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The Ancestry of Dance
Dancing is an activity mentioned in the Tanach, so it is as old as the Jewish nation itself. And the history of its renaissance and creation as part of modern Israel is quite well documented. But dancing as an activity specific to Jewish communities from then until now is another story.

The following excerpts come from a book by Otto Kinkeldy, published in 1929, called “A Jewish Dancing Master of the Renaissance: Gugliemo Ebreo.”

According to Kinkeldy, Gugliemo Ebreo of
Pesaro , born around 1440, was a dance teacher and wrote an essay on the art of dancing. This art was one cultivated in the court circles of the Tuscan and Lombard princes. It was part of the education of the wealthy, the feudal aristocracy, and the masters who taught these highly conventionalised dances enjoyed both prestige and a high status.

Gugliemo (Ebreo of course refers to his Jewish identity), wrote that the art of dancing “is, for generous hearts that love it, and for gentle spirits that have a heaven-sent inclination…”  He goes on to berate the ‘commoners’ who use it to satisfy their seductive inclinations and sexual desires, and is at pains to differentiate it from what he calls the dances “inimical to the vicious and artless common people”.

As Kinkeldy comments, Gugliemo was quite high-minded about his art, and, I will add, that by the values of our time, would probably be considered quite snobbish.
As a dance teacher he listed six main requisites for a dancer.
1.      the ability to keep time – ie rhythm and proportion
2.      remembering the correct sequences, movements and steps
3.      estimating the space required, paying attention to the limitations of the room (and other dancers)
4.      dexterity and lightness – which seems to refer to leaps and jumps
5.      balancing and moving the body according to the foot that you move
6.      graceful movements – an injunction not to make all steps and movements exactly alike, but to vary them.

As mentioned before, the dances of this time – the 15th century - were taught to the sons and daughters of well-to-do Italian families, Jewish and Gentile, but the teacher or master seems to have been a predominantly Jewish occupation.

The dances often had fanciful titles (Mignotta, Cupido, Bel Fiore), and their descriptions replete with technical terms, some of which are still obscure and unexplained.


So our Israeli dance teachers in the 21st century can enjoy the fact that their role has an illustrious and prestigious ancestry. And for us who learn with you, at least we can do so whether we are rich or poor, peasant or noble.

As someone who enjoys both research and Israeli dancing I have been combining the two. Excerpts from the research are presented here for those interested. Feedback is welcome. You can send it to me (Evie) at

A lot of things I wanted to say.... (Dvarim sheratsiti lomar lach)
Today is your birthday (Yom hooledet)
You are the love of my life. (Ahoovati sheli)
You're not yet fifty - [at adayin lo] (Bat chamishim)
You are young. (At tsei'ra)
You are beautiful. (At yafa)
I fell in love with you at first sight. (Otach ahavti mimabat rishon)
I love your beauty. (Ani ohen et yofyech)
It's not a simple love - (Ahavati elaich lo pshuta)
Give me your hand - Ttni li et yadech)
Come dance for peace (Oovo'i nirkod lashalom)
With cymbals and drums. (Belivoo'i metsiltayim ootoopim)
I've been thinking of you (Ani choshev alayich)
And with you I don't feel LONELY (Badad)
Come to me - (Bo'i elai)
Come with me to the Galilee. (Bo'i iti el hagalil)
Let's sing to a beautiful land. (bo'u nashir le'eretz yafa)
Come, my beloved, she said - (Bo dodi)
We dance together - (Yachad)
It's so good and so nice. (Ma Tov oomah na'im)

She danced and danced till she
was tired, so I gave her a basket

and a bunch of Irises (Irisim)

and then I whispered in her ear:
"What A Dancer" !

(Eizo Rakdanit) !

From Rikki Yaari in Melbourne.
"I picked some dance titles
and I tried to put them together into a love letter to my dance club!"
by Rikki Yaari
A dancer from the Nirkoda Israeli Folkdancing Club in Melbourne, Australia