This last night I hung out with the women at my church and we did some Jewish dancing. Which did not include Topol furiously jiggling and tossing chicken feed, nor did it include a rope strung down the middle of the room as men and women whirled separately. Rather it involved holding hands in a circle and doing steps called the “grapevine” and “yemenite”.

Let me clarify something – I cannot dance. Or I suppose it would be more accurate to say, I am a terrible dancer! I have done square dancing, swing dancing, and a couple other types of dancing, and I have terrible rhythm and more often than not end up on the opposite foot as everyone else. The best dances for me are the ones where I am told precisely what steps to take at every moment, and get to practice those steps over and over through out the night so I master them fairly well. Square dancing is, for me, ideal. 🙂 Simple, repetitive, and yet very fun and fulfilling.

But I love all kinds of dancing, a lot, so I just make sure to warn people before hand that I’m terrible. They had been warned! 😉

A woman from Bellevue came to show us the steps to the Jewish dance, and we started out slowly, gradually mastering steps and learning more, then putting it to music, then adding more steps, until we could dance through the whole song. We had a large circle of people with an smaller, inner circle, and the dance involved rotating in one direction, than the other, coming into the middle, then dropping the hands we were holding to do some pivots, spins, and other motions.

Like this:

Except more womanly. 😉

The woman in charge counted out loud and named the next steps, until the last two dances, which we did simply to the music.

It was funny to lift my eyes from my feet and watch the women in the two revolving circles, to watch their feet stepping forward and backward at the same time as my own. And if I watched their faces, to see the mingled looks of pleasure and concentration as they stared back at other feet, their mouths silently moving as they counted. It was odd to think about how I was watching them to ensure I was stepping right, and they were watching me to ensure they were stepping right. As if there were two people, each holding the end of a rope, leaning back, their entire weight holding the other person which in turn held them. We were dependent on each other. And because none of us stopped moving and counting and watching and leaning, it worked.

I wish people danced more. There is square dancing, and swing dancing, and slow dancing for special occasions, and do-whatever-looks-cool at teenager events – but it’s different. Different than it used to be. We learn those dances then never use them, and go to blue moon events specifically for dancing, or perhaps join a group and square dance every Monday. But – and perhaps this is only my imagination – I feel that dancing has been set aside and is no longer so entwined with living. It seems to me that dancing used to be something that could be spontaneously suggested at dinners or parties or events, and the proposal could be immediately set into action – because people knew dances and knew the music, and were always ready and eager for the chance to dance. Musicians were immediately employed to provide the music – that was probably the reason why many of them learned their instrument in the first place. Live music was the only option – how many learned the fiddle or piano so they could watch their family and friends dance to their tunes?

Songs were written for dancing, rooms were built for dancing. people gathered for dancing.

I am thinking here not so much of solo dancing or partner dancing, but of group dancing.

I am not a history buff – in fact the only thing that makes me think dancing is different nowadays then it was “back then” is movies. The wedding scene in “Fiddler on the Roof”. Jane Austen movies. The folk dancing in “Tangled”. They all indicate a culture where dancing was not as separated from daily life.

Dancing contributes to life. It provides a way to express joy. It can bring complete strangers together. It prompts men to step up and lead. It gives people confidence in who God has created them to be, whether they are a man or a woman. It unifies.

I know that dancing has not and will not vanish completely – it simply changes faces, and roles, and importance, throughout the centuries. But I wish group dancing had a greater importance right now, in America.

No matter how much dancing I am able to do on this earth, I look forward to the dancing there will be in heaven, when every person from every nation that has ever risen on this earth will join hands and there, in the presence of our God, who watches with greatest pleasure (or perhaps He will be holding your hand?), dance.

Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

-Jeremiah 31:13