Israeli folk dances are a unique phenomenon of contemporary folklore. In spite of the many changes in the values, dreams, and ways of life of the Israelis, they still dance the old dances of the 1940s and 1950s…the years during which more new dances were created than in any other culture in the world. Most of the dances could be danced by young and old, and celebrated the pioneering spirt.
Saratoga Jewish Community Arts with Temple Sinai and Skidmore Office for Jewish Student Life presents Israeli Folk Dancing with the generous support of the Jewish Federation of Northeast NY.
The Jews have a long dance history. The Bible and Talmud refer to many events related to dance and contain over 30 different dance terms. During the dispersion, the dancing associated with the normal activities of a nation in its own country ceased. Near the end of the 19th century those making Aliyah to Palestine brought with them only dances from the Diaspora.
In the years preceding and following the formation of the Jewish state, Israeli folk dance emerged as part of a conscious effort to increase Israel’s official folk culture The belief at the time was that Jews living in Israel, who came from all parts of the Diaspora, needed symbols of unification to bolster their national identity. Folk dances were first created with this goal in mind.
The songs used in folk dance today are very different from the songs of the past. Gone are the refences to shepherds, camels and herds of old. But newer songs continue to express love for the country and its beautiful landscape, and love for all living things. “Many of these songs express the old desire to be Israeli and experience “normality” with a new awareness that there is no consensus about what it means to be Israeli or to actually be normal.” Says SJCA Coordinator, Phyllis Wang. Today there are over 3,000 dances with music both contemporary and nostalgic and an effort to demonstrate the balance between continuity and change.
Join SJCA for an evening, dance away and learn a few of these memorable expressions of old and new folk culture from Sharona Wachs.
Wachs has been active in Israeli dance for more than 50 years. She has participated in Temple Israel’s Community Israeli Dance program since 1992 and has been a dance session leader and instructor of the program’s adult classes since 2002. Wachs has been a monographic cataloger and subject librarian for Judaic Studies at the University at Albany since 1988. She has authored several scholarly bibliographies, including American Jewish Liturgies: A Bibliography of American Jewish Liturgy from the Establishment of the Press in the Colonies through 1925, published by Hebrew Union College Press. More recently, she has been working on an annotated bibliography on American Jewish women’s liturgy and ritual, 1973-2000. She is also the owner of EEEMA’s Beads, a beaded jewelry business. Sharona is married to Rabbi Don Cashman of B’nai Sholom, Albany, and the mother of three adult children.
Saratoga Jewish Community Arts presents Israeli Folk Dancing on February 16, at 7 p.m. at Falstaff on the Skidmore Campus in Saratoga Springs. Wear casual clothes. Dessert reception included. $5 donation requested. RSVP to 518-584-8730 option 2. www.saratogajewishculturalfestival.org