“And David danced before the Lord with all his might…”
2 Shmuel 6:14
“And it was so, as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, that Mikhal the daughter of Shaul looked out at the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord…”
2 Shmuel 6:16
I have a troubled relationship with dance, and an even weirder set of memories of dancing. As a kid, my mother used to put on old disco records, and we would all dance around the living room to Earth, Wind and Fire or Gloria Gaynor. That was fun. Simchat Torah and dancing with the Torah was always a treat as well. Then I went off to Jewish summer camp, and they had “socials” where every few weeks, there would be a dance party with the boys and the girls. Me and my other prepubescent bunkmates would get all ready, and decked out in our mid-80’s finery, we would line up to get a spray of cologne from our Moroccan counselor, who was equipped with every cologne known to mankind. I would liberally spray myself with either Azarro or Paco Rabbane, and convinced that I was now super cool and the Sephardic lothario that I imagined myself to be (as opposed to the pale Ashkenazi milquetoast that I most probably was), I would head off to the social. And once there, I would promptly park myself against the wall, too afraid to dance, too unsure of myself and my footwork, and way too weirded out by having to dance with a girl (first slow dance, set to Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”). Then I get to high school and Bar and Bat Mitzvah season, and my grade 8 rebbe would turn into the KGB and demand to know who was engaging in “mixed dancing”. We even learned that, as with the case of King David, context regarding dancing is everything. Needless to say, by my mid-teens, I was scared off dancing for good, only venturing back into dance as an adult for the odd Hora lap here and there at a Jewish wedding (which takes no talent, only a willingness to hold hands with strangers, run in a circle, and hope your feet don’t get stomped on by some over-exuberant chasid).
Flash forward to the present, and this week’s highlight of Festival HaRikud, which brings together youth from all walks of life in celebration of Jewish and Israeli culture through music and dance. Under the tutelage and loving care of our Morah Reesa Pawer, our RJDS dance troupe, which is comprised of dance-loving students from grades 1 to 7, has been practicing for months on their dance routines. One of the things I have loved to do over the past few months has been to stop in and watch the students practice with Morah Reesa during lunchtime. I have always come away from those moments more than a little jealous, amazed at their grace, and their hard work, and their diligence in learning their dances. That students can learn a set of complex dance moves, do it timed to music, and then have the guts to go out and do it under the spotlights and the all the attention, all I can say is… wow. That they can learn to freely and joyfully express an aspect of their Judaism and yiddishkeit through their bodies is stunning to me, as I grew up thinking that dance was acher, the “other”.
And there is another aspect of the Festival that I am only now learning about as a parent, and that is how much of a community there really is among the kids who dance, how inspiring the older dancers are to the newbies, and that there is a shared bond that exists among the parents of the dancers themselves. What a cool program – kudos to all the organizers at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, to the army of volunteers who help with all the costumes, details and logistics, and to the Federation and Partnership2Gether for helping to bring in the Hora Goel dancers from Kiryat Shmona.
Above all, kol hakavod to our students – you do us proud.
Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorach,