Yesterday I took the Crunch girls to a children’s matinee performance of “Dames of the Dance 2: The Pesach Story.” The Dames are made up of Gush Etzion’s women’s dance teachers and their students, and following their highly praised show of last year, they were back this year with a series of 17 dances around the theme of the Exodus and the Pesach seder. Among the many dance styles were tap, hip-hop, Israeli, jazz, and modern dance, the Charleston, and belly dancing (with lots of jingling but no visible jiggling).
Peach and Banana love shows, but Beans often loses interest after the first ten minutes. Yesterday, though, the cockles of my heart were warmed by the sight of all three of them completely enraptured by the dancing. Children, teens, moms, and grannies partook in the performance, telling the story with beauty, grace, wit and humor. Here were a few highlights:
- A video of little girls dressed as slaves dancing to Lenny Solomon’s “Into the Sea” (a parody of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid; lyrics here);
- A graceful modern dance by a group from Tekoa called “Desert Voices” which showcased the importance of water in the Hebrews’ sojourn in the desert;
- A small tap ensemble dressed in Egyptian garb (lots of gold lamé) to demonstrate the Egyptian credo that everyone should dress and act like them (performed to the Bangles’ song, “Walk Like an Egyptian,” of course); and
- A processional dance by women wearing “Dames of the Dance” aprons, providing percussion with metal bowls and colanders, spoons and whisks, forks, knives, and plates, enacting the cooking and table-setting part of seder preparation. The kids were mildly interested here; the mothers and grandmothers in the audience were busting their guts laughing.
Despite the fact that the Gush is much smaller than Beit Shemesh (around 25,000 as opposed to 75,000), and we have far fewer Russian musicians and no conservatory, there is a wealth of culture here, especially for women. There are the Dames, of course, and Raise Your Spirits, a group of women who do musical theater, writing and performing shows on Jewish themes. (Raise Your Spirits began during the early part of this decade to provide entertainment for people in the Gush when there was nightly shooting by Arabs on the road to Jerusalem.)
What I love and admire best about these groups is not only their guts and their talent, but their initiative in making these wonderful events happen. Some of that comes from this being a community with a very high percentage of immigrants (and children of immigrants) who are accustomed, when they don’t see something they want or need, to making it themselves. With Raise Your Spirits, it came out of necessity, and with both, it provides a venue for women to perform who do not feel comfortable (because of the laws of modesty) performing for men. But above all, it showcases local amateur talent, raises money for charity (half the price of each 40 NIS ticket goes to help the needy), provides entertainment for women of all ages, and shows that all women, regardless of shape and size, can build strength and flexibility, move gracefully, and create something beautiful.