller) was aided by hired musicians.

During the Renaissance, Jews danced for recreation and entertainment. David Reuveni describes the dancing in the home of Jehiel Nissim of Pisa in 1524. They also danced in public as in the procession of Palermo celebrating the marriage of King Ferdinand of Castille and Isabella of Aragon in 1469.

In Jewish homes in Italy the Hebrew teacher taught Bible and Talmud, music, and dancing. That Jews engaged extensively in the profession of teaching in that period is emphasized by the recurring laws closing schools of dance and music conducted by Jews, such as the edicts of 1443 in Venice, and 1466 in Parma.

There were Jewish dancing teachers in Renaissance Italy, the most distinguished dance master of the time being Guglielmo de Pesaro, author of a treatise on the dance dated 1463. In the 16th century, another Jew, Jacchino Massarano, won fame as a dance master and teacher in Rome.

Oriental Jewry

There are many communities, such as the Moroccans, Georgians, Libyans, and Ethiopians, in which spontaneous group folk dancing is important, yet the Jews of Yemen and Kurdistan Jewry are among the most prominent traditional cultures attributing dynamic importance to dance in the daily and festive life of the community.

Dance among the Jews born in Yemen comprises stylistic diversity characteristic of urban and rural settlements as well as including women and men. Dancing usually takes place during ceremonies and celebrations.

Fundamentally, the men’s dances are composed of steps and figures executed in a very small area. The dominant line is vertical–with agile, springy bending of the knees. The very expressive hands are used for an infinite variety of gestures. One or two singers, rhythm instruments, or hand clapping always accompany the dance, but no melodic instruments are used.

The women’s dances are less variegated and more restrained. They are accompanied by the singing of the dancers themselves, or that of two female musicians who beat the rhythm respectively on copper plate and drum.

Hasidic Dances

With the rise of Hasidism in Eastern Europe in the 18th century, dance assumed great importance for the Jewish masses. Israel ben Eliezer Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, used dance to attain religious enthusiasm (hitlahavut) and devoted adherence to the Almighty (devekut). He taught his followers that “the dances of the Jew before his Creator are prayers,” and quoted the Psalmist, “All my bones shall say: Lord, who is like unto Thee?” (Psalms 35:10).

Hasidic dance assumed the form of the circle, symbolic of the Hasidic philosophy that “every one is equal, each one being a link in the chain, the circle having no front or rear, no beginning or ending.” The Hasidim would start their dancing in slow tempo, and as the music became faster they held arms upwards and leapt in the air in an effort to reach spiritual ecstasy. The accompanying melodies were composed to brief texts from either the Bible or the Talmud.

Nahman of Bratzlav, great-grandson of the Ba’al Shem Tov, believed that to dance in prayer was a sacred command, and he composed a prayer which he recited before dancing. He and other Hasidic rabbis called for dancing on all festive occasions and even on the solemn days of the Ninth of Av, Rosh Hashanah, and the Day of Atonement.

During the celebrations on Simhat Torah, the usual processions with the scrolls reached a climax in the rabbi’s own dance. Wrapped in a prayer shawl, with a scroll held high in his hands, the rabbi danced with spiritual ecstasy as the Hasidim sang and clapped hands in a circle around him.

The Hasidim danced on Friday nights around the rabbi’s banquet table, and at twilight on Saturday they danced with mystical fervor. Hasidic dancing has influenced the celebrations at Jewish festivals generally, and has served as the basis and inspiration of choreography on Jewish themes in ballet.

Reprinted with permission from the Encyclopedia Judaica (Thomson Gale).

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Pronounced: ahv, Origin: Hebrew, Jewish month usually coinciding with July-August.

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Pronounced: khah-SID-ik, Origin: Hebrew, a stream within ultra-Orthodox Judaism that grew out of an 18th-century mystical revival movement.

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Pronounced: PUR-im, the Feast of Lots, Origin: Hebrew, a joyous holiday that recounts the saving of the Jews from a threatened massacre during the Persian period.

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Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.

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Jewish Dance - Choreographic Ensemble Inspiration

Folk dances reflect the life, traditions, soul of their people. All the beauty, love of freedom and the peculiarity of centuries of history.

Dance groups performing national dances experience a storm of emotions that are reflected in every movement to the national rhythms.

Jewish folk dance is a mixture of religion, morality, temperament of the age-old history of the ancient people.

History of Jewish dance

At their peak, they were an important part of the religious ceremony and ritual actions. In modern times, these historical values ​​have been preserved in several community associations.

Jewish national dance expresses different emotions: joyful, mournful, reflecting a certain time, place, events. Now many dances are performed at funerals, religious celebrations. Musical accompaniment - klezmer music.

Jewish dance has been formed and developed for a long time, combining the traditions of the Jews, paganism, with which they coexisted. The basic rule remains of those times, men and women dance separately during the official event.

Watching a Jewish dance is an opportunity to plunge into the culture of this people, to feel all the emotions, feelings, centuries-old history.

