Monday, January 01, 2007

An “incriminating” photo

July 11, 2007 update: Here it is, folks, in honor of our new scanner (may it live longer than the old one).

In roughly October of 2005, we went to an Israeli folk dance weekend. We had a wonderful time, and I really wanted to blog about it. But I thought better of it.

This past November, the same group sponsored another Israeli folk dance weekend, but we were unable to go due to my husband’s schedule—he has a class to teach on Thursday nights. So I was annoyed last night when he showed me a postcard advertising the missed weekend, and insisted that he throw it out, already. But he was equally insistent that I look at it carefully first. So I did.

There were several photos from the previous year’s event on the postcard . The largest picture showed a huge circle of folk dancers, with a smaller circler of “hot shots” in the middle—you shouldn’t dance in the inside circle unless you really know your stuff, which is why I try to avoid it—and an even smaller group of people dancing together on the outside. Some people dance outside the circle because they want to dance with their friends, some because they know a different version of the dance, some so as to avoid holding hands with members of the opposite sex, for religious reasons (shmirat n’giah). Others dance outside the circle because they’re trying to learn the dance by following the person in front of them—that'd be me—or because they want to dance at a slower pace (in rhythm, but with smaller steps and/or less jumping)—I do that quite often.

And there I was, dancing all by myself outside the circle (probably trying to avoid the “speedsters”), just about unmistakable even with my back to the camera, not only because of the short brown hair and short-sleeved burgundy tee-shirt, but also because, as far as I could tell, I was one of the few woman in the photo who was wearing a skirt. (I prefer wearing skirts for folk dancing—it’s hard to swish a pair of pants.)

I’m considering keeping the photo as a memento, because I’ve been thinking quite seriously about whether I should ever go to an Israeli folk dance weekend again, given that teaching sessions and evening dance parties, with instrumental music, are not exactly suspended for Shabbat. If it were an international folk dancing weekend, I would go, because I could reasonably assume that many of the people in attendance would not be Jewish. But at an Israeli folk dance session, the odds are darned good that almost all of the teachers are Jewish, most of the dancers are Jewish, and—crucial point—the people playing the music on the tapes, CDs, and/or computer(s), (or, occasionally, live) are also Jewish. So I’d be benefiting from a Jew doing forbidden labor on Shabbat.

I’ve never claimed to be consistent in my observance. On Shabbat (Sabbath), I’ve been known to perform such forbidden activities as traveling, eating out, and even shopping (my least favorite activity) for my son’s college needs in the days when we used to drive him up to college and had to leave too soon to shop on Sunday. But I’ve really been trying hard to forego electricity-based entertainment on Shabbat, and have found that we certainly talk more to one another on Leil Shabbat (Eve of Sabbath, Friday night) since we stopped watching television thereon. So folk dancing to live or recorded instrumental music on Shabbat, which would distract from the conversation, seems to me to be, you should pardon the pun, a step in the wrong direction.


Blogger Maya Resnikoff said...

The dancing on Friday night issue is one I struggle with myself. I don't dance on Shabbos, which does make dance camp harder, although I do go occasionally, especially to the longer camps where missing the dancing over Shabbos isn't quite as much of a loss. Hora Keff has been, in the past, good for that, since a. there's less stuff on Shabbos, and b. there's more camp time over all. We'll see what happens this year. On the other hand, I know observant folks who make that exception for music on Shabbos because while you are benefitting, the people would be playing the music for themselves anyways, and the use of electricity is permitted according to some opinions anyways. If you're not really strict about Shabbat prohibitions in general and this once or twice a year thing would be a big pleasure for you- I'd say that if you're going to make a move to be more carefully observant, this might not be the first thing you should feel needs to get cut out of your life. That's just my opinion, of course. I can see the logic in the other direction.

(I have to admit to some curiosity as to which workshop this was, but oh well.)

Mon Jan 01, 10:44:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Okay, I'll start with the last part first--the folk dance weekend was Hilulim, at Kutscher's Hotel in the Catskills (Catskill Mountains region, New York State). G-d bless Kutcher's, it should live and be well and get its leaking corridor roofs fixed--it's one of the few Catskills hotels left that still has a kosher dining room, and it also has a humongous wood-floored ballroom.

Longer dance camps are not really an option for us, since neither of us has a lot of vaccation time accumulated yet. I've only been a full-time permanent employee of this organization for a year, and the Punster's teaching position just became full-time this past September. In addition, my husband's teaching schedule can be problematic--taking days off isn't as difficult for a secretary as for a teacher. There's also the major detail that we're not as young as we used to be, and probably aren't good for more than four days of dancing anyway.

"I know observant folks who make that exception for music on Shabbos because while you are benefitting, the people would be playing the music for themselves anyways" True, but I feel weird about using another Jew as my "Shabbos Goy," even if the person volunteers. That reminds me of the time that my sister offered to relieve us of our chametz before Pesach. Um, thanks, but no thanks.

