Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.
Is That Dance Israeli?
By Loui Tucker
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What makes Israeli dances distinct from dances done in other countries and by other cultures?
- Israeli dances involve more arm movements, claps, slaps, etc. than most other international dance forms.
Often these are added by the dancers themselves after presentation by the choreographer. With time and the "folk process," some such flourishes become formalized and are taught with the additions.
- Israeli dances incorporate more turns than most other dance forms.
Many dances have so many turns that dancers don't even bother to hold hands during the dance.
- Israeli dances incorporate movements from other dance forms.
Israeli dancers are generally (there are exceptions) not "purists" who toe an ideological line when it comes to dancing. They are acquisitive and copy freely from dances of other cultures. Years ago, the kicks and stamps and bounces of Turkish and Druz dances were mimicked. More recently, Israeli dances show influences from Jazz, Lambada, Salsa, and Swing.
- Israeli dances frequently involve entire sections of the dance facing away from the center of the circle.
For example Part A might be 16 counts, at the end of which there is a half-turn to face out and the sequence of 16 counts is repeated facing out and turning at the end to face back in. This is rare in other dance forms.
- Israeli dances each have their own piece of music.
Zemer Atik and Mayim and Tzadik Katamar are each always done to the same specific melody. In contrast, a Bulgarian Pajduško can be done to any tune that has that particular rhythm pattern, and a Swedish Hambo can be done to any hambo music.
- Israeli dances are usually done to music that is in either 4/4 or 3/4 rhythm.
- Israeli dances are "universal."
Dance notations for Israeli dances will not have a comment pointing out that a particular dance is done in this or that region or village, or is seen primarily at weddings or certain festivals. Israeli dances are intended to be universal so that dance can be done the same throughout Israel and throughout the world, wherever Israeli dances are done. Videos and written dance notations discourage significant variations. If you attend an evening of Israel dancing you'll do the same dances to the same music. An Israel dance is done the same in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Paris, London, New York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Mexico City, Hong Kong, or Tokyo. While some dances might not be done in all locations because dancers, dance teachers, and dance groups have their favorite styles, music, singers and dances, except for slight regional variations (a clap here, an extra turn there), if a dance is done at all, it is done the same way everywhere.
Used with permission of the author.