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Jewish dance

Jewish and Israeli
MusicReligious music: HistoricalContemporary
PizmonimBaqashotSecular music: IsraeliIsraeli Folk
KlezmerSephardicMizrahiNot Jewish in Form:
ClassicalMainstream and JazzDance: Israeli Folk DancingBallet
HorahHava NagilaYemenite danceIsraelHatikvahJerusalem of GoldPiyyutimAdon OlamGeshemLekhah Dodi
Ma'oz TzurYedid NefeshYigdalMusic for Holidays HanukkahPassoverShabbatMusic of the HaggadahMa NishtanaDayenuAdir Hu
Chad GadyaEchad Mi YodeaMusic of HanukkahBlessingsOh ChanukahDreidel SongAl HanisimMi Y'malelNer Li
Jewish CultureVisual Arts Visual ArtslistLiterature YiddishLadino HebrewIsraeliAmericanEnglishPhilosophylistPerformance Arts MusicDance Israeli CinemaYiddish TheatreCuisine JewishIsraeliSephardiAshkenazi Other HumourLanguagesSymbolsClothing v • d • e

:See Secular Jewish culture for the main article on secular Jewish culture.

Deriving from Biblical traditions, Jewish dance has long been used by Jews as a medium for the expression of joy and other communal emotions. "Dancing was a favorite pastime of the Jews, who were never ascetic, and had its place in religious observance."[1] Each Jewish diasporic community developed its own dance traditions for wedding celebrations and other distinguished events. For Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe, for example, dances, whose names corresponded to the different forms of klezmer music that were played, were an obvious staple of the wedding ceremony of the shtetl. Jewish dances both were influenced by surrounding Gentile traditions and Jewish sources preserved over time. "Nevertheless the Jews practiced a corporeal expressive language that was highly differentiated from that of the non-Jewish peoples of their neighborhood, mainly through motions of the hands and arms, with more intricate legwork by the younger men."[2] In general, however, in most religiously traditional communities, members of the opposite sex dancing together or dancing at times other than at these events was frowned upon.


Israeli and Hebrew folk dancing

Main article: Israeli folk dancing

Israeli folk dancing, first developed by early immigrants to the Land of Israel in the 20th century, "reflects the life of a people returning to its own land."[3]


Main article: Hora (dance)

The horah is the name of a circle dance in Israel and other countries. This same name applies to the circle dance that is the national dance of Romania. The horah is the unofficial king of Israeli folk dances. It can be performed to many of the traditional klezmer and Israeli folk songs. Typically, Hora is danced to the music of Hava Nagila. Horah has also been danced for many generations by Jews in the United States and Canada at weddings, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, and other parties and joyous ceremonies. The dance appeared in North America in the early 20th century, well before Israeli independence, brought directly from Eastern Europe by Jewish immigrants.

Hava Nagila

Main article: Hava Nagila

Hava Nagila is a Hebrew folk song, the title meaning "Let us rejoice." It is a song of celebration, especially popular amongst irreligious Jewish communities. The song is a staple of band performers at Jewish festivals.

Though the melody is an ancient one of folk origin, the commonly used text was probably composed in 1918 to celebrate the British victory in Palestine during World War I as well as the Balfour Declaration.

Yemenite dance

Main article: Yemenite (Jewish dance)

In Yemen, where Jews were banned from dancing publicly, forms of dance evolved that are based on stationary hopping and posturing, such as can be done in a confined space. Today, this type of dance is called a "Yemenite" and is a common dance step in Israeli folk dancing.

Jews in ballet

Jews have made important and vital contributions to ballet and contemporary dance in the Europe, United States and Israel, as well as musical theatre dance in the former. In Russia and France, the Ballets Russes was, according to Paul Johnson, "primarily a Jewish creation".[4] In Israel both Jewish immigrants from France and other European countries and native born Jews have established a vibrant art dance scene, including the popular and influential Israel Ballet. This company features both native-born Israelis and emigrants from the former Soviet Union. Contemporary dance in Israel derives from both Israeli Folk dance and European influences, and is featured in the popular Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Inbal Dance Theater, Bat-Dor Dance Company and Batsheva Dance Company. In the United States Jerome Robbins, Anna Sokolow, Michael Bennett, Michael Kidd, Ron Field, Arthur Murray, Helen Tamiris and Pearl Lang have been successful and leading forces in Broadway dance, ballet, and contemporary dance, and to a certain extent social dance. Jewish ballet impresario Lincoln Kirstein either founded or helped found the School of American Ballet, The American Ballet and the New York City Ballet.

See also


  1. ^ Landa, M.J. (1926). The Jew in Drama, pg. 17. New York: Ktav Publishing House (1969).
  2. ^ Yiddish, Klezmer, Ashkenazic or 'shtetl' dances, Le Site Genevois de la Musique Klezmer. Accessed 12 Feb 2006.
  3. ^ Lisa Katz Israeli Dance: History of Israeli Dance. Part of Judaism. Accessed 12 Feb 2006.
  4. ^ Johnson, op. cit., p. 410.
Categories: Jewish music | Jewish history | Jewish culture | Dance by ethnicity or region

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