"the use of electricity is permitted according to some opinions anyways." I've heard of opinions permitting electricity use on a Yom Tov (holiday), but not on Shabbat. I'm curious to know more about that opinion.

"If you're not really strict about Shabbat prohibitions in general and this once or twice a year thing would be a big pleasure for you- I'd say that if you're going to make a move to be more carefully observant, this might not be the first thing you should feel needs to get cut out of your life." Actually, one of the big issues is that my husband would still like to attend folk dance weekends, when possible. If I were to stop going, he'd go by himself. It's bad enough that we're doing "his and hers" synagogues, these days. This would be yet another thing that we wouldn't be able to do together.

I'll probably make a decision the next time the opportunity arises for us to go to a folk dance weekend.

Tue Jan 02, 01:10:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Sheyna said...

I did Israeli folk dancing back in 2000 B.C. (Before Children). Had done for years, and on some dances - even a few of the "advanced" ones - I was one of the "hot shots" in the center. My all-time favorite dance was (and still is) Jama'a Bamidbar.

But with kids now, our weekly dance time is way past their bedtimes on a Sunday night, so sleeping in isn't even an option. I miss it. Big time.

We had the opportunity in 1999 to go to Chagigah in Wisconsin, but money was tight so we passed. I hadn't thought seriously enough about going to consider how they dealt with Shabbat (or didn't).

Oh, and I always wear a long skirt for Israeli folk dancing! It just doesn't feel right otherwise.


Tue Jan 02, 10:11:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

We didn't dance much when the Son-ster was young, either--the cost of a babysitter for five hours (three hours of dancing, plus two hours on the subway) was prohibitive. That's why we hardly know any of the dances choreographed from the early eighties thru the late nineties.

One of the things that I noticed on the Hilulim weekend was that hardly any of the women were wearing skirts. I wonder whether that's just because no one was coming from work, or whether wearing a skirt is just not popular anymore outside of certain neighborhoods or folk dance sessions.

"Jama'a Bamidbar?" Neither of us has the slightest memory for dance names, but if you hum a few bars, maybe we could tell you whether we know it or not. :)

Tue Jan 02, 11:28:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Maya Resnikoff said...

Ahh- I wasn't there, but my parents and sister were... Sister is one of the hotshots.

Longer camp means one can, if one can get a day or two off, at least, go for Wednesday night through Friday instead of Friday night through Sunday or something of that sort, even if one has neither the time nor energy for all 6 days.

I feel weird about it too, except in some very specific situations- but it is something that is done, so...

I think the argument for electricity on Yom Tov is that it's like transferring flame, so that's forbidden on Shabbos, but not on Yom Tov. So- it depends on which of the several halakhic analogies for electricity you want to work within. (or if you think none of them quite work, and therefore permit its use even on Shabbat.)

Jama BaMidbar is a dance from 1999 or so with a gizillion parts and very cheerful catchy music.

Thu Jan 04, 08:16:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Sheyna said...

My Net searching skills pay off! Explained to us as a "desert jam" (friends "jamming" in the desert), there are several different spellings of the name.

I found this about it:

Just listened to the audio clip and was nearly out of my chair dancing to it!

Thu Jan 04, 03:49:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Debka Notion, so at least I saw some of your family, if not you. :)

Going on Wed. would mean we'd be there for Wed. night, Thursday, and Friday morning only. Tricky, working around my husband's teaching schedule--it's a rare semester when he's not teaching a class on either Wed. or Thurs.

Electricity is a bit of an issue. The "transferring a flame on Shabbat" is a problem.

My husband is a much more ambitious dancer--I'm more graceful, but also a lot lazier. Any dance that has a gazillion parts is one that he's far more likely to know than I am. :) So Jama'a Bamidbar would probably be more his thing than mine, if we had an opportunity to learn it.

Sheyna, I couldn't get the audio clip to work. :( Sniff.

Fri Jan 05, 08:19:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Sheyna said...

The audio clip requires Real Player, which you can download for free from It's definitely worth a listen.

If I recall correctly, it has twelve different parts, plus one recurring "chorus" and a bridge. I found a video available for sale that includes it, and I might purchase it so I can relearn, review, and remember all the steps. No one else from the local dance group remembers it and the woman who taught it moved to the East Coast. (Apparently I was so passionate about it, they figured I could teach everyone else.)

Schedules are fun, aren't they? (not)


Fri Jan 05, 02:08:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I downloaded RealPlayer and listened to that snippet of Jamaha Bamidbar, bouncing around on my computer seat the whole time. Sounds like a fun song to dance to. Sheyna, if you ever make it to NY, you can teach it to the two of us, while you're at it. :)

Eventually, your kids will be old enough to be left home alone while you go dancin'. You'll have to wait a few years though. Been there, done that. But at least young kids are cute, albeit a bit rough on scheduling, sleep (what's that?), and free time (what's that?).

Sun Jan 07, 02:39:00 PM 2007  

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