The study of dance and Jewish life is a more recent and emerging field in Jewish studies. In Jewish religious practice and tradition from ancient times to the present, dance has played a vital role in various celebrations including holidays and life cycle events. In the modern era, dance activities and creations have expressed and grappled with a variety of topics relating to Jewish life and identity both on the concert dance stage and in the social and folk dance arenas. To date, the bulk of the research in the field has focused on the modern era: on American and Israeli concert dance as well as on Israeli folk dance in Israel and North America. Emerging areas of research include topics such as Hasidic and Sephardic dance; dance developments in modern Europe, the Levant, and Latin America; dance in the Nazi era and Holocaust; and dance activity in the ancient and premodern eras.
Because the study of dance is an emerging field within Jewish studies, there are only a few general overviews of this topic. The most recent and comprehensive English work is Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance, an essential resource for the field. This edited volume is a key to contemporary scholarship in the field, presenting a variety of viewpoints, topics, and approaches to Jewish dance studies. While Rottenberg and Roginsky 2009 focuses only on modern Israel, it nonetheless provides a broad variety of important articles on folk, concert, and social dance there. The entries on “Jewish Dance Traditions” and “Israel” in the International Encyclopedia of Dance (1998) can be used as an entryway into the field. Friedhaber 1984 is the first and only single-author work that surveys the history of Jewish dance across time and locale. Although it is not entirely comprehensive and does not employ the scholarly approaches of more recent works, it nevertheless contains important material and is noteworthy as the only volume of its type. Berk 1960 is best approached as a primary source as it includes gems of essays from renowned practitioners in the field at the time and beyond. For online resources providing encyclopedia material, see Jewish Women’s Archive Encyclopedia for a broad range of relevant and informative topics, and see The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe for entries on dance topics from that region. In addition, a few websites contain valuable resources. For Eastern European Jewish dance resources, see Winkler’s Yiddish dance website, and for dance in Israel, see Dance Voices and Dance in Israel.
Berk, Fred, ed. Jewish Dance: An Anthology of Articles. New York: Exposition, 1960.
This gem is best used as a primary source as it contains essays by well-known teachers and choreographers including Benjamin Zemach, Dvora Lapson, Anna (then Ann) Halprin, Sara Levi-Tanai, and Fred Berk. Covers a range of topics including Jewish dance in general; Hasidic dance; and dance from Israel, Yemen, and the United States.
Cohen, Selma Jean, ed. International Encyclopedia of Dance. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Provides useful information on a range of topics. For general overviews, see the following entries: Zvi Friedhaber, “Jewish Dance Traditions,” and Judith Brin Ingber and Giora Manor, “Israel.”
Friedhaber, Zvi. Ha-mahol be-‘am yisrael. Tel Aviv: Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sports, 1984.
Title translation: The Dance of the Nation of Israel. A broad survey in Hebrew that covers Jewish dance from the ancient period through the modern, including material on the Middle Ages. It also covers dances at Jewish life cycle events and holidays in various Jewish communities as well as on the development of Israeli folk and ethnic dance.
Gallili, Deborah Friedes, ed. Dance in Israel.
A website in English on concert dance in Israel developed by Deborah Friedes Gallili. Includes articles, videos, and podcasts of interviews with well-known choreographers. Most of the material is from 2007 to 2008 when Gallili was researching the topic on a Fulbright in Israel.
Hundert, Gershon, ed. The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe.
This online version of the printed encyclopedia published in 2008 contains a variety of useful articles pertaining to Eastern European Jewish dance, including an overview and topics such as dance in Hasidism, traditional and theatrical dance, badkhonim, and the Yiddish theater.
Hyman, Paula E., and Dalia Ofer, eds. Jewish Women’s Archive Encyclopedia.
This online version of Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia contains a wide range of useful articles on dance, including general topics and those on specific dancers in the United States, Europe, and Israel. By performing a subject search on dance on the site, one can find an extensive list of relevant entries.
Ingber, Judith Brin, ed. Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2011.
An essential resource that incorporates articles from a wide range of scholars in the field on periods ranging from the ancient to the contemporary era. Serves as an excellent introduction to a range of topics within the subject of Jewish dance studies including an introduction, articles on folk and concert dance in a variety of locations around the world, primary source materials, extensive photographs, and an extensive bibliography.
Rottenberg, Henia, and Linda Dankworth, eds. Dance Voices.
A website in Hebrew and English, edited by Henia Rottenberg (Hebrew, title “Kolot Mahol”) and Linda Dankworth (English), focused on providing articles as well as information about events related to dance in Israel. It also includes material on dance in other contexts.
Rottenberg, Henia, and Dina Roginsky, eds. Rav-koliot ve-siah mahol be-yisrael. Tel Aviv: Resling, 2009.
Title translation: Dance Discourse in Israel. Includes articles on a wide range of topics in the areas of folk, concert, and social dance in Israel from the early 20th century to the early 21st century. Includes survey articles on the development of concert dance as well as on choreographers such as Rina Nikova, Moshe Efrati, Barak Marshall, Inbal Pinto, and Avshalom Pollak; Eshkol-Wachman movement notation; Latin Dance in Israel; and folk and ethnic dance.
Winkler, Helen. Helen’s Yiddish Dance Page: Dances of the Jews of Eastern Europe.
A website in English on Yiddish dances created by dance teacher Helen Winkler. Includes listings of dances, events, and academic resources on the topic. The site also features a useful annotated bibliography and links to several academic articles.
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