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The Hora that Circles the Globe

Tags: Arts and Culture, Diaspora

By Shelley Rood

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Israeli dancing connects me to Israelis and to Jews around the world.

My friends can list the numerous reasons why I love Israeli dancing – great music, exciting new moves, and kind, loyal and generous friendships – but one thing that may not immediately come to mind is the connection it gives me to dancers in Israel and around the world.

Israeli dance communities grow and thrive by choreographing new dances to just-released songs, and spreading that choreography around the world through YouTube or dance camps. Instructors learn new dances and teach them to their respective groups. Therefore, in addition to the traditional “oldie but goodie” dances, we have modern songs with modern dances taught to dancing communities everywhere – from Tel Aviv to Toronto, and Miami to Madrid.

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Not long ago I was participating in a seminar in Tel Aviv and I wanted to check out the Israeli dance scene. I heard about the dancing on Tayelet, the beach promenade. I ventured out on my own, followed the sound of the music to the spot they were dancing, and watched from the crowd. There were probably 50 people dancing surrounded by another hundred or so watching. I stood on the outskirts for about the length of one song, and then I couldn’t help myself but jump in to join a dance I knew. At that moment, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t from Tel Aviv, that I wasn’t a regular dancer in that group, or that I didn’t speak Hebrew! I didn’t speak with anyone at all, I just jumped into the dance circle and used the universal language of Israeli dance, those familiar steps that we all knew, and I felt at home immediately.

After a few dances, I began to speak with people. We talked about where I dance in America and which instructors I knew.

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The sense of community was apparent. Here I was, a traveler from a far-off dance group, yet I knew the same choreography to all the latest songs. This is a testament to the power of Israeli dance, and to the skill of our contemporary Israeli dance instructors in DC.

They had me fully prepared to jump into a dance group in Israel. For each of my subsequent trips to Israel, I researched dance sessions in Jerusalem through the global Israeli dance website, found connections for rides, and danced several times, meeting more people and expanding my dance community.

In addition to dancing in Israel, I have witnessed the global dance community here in DC. We frequently welcome visiting dancers from other cities and other countries into our Sunday night Rikud DC session at the DCJCC. Each time, we welcome the dancers with enthusiasm and excitement at their knowledge of dances from their hometowns. They know the same dances we do, and that is because the Israeli dance community connects us all through this joyous art form which ties the Jewish homeland and the Jewish Diaspora.

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These connections and the existence of this dancing community is one of the best kept secrets in the Jewish world. Through dancing, we form bonds that form the basis of friendships, travel companions, new career and internship connections, and a wealth of resources among community members. It is a group I do not take for granted. I cherish each Sunday session and take great pleasure in knowing that our DC community is part of the larger Israeli dance community—and that we are all connected to each other and to the land and people of Israel through the debka, the hora, and every dance in between.


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