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Thoughts from My Heart Uri Givony 17.3.11 

Thoughts from My Heart Regarding Israeli Folk Dancing by Uri Givony, translated by Zofia Shiber

Let me start with the Hebrew saying so appropriate this week of Purim, "Not as much as I hate Haman – I love Mordechai more." That being said, I wish to address myself mainly to the instructors, in Israel and abroad, concerning trends within the genre of Israeli folk dancing - trends which have recently gained momentum and which many of us dancers here in Israel find disturbing.

Any semi-veteran dancer, someone with more than 10 years in the field, must have noticed the changes that have occurred, changes for good and for bad. Granted, we now dance on wood-parquet floors, wearing superb sport-shoes, in air-conditioned halls furnished with state of the art audio-amplification sets, and enjoy generous catering and ample adjacent parking. On the other hand, we face an irresistible urge by the instructors to overwhelm us with dances newly composed to any and every trendy song or clip that surfaces on the air, all the while blasting our ears with deafening sound. Some of the dance sessions go overboard by introducing mega-screens and strobe lights which befit a night club rather than the solid folkdance session typical of not so long ago.

There are quite a number of us who deplore this trend, who yearn for the time when the Israeli dances were just that, namely folk dances- dances conveying a feeling of togetherness by dancing together in a structured circle, holding hands, singing along, and even smiling at each other. Today, some of the influential instructors have gone so far as to change the name of the genre from folk dancing to Israeli dancing. I wonder, is striking out the word "folk" intentional and done purposely!?

Moreover, what was known as "folk dancing" has become commercialized; it is driven by greed for monetary gains and increasd popularity. The community of dancers and instructors which used to be homogenous has become fractioned – almost into warring camps.

As a result, we notice, not surprisingly, a growing number of dancers and old-time instructors who express their resentment for what’s been developing. They call for holding back the tide and trying to reverse it. We witness a slow but steady return to sessions which include more of the older dances, which we have labeled “nostalgia” sessions, and the attraction to these sessions by even the younger dancers! Hey, even the protest against a blasting sound volume in the dancing halls has gained in popularity. Let’s hope these are the sparrows that bring the spring, bring a change of attitude.

At this point, I plead with the instructors from countries other than Israel who contribute to the commercialization by inviting inexperienced instructors from Israel to their summer camps. Please play an active role in trying to reverse this unhealthy trend. When you invite instructors from Israel, be more selective in your choice, check his/her credentials. Not every new "star" stands in par with appropriate standards. You can preserve the quality of the Israeli folk dances by incorporating into your sessions more of the beautiful, old dances which were composed to the tunes and the lyrics (!) by the founding fathers of Israeli folklore – probably what many of you grew up on.

By doing this you will be taking part in our relentless effort to lift the “traditional dances” to the status they deserve, as cornerstones of genuine Israeli-folk dance, for the benefit of many generations to come.

This article has 2 commentsTo hide the commentsTo add a comment

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0.ידיד נפש  
 Old vs. New
 Regarding Becky's comment:

I haven't been at Kochavim but reviewed the list of the dances learned.
Seems to me a considerable improvement.

By no mean new dances are "trefa" and not every old dance is good, but in the last decade the flow of the new dances put the old dances aside. Even the "not so old" dances quickly disappear.

Still, allocating a time slot for the classics may save them from being forgotten, butt follows the concept of the "Natural Reserves". I would prefer maintaining the balance along the day (and the dance sessions). This way those who do not know these dances will not take the opportunity to sleep another hour but will have a chance to see and dance them.


0.(*Becky Schenker) 
 Old vs. new
 With regard to Uri Givony's article (bottom of the summary), I just want to point out that Kochavim addresses the issue of new and old dances very nicely. Mornings are spent on classics, afternoons on newer material.

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