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It's Not Just Dancing PDF Print E-mail

by Caryn Granek


It’s not just dancing – I try to explain my obsessive behaviour to my friends, but to no avail. So now I don’t try anymore, but just shrug my shoulders and smile.

But it really is so much more than dancing, or exercise, or mastering the steps, as I had thought when I first started dancing about four years ago.


So let me explain. I first realized it was so much more when I found myself in Israel, in June 2002, working as a volunteer, packing medical supplies on an army base at Tel Hashomer. The warehouse I worked in was huge, filled with many reservist soldiers and some civilian workers. They viewed me with some suspicion. Why would a middle-aged Australian woman want to spend three weeks at the height of a hot summer stuck in a warehouse? The language barrier was also a challenge with my poor Hebrew and their poor English. We all worked side by side with the radio blaring, usually the sport channel, as most of the guys were mad soccer fans and the World Cup was on. The discussions were fierce and fiery, full of passion – and since Australia was not yet a soccer nation I was viewed with even more disdain during these discussions.


One morning as we worked, a song came on the radio called Neshika – a big hit in Israel and a line dance that I had just learned. I could not help getting up and dancing – I remembered the chorus well and also some of the words, so away I went. Everyone stopped their work and watched in total amazement – I am sure they had never seen anything quite like the scene before their eyes. This Aussie woman in an ill-fitting and very unflattering army uniform dancing around, and asking them all to join in as I offered to show them the steps. A few of them did, and suddenly we were all one – joined in laughter and fun, sharing a culture and dancing around the warehouse. At the end we all collapsed with laughter, shared a cool drink and I became one of them.


Now every time I dance Neshika Turkit I am transported back to that warehouse, I can see the faces of the young Russian immigrant reservist soldier, the handsome Israeli soldier who showed me photos of his babies, the rough Sephardi head of the warehouse…….


About a year later, an Israeli friend of mine who is the veteran of many wars and now lives on a kibbutz, shared with me the tragic news that his wife had lost her long battle with cancer. That week we learned Migavo’a and I noticed that the words of the song include the word Tikvah which was her name. Every time I dance Migavo’a I think of her and so her name lives on in my heart.


On another trip to Israel I was lucky enough to see Achinaom Nini (Noa)  in concert. She is a fabulous performer – she sings and plays African drums and I saw her at the height of summer in an open auditorium at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


One of the songs she sang was Mizmor Layla. When we finally learnt the dance I thought I would explode with excitement. For the dance really reflects the excitement of that evening for me and now, every time I dance it I see the stars overhead in the Jerusalem sky, I see the beautiful Noa singing, the hundreds of soldiers in the audience as well as a few hundred Kosovo refugees who had found permanent homes in Israel just at the time our government was sending them back to their ruined land.


Tzel Midbar is another of my favourites that takes me to a special place in Israel – a lovely, tiny kibbutz in the Arava where the Jordanian hills nearby seep their purple haze onto the horizon at dawn and at dusk. The dance and the music transport me to that wilderness and to the days when I imagine our biblical mothers danced to the same sort of music in the cool of the dawn or the dusk.


In June of this year, a dear young friend whom I met in Israel two years ago, died suddenly. I was heartbroken and very sad – the week it happened we learned a new dance  Tsipor Hofshit. It has a slow and steady rhythm, the steps graceful and the music soft and gentle. And so, when I dance this dance I think of her – I think of her gentleness, her slow and steady approach to life, and I think of her now – her soul free as a bird.


Hatmunot Shebaalbom and Sof Ha’Olam are only two of the many dances that link all of us with Israel and the heartaches she is suffering today. As we dance, all of us are thinking similar thoughts as we glance at one another knowingly.


So, for me, Israeli dancing is so much more than just the steps. It is the friendships we have formed, the glances we exchange, the smiles and the laughter in each class, it is the love that flows between us and the hopes and dreams we all share for a better world. Dancing is like praying with our feet and our bodies – may each step we take and the thoughts in our hearts reach to the heavens above.

Happy first birthday to ZOOZ! Thank you – Richelle, Belinda and Cindy for this most amazing experience that has become central to my life – for it is so much more than dancing. It is……… And I haven’t even written about the wonders of  partner dancing……..


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