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At Home With Tuvia TishlerVerd and Adi 2.1.11 

At Home With the Dance Instructor: Tuvia Tishler


This time we met with Tuvia Tishler, one of Israel’s leading dance instructors and choreographers; Tuvia has become a household name. We asked him to talk about himself as a choreographer and dance instructor, as well as his opinion of several problems which bother dancers and dance instructors alike.

Tuvia, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started out in folk dancing.

I grew up in a "Polish" household and from a young age I was inevitably exposed to "culture." At the age of eight, I learned to play the violin and, at the same time, I studied ballet. Subsequently, these two fields helped me a lot in my professional development and in everything I do with dance and music.

At the age of sixteen or thereabouts, I began to attend folk dancing sessions with Yankele Levi; I was in the north at the Technical School; afterwards I attended session with the late Shalom Amar z"l. At the same time, despite my young age, I taught folk dancing at the session at Yad Eliahu Bet HaNoar, in Rishon LeZion. I also formed and led a small dance troupe. In fact, everything I learned on the one hand from Shalom Amar, I immediately passed on and taught to others, mainly children and, of course, young people.

I continued to dance like that until I joined the IDF. I would like to point out that in those days we danced to the sounds of the accordion and tambourine.

At the same time, I heard from Shalom Amar about auditions for Jonathan Carmon's dance troupe. He recommended I go to the audition and try to get in. I went and was accepted into the troupe which operated under the auspices of the Histadrut Activists' House in Tel Aviv.

As a part of Jonathan Carmon's dance troupe, I appeared in the famous Olympia Hall in Paris for about a month and a half, and at various dance festivals and events. Simultaneously, I studied jazz with Luigi and taught jazz, appearing in Giora Goodick's most famous musicals.

I continued to work continuously for about 15 years with Jonathan Carmon; I worked with the Gvanim Troupe as the troupe's choreographer for about ten years; together with the troupe we appeared at several festivals and on stages all over Israel and abroad.

Incidentally, I met my wife Ofira in Jonathan Carmon's dance troupe and we will shortly be celebrating our 40th anniversary! Mrs. Ilana Segev, the troupe's manager, pressurized me to go to the folk dancing class, so I then began to dance with Yoav Ashriel in Dubnov.

I was amazed to find a tape recorder and amplifier system with loudspeakers at the dance session, as I was used to an accordion and tambourine. Since in those days dances were composed for dance troupes, and from there they were introduced into folk dancing, I realized I knew a lot of the dances; I fitted in quite quickly.

Under the influence of Mrs. Ilana Segev, I was persuaded to open a dance session. She helped me learn the dances and fill in the gaps. In the early eighties, I opened the first session at Eshkolot in Rishon LeZion - and all the rest is history.

You are known as a very talented choreographer; how do you compose a successful dance and what dances do you have up your sleeve?

First you have to find a song which people really like and to which they have become attached, both to the melody and the lyrics. The rhythm of the dance is very important – something has to burn inside. After passing this test, we examine the symmetry of the song, including the possibility of adapting it to a dance, making slight changes that wouldn’t destroy it. The dance itself must be divided up properly and flow continuously. In every dance, I endeavor to introduce some innovation into the movement – something unique which hasn't been done in the past. After mixing all these ingredients together, it is very probable we will get a dance which will become loved and accepted. However, the most important thing is that the dance should be adaptable to the ability of the dancers and not only contain the choreographer's virtuoso whims.

The person who pushed me into creating dances was Yoav Ashriel. In 1989, I created my first dance; it was "Kacha VeKacha" (So So), a dance which is still danced today. After difficult deliberations about how to introduce rock into folk dancing, the dance received the approval of Yoav Ashriel. The minute the dance was launched, it became a hit.

At the moment there are two dances up my sleeve, one by Shlomo Idov, has a tango-bolero beat which will be called, Our Tango; the other, as well, is a rhythmic song by Lahakat Dorot.

Do you think it is proper to introduce changes into a dance after it has been published?

The best thing is to avoid introducing changes after the dance has been published. Nevertheless, if we are talking about a slight change, it is possible. However, if it is a bigger change, then it is not suitable because, in fact, the dance becomes a different dance.

Mention five of your dances which you love the best. It is not easy for me to answer that, since I love all the dances I have created. If, in my opinion, a dance is not good enough, I simply do not publish it and try to improve it. If I don't succeed in doing this, I store it away. But, if you insist, I would mention "Kacha VeKacha" (So So), December, "He Hayta Bechaf Yadi" (She Was in the Palm of My Hand), “Ani Ohev Otach" (I Love You), and "Hatzel Sheli Va'Ani" (The Shadow and I.)

What do you think is an Israeli folk dance; do you think it is legitimate to integrate eastern movements taken from belly dancing? There must be at least something in the dance which concerns Israel; this could be the writer of the lyrics, the composer, the arranger, the translator or something which connects it to Israel.

I would avoid integrating movements from belly dancing into folk dancing, but I don't see anything wrong in that. As long as there is demand from the public and people are interested, it is legitimate.

