by Loui Tucker

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This article appeared originally in the October 1999 issue of Let's Dance!


       A group of us goes out to eat after dancing. We talk about dancing and dancers, the history of dance, the meaning of dance, and the future of dance. We pose questions. Sometimes the question is rhetorical. Some questions get asked by each new generation of dancers, like a common prayer; some questions are being asked only recently. Sometimes the asker sincerely wants an answer. Sometimes the question is asked with tongue in cheek, to tease. Sometimes the same questions gets asked over and over and there is never an answer, no matter how long we discuss the issue. We thought The Grapevine readers might find the questions thought-provoking.
       (1) Why are some dances wildly popular is Location A and the same dance is scorned in Location B? Is the population that participates in Israeli dancing so diverse from locale to locale?
       (2) How do teachers decide what to teach from all the dances they learn? How do teachers get to be teachers in the first place?
       (3) With a few exceptions, the vast majority of circle dances and couples dances in the Israeli dance repertoire are danced to either a song with Hebrew lyrics (even though the original song was French or Spanish or....) or to music without lyrics but everyone know the lyrics anyway. In contrast, except for a few old individual dances like Sapri Tama or Debka Lahat, the new trend in individual dances, usually done in lines facing the music, are typically crafted around American pop tunes, or Turkish or Spanish songs. Why is this??? What is it about these line dances that makes choreographers pick non-Israeli music?
       (4) Are the "debka jump" and "debka kick" related movements? How did they get their names?
       (5) What is a "classic" dance and what makes it a classic? Is being of a certain age enough to qualify or does it have to be popular or well-known or forgotten except by a few people and also old? Who decides?
       (6) Many English-speaking teachers use the terms "Cherkassiya" and "Double Cherkassiya," but these terms appear to be foreign to Israel-trained teachers. They say "Open-cross-from-side-to-side" for double cherkassiya. Where did this term come from? Why does one population use it and not another?
       (7) What is it that brings non-Jews and non-Israelis to an evening of Israeli dance?
       (8) Where did teachers who teach beginners get the idea that all beginner dances are slow dances, and all slow dances are appropriate for beginners – and how can we change their minds on this?
       (9) Do dance movements have to have a meaning in order for a dance to be meaningful? If a dance isn't meaningful to me should I be dancing it? Do I have to have a reason for not liking a dance or not liking a piece of music or the lyrics – can't I just not like something for no reason?
       (10) Why are there no prominent female choreographers today, especially since many of the founders of Israeli folk dancing were women: Rivka Sturman, Raya Spivak, Gurit Kadman, Leah Bergstein, Sara Levi-Tanai?
       (11) Is this Israeli FOLK dance or Israeli RECREATIONAL dance and what's the difference?
       (12) If a dance leader uses a "request sheet," could we also have an "unrequest sheet" as a way of saying, "You've played this dance every week for 10 months and we're TIRED OF IT!"
       (13) If a dance teacher doesn't use a "request sheet" – how does he/she decide what to play?
       (14) Is Israeli dancing going to be around in 10, 15, 20 years? If so, who will be the teachers? How are they ever going to master everything our current teachers know?
       (15) What is styling exactly? Is it the way the choreographer looked when first teaching or dancing the dance? If so, how can you expect at dancer who is 4'11" and weighs 150 pounds to mimic the style of a choreographer who is another gender, and a foot taller? Is styling the way the best dancers do the dance.. or the way Israelis dancing in Israel do the dance... or the way the choreographer originally intended the dance to be done ... or the way the ethnic group the dance movements are based on do this type of dance? Is styling the footwork or the arm positions or the head movements or the curve of the back or all of the above or WHAT?? And why is styling so important to some dancers and unimportant to others?
       (16) Why is it so hard to get a dance partner?
       (17) Do you think we can we get the beginners to all wear bright orange vests so we can spot them in the circle and dance around them more easily and avoid running them over?
       (18) What does syncopated mean anyway?
       (19) How can you tell if a dance is "Greek-style" or "Ashkenazi" or "Mizrahi" or "Kurdish" or "plain old Israeli" (whatever that is)? What are the key features to look for? Is it the music or the dance movements or both or something else? Can you have Mizrahi dance movements to Ashkenazi music? What do you call the result?
       (20) [The one asked most often] How did YOU get into folk dancing???