Etiquette for Israeli dance

compiled by Ken Avner

Israeli dance is a wonderfully social activity, which also means that it has its own peculiar set of guidelines. Whether you’re new to Israeli dance or a seasoned veteran, everyone enjoys dancing more when a few easy-to-follow guidelines are followed:

During teaching:

  • Keep quiet, or go outside to talk.
  • Teachers sometimes make mistakes. Please offer your comments gently, or later if it can wait.
  • If you already know the dance being taught and have nothing else to do, relearn it. This gives people learning it for the first time more feet to watch, and you may pick up something you'd previously missed.
  • Some songs have more than one dance, and some dances are done differently in different places. For the sake of those learning a dance for the first time, save alternate versions for open dancing.

During dancing:

  • Follow behind the circle if you don't know a dance or can't keep up. You'll have a clearer view, and the folks who do know it will be able to dance it.
  • Make one or more circles (instead of spirals or several semi-circles) unless the dance really is supposed to be like that. Anyone who can keep up may dance in any circle: there are no "reserved tables".
  • Don't join at the front of a line.
  • Holding hands while dancing is common, but no longer universal. Each session has its preference.
  • Don't squeeze in where there's no space. Find a less crowded part of the circle or ask people to make room.

Couples dances:

  • Anyone may ask anyone to be a partner, put please don't be offended if you're turned down - maybe s/he doesn't like this dance, has already promised it to another partner, or is just tired.
  • Let your prospective partner know ahead of time if you don't know the dance.
  • It's bad form to turn down a request to dance, then accept another offer for the same dance.
  • Eye contact with your partner is good, penetrating glares and leers are bad.
  • In many sessions, couples dances are done in "sets" of 2 or more (sometimes MANY more) dances in a row, so be prepared to stay with the same partner for several dances. Don't leave your partner in the middle of a set (without a reason!), and don't "cut in" on another couple.
  • Unless you've both agreed ahead of time to dance all or most of the evening together (which is perfectly OK), don't monopolize a partner; give him/her and the other dancers a chance to circulate.
  • "Booking ahead" (reserving a partner before the couples dance/set comes on) is considered rude in some communities, accepted elsewhere, and required in others. Know the local protocol.

In general:

  • Phrases like, "Please", "Thank you", "Excuse me", "Do you mind if I ...", etc. really do make a difference, and may be freely distributed both to other dancers and to those running the session.
  • While folkdancing is a very social event, some fanatics really show up mostly to dance. So don't be offended if one excuses him/herself quickly in the middle of a conversation to dance.
  • Some sessions have dress codes/guidelines, some dance floors require special shoes; check ahead. Also make sure that jewelry, loose clothing, or other wearable tchachkas aren't going to swing around or hurt anyone.
  • Good hygiene is always in style. Overpowering clouds of perfume or cologne are not.
  • Be aware of others standing/dancing near you.
  • Learn the names of the dances you like and request them.
  • The instructor's equipment is often expensive and breakable, and is not yours. Don't touch it!
  • For that matter, please be gentle with the dance space in general, and clean it up before you leave.
  • Offer suggestions, comments, likes and dislikes. Constructive feedback is better.
  • Don't get discouraged, try stuff you don't know, smile once in a while, and have fun. That's why you're here.

Remember that everyone here came to have a good time. Whatever you can do to make it a more enjoyable evening for everyone makes it that much better.

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