While the Arden Folk Gild offers a variety of dances at the Arden Gild Hall (contra-dance and international folk dancing), Israeli dance, held two Wednesday’s each month, may be the most unique type of dance the Folk Gild offers. The next Israeli dance session runs from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4 at the Gild Hall.


While the Arden Folk Gild offers a variety of dances at the Arden Gild Hall (contra-dance and international folk dancing), Israeli dance, held two Wednesday’s each month, may be the most unique type of dance the Folk Gild offers. The next Israeli dance session runs from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4 at the Gild Hall.

Constantly evolving
Compared to contra-dance and international folk dance, Israeli dancing offers new dance steps that are regularly being developed, said Susan Jonas, an Israeli dancer and treasurer of the Arden Folk Gild. Our dances include International folk dances, Israeli dances and Contra dances as well as occasional special dance workshops.

IF YOU GO
WHAT Arden Club presents Israeli dancing
WHEN 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4
WHERE Arden Gild Hall, 2126 The Highway, Arden
COST $4 members; $5 non-members
INFO ardenclub.org or call (302) 478-7257 or (610) 277-0844 

“It’s a type of dance where there are new dances constantly being created, unlike some of the other international folk dances that are very old, traditional dances,” Jonas said.

Israeli dance instructor Sharon Kleban, 51, says Israeli choreographers develop “hundreds of new dances” that are released each year. Dances are “choreographed to the most pop-sounding songs on Israeli radio.” The dances are typically very fast and energetic.

Israeli choreographers typically create dance steps to modern Jewish and Greek tunes, but not always.

“A lot of Greek music gets picked up [on Israeli radio],” Kleban said. “Some of it’s translated into Hebrew and they choreograph to the original language version or to the Hebrew version. We have Israeli dances to Iranian music. Wherever [choreographers] can hear the music, they can choreograph a dance.”

Israeli choreographers introduce new moves to the Israeli dancing community by teaching them at dance sessions in Israel and at various dance sessions throughout the United States, Europe and in the Far East, Kleban said. Dance videos of new moves are also introduced to dancers via YouTube and other websites.

Dance sessions
During Kleban’s Israeli dance sessions, she spends the first hour slowly teaching beginners basic dance steps. From 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., she picks up the pace, reverting to advanced dances that her regulars are familiar with. She also introduces one or two new dances during the more advanced portion of the session. Since many men don’t attend the Israeli class, Kleban mostly teaches circle dancing during sessions, as opposed to couple dancing.

“It’s kind of like a meditation in that you can get lost in it,” Jonas said of Israeli dancing. “You don’t have to think about anything else. You can sort of enjoy the experience and live in the moment.”

The Israeli dance class is a great way for dancers to meet new people, Jonas said. Since the majority of the dancers who participate in the Israeli dance sessions are Jewish, Kleban said the class could serve as a way for Jews to “feel connected to your roots.”  

Young at Heart
The fast-pace and high-energy of Israeli dance derives from the fact that “Israel is a young country,” Kleban said. The origins of the music dates back to the early 1900s, before World II, in which an Israeli woman named Rivka Sturman was instrumental in developing Israeli dances, as she felt it was important for Israeli children to have songs and dances that reflected their own culture.

Kleban said the genesis of Israeli dancing started once Sturman (who’d eventually choreograph children’s dances to Israeli music) “overheard school children singing and dancing [in Israel] to a German folk song; and at that point in history she knew what was happening in Germany.”

Though Jonas is middle-aged, she says Israeli dancing keeps her feeling youthful and healthy.  

“It’s good exercise.”