Jewish Dance

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theatre and dance quizIn the late 19th and early 20th centuries, another kind of Jewish dance emerged: Israeli folkdance. Pioneers who came to the land of Israel from across Europe brought with them their own native dances. Using this material they created Israeli folkdances, expressing their passion and desire to return to the Promised Land. Dancing barefoot, with fast movements like leaping and running, Israeli folkdances became an important form of expression for new immigrants. As the new state of Israel emerged, folk dancing became a national pastime. Gradually, Israeli dancing spread to Jewish communities all over the world, becoming an important way for Jews in the Diaspora to connect to the Jewish state. Israeli dance has also expanded its repertoire as Jews from different cultural backgrounds, including Yemen and Ethiopia, have contributed to the beauty and diversity of Israeli folk dance.

In more recent times, Jewish choreographers and dancers throughout the world have explored Jewish themes in modern dance. For example, the Avodah Dance Ensemble, founded by Joanne Tucker, has created many modern dance pieces inspired by Jewish liturgy, and has taken its work to congregations and prayer services around the world. Sometimes set in a concert setting and sometimes designed for the synagogue, new Jewish dance ensembles are synthesizing our long history of worship and expression with a renewed passion for dance.

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Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is a freelance writer and educator based in Philadelphia. She is the author of two books of plays for children: The Magic Tanach and Other Short Plays and Extraordinary Jews: Staging Their Lives as well as The Creative Jewish Wedding Book.