I’m an avid dancer. I don’t know how to salsa and I’ve never put on a ballet slipper, but I can do debkas and horas all night long!
I’ve been Israeli folk dancing since the age of three because my dad is a choreographer and used to be a teacher. Every Wednesday night, I dance at David Dassa’s sessions at Wilshire Blvd. Temple on Olympic and Barrington. From 8:30 p.m. til midnight, I’m on my feet swaying from side to side, step-hopping, twisting and turning to the sounds of Sarit Hadad, Subliminal, Rita, Idan Raichel and Michael Jackson. Yes, Michael Jackson.
This past Tuesday night at the session (moved because of the holiday), Danielle and I learned a hip line dance to “They Don’t Care About Us.” Then, in honor of Independence Day, David taught a slightly dorky but fun Americana-style couple dance.
Most people think Israeli folk dancing is well, folksy, and old-foggyish. It’s not! At least not at Dassa’s sessions (every Wednesday and Sunday night), where half the dancers are under 30 and a constant influx of new, innovative dances keep the repertoire fresh. The music is passionate, the people are friendly (sometimes a little TOO friendly with each other), and the physical activity is phenomenal! Some of my closest friends are from dancing and I even met the love of my life at an Israeli folk dance session.
I urge you all to come dancing. It took three months to finally get Danielle to a session, but read for yourself what she thought of it…
The thing about Israeli dance is â you have to know the steps. With some beginner footwork training, you can then join the syncopated circles dancing their way into the middle of the cluster, lifting their arms and fluttering their fingers. It looks easy, flowing and simple, but it sounds like this: TO-THE-MU-SIC, now sway to your right, shuffle-step, pivot turn, and walk 2-3-4, now spin-to-the-outskirts and clap, clap, clap—twirl to the right, switch-your-dance-partner, twirl left, slap hands, spin to your neighbor. Now, cha-cha! Cha-cha! All in perfectly parallel, coordinated form.
The Yemenite, the cha-cha, the samba, the salsa, the grapevine â who knew Israeli folkdance utilizes every dance step known to the art of movement? An evening with David Dassa not only integrates dances from all over the world, it mixes ages, ethnicities and music genres. Only between the walls of Wilshire Boulevard Templeâs Irmas Campus will you find endearing and attentive David Dassa rocking Israeli grooves from every era while ages from teen to geriatric break a sweat box-stepping to the beat.
And then there was me. I stepped on toes. I bruised my own. I stumbled over folks to my left and right. I butt heads. I yelled ouch. I unraveled the line dance like an untied shoelace. Basically, I set the rhythm amiss. But boy was it fun! Most everyone else, however, was joyously gliding around the gymnasium-turned-disco hall in a synchronized celebration of Israeli culture.
Two young dancers, a blonde and a redhead, led the line dance. They were so compelling to watch, I found myself sitting on the sidelines and enjoying the show. High-schoolers danced with grandparents, strangers exchanged names mid-step and I hear husbands were not necessarily dancing with their wivesâ¦
But for a long evening, the whole community congregated at temple not for a religious service, but for an old-fashioned, swinginâ, sweat-to-your-soles soiree (but wear your tennis shoes). A welcomed departure from the grind of dance clubs, this kind of dancing is skillful, sensual and celebratory!
See? She LOVED it!
Israeli Folk Dance sessions, Sundays, 7:30-9 p.m. (teaching), 9-midnight (open dancing). $9. Temple Adat Shalom, 3030 Westwood Blvd. (corner of National Blvd.), Los Angeles. Wednesdays, 7:30-9:30 p.m. (teaching), 9:30-midnight (open dancing). $9. Wilshire Blvd. Temple, 2112 S. Barrington (corner of Olympic Blvd.), Los Angeles.