Friday, November 16, 2012

The "mitzvah tantz": I don't get it

From Menachem Kaiser's Forward article:

"In one of a half-dozen such offerings [videos], mitzvah tantz (difficult to translate beyond “mitzvah dance”), a bride, dressed and veiled so that the only skin you see are her hands and a flash of bare jawline, grips a long sash that serves both as an umbilical attachment and a barrier to the dancing rebbe at the other end: From a modest but breached distance, the two circle each other at mismatched tempos in front of a pulsating wall of Hasidim.

It’s a weirdly intimate moment, in a different spiritual key than we’re used to: There are no other women in the frame. Although the bride’s movement is restricted to stepping in time with the way-more-excited rebbe, they are without question dancing together."

As a long-time Israeli folk dancer, I honestly don't understand what a bride gets out of a mitzvah tantz.  If someone covered my eyes, handed me a sash, and insisted that I step in time and in place while someone else danced all around me, I'm be bored to tears.  I stopped attending ballet performances when I realized that, dubious skill-level notwithstanding, I wanted to do the dancing.  :)


Blogger Maya Resnikoff said...

It must be spiritual- a chance to connect, one-on-one, in some way, with your spiritual leader, a marker of the significance of the new path that you're setting out on. Beyond that- I just don't know. But then, I'm not in circles where that is done, or even where I've seen it in person.

I also wonder what it's like for the rebbe in question.

Sat Nov 17, 07:34:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

" . . . a chance to connect . . . "

Could be. I'm not sure how much access a female in a Chassidic community has to her male leader(s). This may be a rare opportunity.

"I also wonder what it's like for the rebbe in question."

Hmm, I've never thought about that.

Sun Nov 18, 10:40:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Pragmatician said...

In more modern orhtodox circles, the dance between the kalla and the dad is usually very moving, it's not very lively indeed but it's truly a beautiful moment.

ps, is anyone else really bothered by the complicated verification codes of blogger lately..?

Mon Nov 19, 05:12:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

A dance between the bride and her father makes sense, and is very moving, indeed.

Sorry about the verification codes, which are an annoyance, but it's either that or spam.

Mon Nov 19, 10:05:00 AM 2012  
Anonymous AnDat said...

"A dance between the bride and her father makes sense, and is very moving, indeed."

(As a side point: Not that this applies to the mitzva tantz in general, but if anyone didn't catch this, note that in the picture in question, the bride is dancing with her father, as per the caption there: "Mitsvah-tantz of the bride with her father, the Rachmestrivke Rebbe, David Twersky, Netanya, 2011".)

I would speculate that perhaps the relationship between chassidim and Rebbe is sufficiently intense that for the chassidic bride, who was [presumably] raised in a world where the Rebbe is the revered and beloved head of the community, the chance to dance with him would be emotionally powerful for similar reasons.

Mon Nov 19, 06:22:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

That's a possibility.

Tue Nov 20, 12:35:00 PM 2012  

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