Don's CD for Beth Sholom

On Wednesday, January 8th, 2008, Don Schillinger began his Beth Sholom class in grand style: over 80 dancers, many of them novices, participated in this session.

Beth Sholom already was the host of a class led by Sharon Polsky on Tuesday nights and there was some controversy in the rfact that a new class was being conducted in a facility that already had an on-going class. This documentation on this class and the CD produced will not discuss this - we leave this to the ethicists among you.

Since the inception of the class, the class has moved to Mondays and Sharon's class no longer is being held. Generally, 25 to 35 dancers attend each session. From a personal view, we can tell you that the class has great energy and this is exemplified by the willingness to learn. It no longer is an introductory class and many of the participants also participate in other israeli dance sessions throughout the week.

The origin of this CD is somewhat murky and was done in great haste. One of the participants in the initial class was responsible for the CD creation (and it is through him that we are providing the documentation for this script) through his own computer equipment while Don was responsible for music selection and marketing.

As with all hurried projects, some errors did crop in. In the original CD, Od Lo Ahavti Dai appeared twice: as the irst and eleventh track. In this documentation, we have eliminate the 11th track designation. Below is info on each track and please keep in mind most of this information is culled from the site.

We hope that we are not revealing any secrets per correspondence here, but that evening, given the electricity evident during the session, Don sent an Email to amny of the participants. We duplicate this here to indicate to you the viewer the magic ev eryone who was involved felt about this initial session. Every now and then lightning strikes and it is a pleasure to be a part of such an event. Don's word we are sure were heartfelt and through the years we are sure that Don has continued to feel the same about the session and its participants.

I would like to begin by thanking Beth Sholom Congregation, it's leadership, and some of it's members for encouraging me to try to start a session.   With an opening night attendance of close to 70 people, all I can say is WOW!   While I run 2 successful ongoing sessions on the Main Line, I have had no weekly presence on the OYR corridor.  Your level of participation surpassed my expectations.  I was (and am) truly touched. 

I was impressed by the turnout, primarily since the current active dance community did not show up (it was not marketed to them).

I was touched by the turnout because there were so many faces of people with whom I interact in other parts of my life.

        - Arleen Danon who helped me to get started at the Perelman Jewish Day School and who still dances with me at the Saligman Middle School.
        - Rabbi Merow who was instrumental in bringing me to Beth Sholom Congregation.
        - Lila Manstein, Sheryl Love, Michelle Olsher, and Margo Fine-Gabbay who started me on the road to opening the session.
        - Mimi Ferraro who has made a habit out of regularly bringing me to events at OYR Beth Am.
        - Sue Williams who knew me from the warm (but now defunct) Temple Sholom community and was among my first Bar/Bat Mitzvah clients on the OYR corridor.
        - Hedda Morton who brings me to teach kids at Adath Israel in Lawrenceville, NJ and came all the way from Cherry Hill, NJ to attend.
        - Liz Sussman who brings me to the Kaiserman JCC pre-school and summer camp to teach young children.
        - a woman whose support was extremely instrumental in getting me started when I first opened a dance at Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood (~9 years ago).
        - a significant number of Perelman Jewish Day School & Saligman Middle School parents and students.
        - a few of my Bar/Bat Mitzvah assistants (dancers) who were excited about learning more.
        - a group of the Camp Galil crowd who always motivate me in ways that few others can.
        - a few Camp Ramah kids.
        - my young friend, Jonathan, who doesn't attend day school but always loves dancing (especially to Cotton Eyed Joe & Riverdance) whenever he sees me.
        - Monica Stern, Lynne Oxenberg, and Mark Segal who used to dance and were so open to me when they were active dancers and I was just a beginner.
        - Michelle Ravitch whose smiling face always makes it pleasant when I work at Camp Ramah Day Camp and Beth Sholom Congregation's Hebrew School.
        - Pam Maman, a Perelman Jewish Day School parent, who once hired me to come to teach dancing at a special event in Jacksonville, FL when she lived there.
        - Sara Zebovitz who was among my first core of excited students when I began teaching at the Perelman Jewish Day School.
        - Jonah Adams who, even as a pre-teen, embodied the strength of Camp Galil, with his energetic, jumpy and enthusiastic style of dancing.
        - Marc Rauer, Menachem Profeta, and Jani Rosen who regularly dance with me elsewhere; they always have fun and are helpful to others (and, as a result, help me).
        - so many more people who are equally as important but I just can't list at this time.

I was encouraged by the turnout.  If most of you keep coming, I have no doubt that you will succeed as dancers and the session will gain momentum so that it becomes a permanent fixture for the Old York Road community.  If I have 1 or 2 more sessions like yesterday's then I will contact Beth Sholom to ask for an extension of the commitment beyond the current 8 weeks.

For those of you on the fence and uncertain whether to keep coming, why make a habit out of attending? 
a.) when a session opens for the first time, this is the EASIEST time to climb on board.  You're around a group of similarly skilled people or experienced, patient dancers. 
b.) your dance skills will definitely increase.  It takes a little time but suddenly your abilities will start to climb. 
c.) you will gain new friendships. 
d.) you will start to have a connection to contemporary Israeli music and Israel, itself, in a way that you never have before. 
e.) you will be able to enjoy a trip to Israel, with Israeli Dancing as part of your trip, which is a special treat. 
f.) the more you learn, the more I'll be able to get you dancing, the more exercise you'll get. 
g.) you can gain some Hebrew from listening to the music and understanding the words (some of the lyrics can be found on the web). 
h.) you'll be able to dance more at simchas and feel more comfortable making your simcha feel more Jewish / Israeli than the normal cookie-cutter affair. 
i.) you'll be working your brain in a brand new way and an active brain may just help you to stay young for longer.
If you are interested in seeing what was taught yesterday, or, after any session that I do at Beth Sholom Congregation: 
1.) go to my website at 
2.) click on the "Dances Taught" link 
3.) select both the start and end dates that you want to include in the search 
4.) set class location = Beth Sholom Congregation 
5.) select a sort by criteria 
6.) click the SEARCH button 
For yesterday's class the following dances were taught (I won't be sending this to you after each class since you can find it on my website at any time): 
Lo Ahavti Dai (circle) 
Darkeinu (circle) 
Baleilot Hakayitz Hachamim (circle) 
Ani Ma'amin (circle) 
Mocher Prachim (circle) 
Selibabi (line) 
Latinos (line) 
For next week's class I will be reviewing all of these dances at a slightly faster pace and I expect to teach at least 2 additional dances.  

One last bit of advice: 
You should not expect to remember the steps to the dances that were taught last night.  In the early stages, remembering the dances is not as important as understanding the basic steps (mayim, tcherkessia, yemenite, turns, double-tcherkessia, box, etc.), feeling the movement of others around you (to the left or to the right), and recognizing that it takes time to develop the skills to watch someone across from you without moving in the wrong direction.  You will start to remember dances later in the process.  The other skill to develop is simultaneous processing visual cues (provided by everyone around you) at the same time as processing auditory cues (when I verbalize a step or a direction).  Sometime these cues seem to be in conflict (i.e. your eyes tell you that you're supposed to move to right, but your ears tell you to move to the left.) 
There will be some people who drop out (this happens with any activity) so it's important to continue to talk to people to encourage them to come while the session is still in it's infancy.  This is the easiest time to learn and with a large group it's a really fun way to begin.

I congratulate you on a wonderful first evening and look forward to seeing your smiling faces next week!

Enjoy . . .

-- DON --