The best Jewish dances are divided into three well-known genres.

Major genres and movements in Jewish dance

Dance Ensemble in their folk dance program to Israeli music. It combines different forms of dance and traditional steps, there are even ballet steps. Consider the more common dances of this bright and unique people.

  • The Jewish dance Chava Nagila translates from Hebrew as "let's rejoice." And the whole dance is built precisely on these bright, kind and incendiary emotions, which are transmitted by all dance participants and guests.

It all started with a song, and only then it turned into a bright dance. The melody is built on Hasidic ancient music. Subsequently, the author Abraham Zvi Idelson wrote the words to this melody. The words of the song are dedicated to the Balfour Declaration, thanks to which the Jews received the right to create their own state in part of Palestine.

A bright, light, cheerful composition later developed into a vital dance. The dance begins slowly, then accelerates and ends with a powerful pace.

It is performed at absolutely all holidays and events, both by Jews and all over the world, as it has gained popularity among all peoples.

  • Jewish dance 7 40 appeared much later than the main traditional dances. The world learned about him in the twentieth century and gained great popularity in the post-Soviet territory. The melody is incendiary, the words came from the people. The name appeared unexpectedly, there are no reliable sources, in connection with this, various versions of its origin appeared.

Here are a few of these options:

  • there is a holiday of the Jews "Simchat Torah", during its celebration, the people had fun noisily, sang and danced, and the Russian people gave it such an interesting name in consonance with the holiday.
  • According to the legend, it was at seven forty that Jesus Christ entered the gates of Jerusalem.
  • perhaps, at one time it meant the movement of transport: by steam locomotive and trains, leaving the parking lot, starting to move and completing.

Each version is interesting in its own way, and to some extent plausible. What actually happened remains an unknown fact.

Jewish dance video will introduce in more detail the costumes, movements, features of each dance. Everyone can learn how to perform them, one might say, as per instructions. It all depends on desire and aspiration.

The memory of the centuries in the Jewish dance

All Jewish dances carry historical events, the experiences of the people, their historical movement and development. They carry the power of faith and freedom, as well as a call for this.

As for the movements, these are mainly various images of round dances, the connection and opening of the circle.

  • Ukrainian dance
  • Georgian dances
  • Armenian dances
  • Ensemble concert
  • Jewish dance is part of the richest culture of the ancient people

    Jewish dance can be called an integral part of the richest culture of this ancient people. According to legend, the Jews first began to dance immediately after they found the Torah, at the foot of Mount Sinai. True, they say that the circumstances of their first dances were not as pious as is commonly supposed. People were simply tired of waiting for Moses to talk with the Lord, so they built an idol - a calf of gold, made sacrifices to him, and then arranged dances and chants around him. It was this behavior of the Jews that was the reason why the tablets were broken: Moses was outraged by what he saw and in anger threw them with such force that they split on the mountain.

    There is also a mention of how the Jewish princess Salome performed the Jewish dance of the seven veils before King Herod. He was so fascinated that he vowed to do whatever the girl wanted. And she wished the death of the prophet John the Baptist - and his head was brought to her on a platter. As for the history itself, the facts are known that the Polish gentry during the time of the Commonwealth were very fond of having fun by forcing every captured Jew to dance the Jewish wedding dance Mayufis to the Sabbath anthem. This was considered humiliating, and subsequently the phrase "dance mayufis" became a household word and was used in the meaning of "to fawn, to grovel before someone."

    It is traditionally believed that Jews are not allowed to dance together by religion, that is, women should not dance with men - only separately from them. But this is only partly true, since so many branches of Judaism quite allow for the Jewish dance to be performed by all together. Moreover, it is even practiced to hold special dance evenings at which young men meet girls in order to create a family in the near future (it is not customary for Jews to meet and care for too long, most often a guy after the first or second meeting determines whether he will marry a specific girl or not).

    The Hava Nagila dance deserves special mention. This name is translated from Hebrew as "Let's rejoice", and initially there was only a song. It was written by Abraham Zvi Idelson, based on an old Hasidic melody. At one time, he studied the folklore of his people and heard the melody of the future masterpiece by chance in 1915. He entered it in his notebook, where a large number of other melodies, legends and legends had already gathered. He came up with the words for her later. He dedicated his song to the holiday that came for all Jews at the moment when the Balfour Declaration was promulgated, giving the people the right to build their own state on one of the plots that belonged to Palestine.

    But since it was a song of joy, it simply could not help but develop into Jewish dances. "Hava Nagila" is very simple in its performance. The words of the song are as simple as the dance moves, so even those who have never danced Hawa Nagilu will find them easy to remember. It is so incendiary that to this day it is sung and danced at every celebration, gathered in a friendly, cheerful round dance. The beginning of the dance is slow, but gradually the melody speeds up, and after it the movements of the dancers speed up, which causes a lot of positive emotions.

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