Frumgirl 1: Frummies and Dance

I remember being a kid and taking Simcha dance classes. I guess it was a fad, because nobody does that anymore. Now, dancing consists of running in a circle in four inch stilletos while trying my best not to stab anyone’s toes or break my neck. Also, my face must be blank (not bored!) or smiling maniacally.

One of the guys in my class (a dancer) was explaining to me how he’ll enjoy his time off: by dancing. He showed off a move. I laughed.

“Oh, we don’t really dance like that.”

“Really?” he asked, “everyone dances in my Church. Even the old ladies. They do these (hand wave with a bounce) and maybe stick in a spin or two (hand wave + a spin). I didn’t know you weren’t allowed.”

“It’s really more of a culture thing, not religious.”

Either it was his rendition, or Black Cuban old ladies have some pretty neat moves. By comparison, at least.

But why don’t we dance? I don’t count running. And I’m discounting the rare breakdancing Yeshiva Bochur, too. Is it like the music? Is it social discouragement?

Why isn’t it socially acceptable to bust a few outside of high school productions?

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Published in: on July 13, 2008 at 3:09 AM  Comments (7)  

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  1. I was wondering about that recently as well while doing the circle trot at a wedding. did not come up with any good reasons.

    Funny thing I thought of is that a really leibedige wedding is one where the circle trot is done at a faster pace for longer periods of time…

  2. I think this is probably pretty specific and doesn’t apply to all “frum”, much less all Jews.

    I was at a “conservative” bat mitzvah recently where the girl was a dancer and a gentleman guest led Israeli dancing. He probably taught at least 10 or 11 different types of dances, and he and the “expert” guests probably danced 7 or 8 more complicated dances which the dance-challenged (such as myself) did not feel comfortable trying to join. All of these dances were circle dances which could be performed solely by women or by men (though the dancing at this bat mitzvah was mixed).

    I think the issue is more that no one is teaching or learning the dances, then that the dances don’t exist.

  3. Interesting – I hadn’t really noticed this until you pointed it out, but I agree that in my youth simcha and “line” dancing was more popular than today. At bas mitzvah parties the dancing seems catered to the kids and definitely focuses more on games than intricate dances.

    And as for weddings: I think shtick has grown exponentially in popularity since when I got married 20 years ago. I recently read an article in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society (the “RJJ Journal”) about the permissibility of the maypole dance – and the scholarly sources pointed out that this was almost unheard of in the 80s, rare in the early 90s, and almost ubiquitous today.

  4. it’s actually quite comical to stand back and watch everyone doing the circle trot with looks of intense concentration on their faces, trying not to trip. i try to focus on having a pleasant expression on my face so i won’t be caught looking weird in pictures.

    i have a friend who break dances really well. she won’t do it often in front of people just to show them, but she does it at all weddings she attends

  5. I dance in my room.

    The only weddings where I attempt to do a modified version of my bedroom dancing, is the wedding where I don’t know anyone…that’s a rarity, so I suffice with the cirlce trot as previosly mentioned.

    As a side point, someone mentioned shtick…I hate it with a passion, and don’t particpate in it. Do people seriously think they’re are being me’sameach the kallah with mazal tov signs spelled backwards because no one knows where they’re supposed to stand?!

  6. Great point – I was wondering what had happened to the simcha dancing of my middle school years too.
    Every once in a while you catch the brave souls doing Sameach of Yoya while everyone else is doing the Circle Shuffle…

  7. A fellow research student asked about Jewish dancing a week ago. I said there were circles and other types, but I stick to circles because they take less practice. To which he raised an eyebrow (he’s black).

    I think that’s a big deal of it. In a circle, if you mess up on a step, you just shuffle sideways and start again. Simcha dancing… well, if you mess up, people bump into you and you wind up facing the wrong direction, and looking pretty silly to boot. It’s just easier to circle.

    As for shtick… *snort*. If it comes in a box, it’s stupid and pointless. It’s only worthwhile if it makes the bride smile.


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