Tell us in a few words about your dance sessions today.

I have three sessions:
  • Monday in Ra'anana. The class opens with a workshop of about an hour of couple dances playing middle-of-the-road dances and vintage dances. The last dance I taught was, Tango for a Ship. Then, I go on to circle dances. Afterwards, another round of couple dances with a repertoire of middle-of-the-road dances, as well as a few new dances. I go back to circle dances with a repertoire of older dances, and conclude the class with couple dances, including dancers' requests; the session lasts until 1 am.
  • Wednesday at Nachalat Ada in Herzliya. This is a class with a family atmosphere. The character of the session is again middle-of-the-road dances and new dances. The dancers are a well established bunch of dancers. The general atmosphere is very pleasant and very family-orientated; most of the class focuses on couple dances.
  • The Aviv Hall in Ra'anana on Saturday night. On the last Saturday of the month I hold a couples dance session in the Aviv Hall in Ra'anana. At this session I include an international folk dancing workshop, as well as all time favorite couple dances.
Please note: Full details of all the dance sessions may be found on the Search Dance Session page of the Dancers' Organization website, WWW.HAROKDIM.ORG .

What do you think about the phenomenon of too many dances? In my opinion the situation as it exists is very problematic; on the one hand you can't prevent new dances from being created, yet, on the other hand, there is no "gallery" which could filter the dances. In the past, there were four refresher sessions organized by Yoav Ashriel, also, it was he who also approved the concept of dances being filtered.

While this created some kind of order, on the other hand, it made the people whose dances were rejected quite angry. At the end of the day, additional refresher courses were opened, so the field has gotten completely out of hand. I am very sorry to say that the situation today fits the following sentence: "And in those days there was no king in Israel, people would do what they liked…."

What do you think should be done today in order to introduce some kind of order?

You can't stop new dances from being created. But in my opinion, we must stop the registration of the melodies and their allotment to the dance instructors. Instead, anyone who wishes to create a dance to a particular melody should do so; then all the dances which have been created to the same melody should compete before a committee which will decide which dance is the best and most worthy of entering the refresher course.

The committee would be composed of veteran dance instructors, young dance instructors, and famous choreographers; additionally, in my opinion, veteran dancers with a great deal of knowledge and experience should also be on the committee, because at the end of the day, the dances are designed mainly for the dancers and according to their taste.

The dances which are approved would be sent to the refresher course and it would be recommended that these dances be integrated into the dance sessions.

It is clear that it will not possible to prevent a dance instructor from teaching a dance at his dance session, especially a dance which he created and which was rejected by the committee. However, I believe that the dance instructors will show responsibility and act properly.

Whichever way you look at it, the time has come to introduce changes into the status quo and to reduce the number of new dances, in order that the number would be significantly reduced and their quality increased.

In my opinion there should be a separation between veteran and active dance instructors and those dance instructors who have just completed the course and have been qualified to be become dance instructors.

There must be a forum for “active dance instructors” where they can express themselves, highlight the difficulties they are compelled to deal with, discuss professional matters, and suggest improvements which should be made in the system; the goal is that there will be mutual prosperity and dialogue between the dance instructors in the north of the country, those in the centre, and dance instructors in the south.

What do you think about the subject of the acoustic volume in the dance sessions? I admit it, I don't have this problem; for me it is the very opposite. Sometimes the dancers come to me and ask me to turn up the speaker as it is too low for their liking. In my opinion, the problem lies in the fact that some of the dance instructors are a bit hard of hearing and hence the loud volume in their dance sessions.

What message would you like to send the dancers?

I want to tell all the dancers the following, “Don't be stuck in one class.” Go from class to class and find the class which suits you best. There is a large number and a variety of classes available for you to choose from for your personal pleasure. And, as for my own dancers, I really love you and I think that you symbolize the salt of the earth. You are, without doubt, one of the most veteran groups of dancers with a wide-ranging ability and a great deal of knowledge in the field. Most of you are like family to me and nothing makes me happier than waking up in the morning knowing that I have a dance session in the evening where I am due to meet with you.

Would you like to add anything more to conclude?

I would like to mention that the formation of the Dancers Association has been a blessing and a contribution to folk dancing. The Dancers Association acts as a shofar for the dancers and it is important that the dance instructors listen to you. Increasing the co-operation between the Dance Instructors Association and the Dancers Association could only make the whole area of folk dancing better.

* * * *

And we would like to tell you, Tuvia, that we have enjoyed our conversation with you and your approach to the subject of folk dancing very much. Likewise, we were very impressed with the enormous amount of knowledge you have brought with you to folk dancing – both from your experience as a professional dancer and choreographer over several years, and from your understanding of the field of music. We respect you a lot, appreciate your work, and love you very much. All that remains for us to do is to wish you good health and continued success in everything you turn your hand to.

Vered Menasheri and Adi Habad interviewed Tuvia Tishler and wrote this article. Translated by Maxin Cohen.

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