The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
Israeli Dances with Religious Lyrics
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Pre-1954 recreational folk dances included perhaps 100 from Israel (Palestine, prior to 1947), including most of our non-partner dances. Of those 100 (listed in the 1999 Problem Solver), some 21 accompanied songs with religious lyrics. Why? I speculate that Israel, without a unifying, nationalistic folklore, created one in part from the element common to most Israelis, their religious literature.
Of the current 80 Israeli dance tunes to religious lyrics, the Song of Songs inspired 22, more than any other religious book. Why? I speculate that the Song of Songs, resembling ancient Sumerian love poetry, comprises the oldest portion of the Scriptures and owes its longevity to a resonance with a fundamental of the human spirit. That resonance, in turn, inspires other expressions of the human spirit, such as dance. The romantic nature of Song of Songs lyrics also might add to its fundamental appeal.
Many thanks to Ruth Browns Gundelfinger (Israeli Folk Dance Songs, vols. I & II, 2001) and to Gary Fox, a meticulous scholar of Israeli dance, for their research into dance with religious lyrics. The speculations, however, are mine, and probably incorrect. Do not blame Ruth and Gary! Please note that dates refer to dances, not to the songs that usually preceded them.
Used with permission of the author.
Printed in Folk Dance Problem Solver, 2004.
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