Israeli folk dancing

September 2018
Deena Sacks

“It’s my favourite hour of the week,” I tell everyone. Israeli dancing  with Wendy Schneider. Actually, it is my favourite hour and a half of every week — and sometimes, if I’m lucky, Wendy stretches the class another 5 or 10 minutes. When class is over, I try to find the dances on YouTube so that I can practice at home.

When I was young, I would play records of the Karmon Israeli Dancers over and over — dancing my heart out in the living room of my parents’ house. How I wanted to be a dancer in that troupe. Dancing at Wendy’s is the closest I can get to being part of the Karmon dancing experience.

Israeli dancing is more than exercise for the body. Learning the steps and combinations is challenging, and great exercise for the brain. At Wendy’s Israeli dance class, we learn new dances, listen to Hebrew songs, sing along, learn some Hebrew language, and have fun. 

In her teaching, Wendy divides the dance into segments to teach the steps and combinations. She keeps reviewing the steps until most of us have a sense of the dance  — then she puts on the music and says, “fake it till you make it”.  Off we go. Cherkessia, Yemenite, Mayim steps, although confusing at the beginning, feel like second nature after a while.

The dance group is a mix of the regulars, the occasionals, and the newly hooked. We all come with a love of dance and willingness to learn.

Nessa brings her wealth of biblical knowledge to every class. She is our scholar, always providing an explanation for the origin of the music, its biblical reference, its interpretation, and its evolution over time. She can even provide translation in Hebrew, Yiddish and English.

Vivienne brings her experience as a dancer. She transforms every movement into ballet. She is graceful and light on her feet, yet I am impressed by her ability to stomp when appropriate.

I come for the Hebrew songs, the dancing, and the opportunity to immerse myself into a world connected to Israel. As long as Hebrew songs are playing, I am happy.

One day, I would like to be able to join the elegant dancers on Gordon beach in Tel Aviv and not stumble all over their feet. For now, it is Wendy’s class.



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