Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lots More Than The Hora, Israeli Folk Dance

Israeli Folk Dance was one of my great loves.  Of all the types of dancing-and I've studied most-it's among the greatest.  It competes well with the dancing you see in shows and movies, like Brigadoon and West Side Story. 

I learned my first couple of dances in the mid-1950's in Oakland Jewish Center, Bayside, NY.  If I'm not mistaken they were "Shavti Mayim," "V'David Yefe Einayim" and "Haveinu Shalom Alechem."

Later on I became known as an expert in dancing and teaching.  In NCSY I was taught a lot of dances by the late Leah Weiner, ZaTz"LIt's Leah's yartzeit today the 22nd of Adar, so let this article be l'ilu'i nishmata, to uplift her soul.

Leah established the NCSY Dance Group.  If I'm not mistaken they first appeared in Fred Berk's Israeli Folk Dance Festival in 1966.  They were a very unlikely group of "dancers," and with her legendary charisma and enthusiasm she got them into shape for the big show.  I was part of her second try.  We performed in the 1967 Festival and also danced as part of the NCSY delegation of the 1967 Salute to Israel Parade.

Years later when we met up again in Israel, she introduced me to people as her protégé`.  During my first year in Stern College, my friend Debbie Klaff (today Dan) and I took Fred Berk's Leadership and Choreography Course.   In 1969 I took over the group.  I was responsible for the NCSY Israeli Folk Dance Group and our performances in the 1969 and 1970 Israeli Folk Dance Festivals.

The festivals and the parade were the highlights of the year for us Zionists and Jewish activists.

I'm a dancer by nature.  Music has a strong effect on me.  I was very lucky to have known and learned from Leah and to have been a student of Fred Berk (and Alan Wayne whose dance movement classes I took around the same time.)

Play the right music from my past and my body will think it's twenty again.

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