Well, it should be interesting to see if this verbage ever makes it onto some web site [TDC Note: Yes, Minna, here you are both in print and above in pictures]. As the author, I, Minna Ziskind, have never been involved with something like this. I guess I should tell you how this comes about.

At the end of a recent Sunday session, Mark Rauer (I think that's how you spell his name, or is it Marc Rauer or Mark Rauar) [TDC Note: We don't know either] and I were talking about how there should be a guide to the pet names we place on dances at the Germantown Sunday morning session. And, out of the blue, an Email arrives from some web site that supposedly covers Israeli dancing in the Philadelphia area asking me to write such a guide about the Sunday morning dance session at the Germantown Jewish Centre. Who knew there was such a web site and who knows how they got my name, but here's an attempt to provide such a guide. A kind of Michelin guide if you will for those who want to come and join the fun of this morning session of dance. It is information to help you with the dances and the session personalities although the session is so friendly that almost any of the experienced dancers, like Tamar, John, Jani, Elana and Grant, are more than willing to help.

First: Where do we dance? There have been 3 locations used within the center and we have outgrown one of these. The main location for dancing on Sunday mornings is the Marcus auditorium which is kind of on the 3rd floor on one side of the building. Another facility used is the Tenin canteen which is in the basement at the other end of the building from the Marcus. A third facility, used in a pinch, is the Silver Kiddish lounge which acts as an anteroom to the Marcus auditorium. The Silver Kiddish lounge used to be the location of the session before we moved to the auditorium about 5 years ago.

At one time, it didn’t matter where we danced but lately, assuming that Mark (or Marc) is correct when he counts attendance every week, our attendance of 20+ dancers weekly makes for cramped spacing unless the auditorium is being used.

If you come, you should also understand that there are many events going on in the Germantown Jewish Centre building on Sundays and, in fact, on most days. The synagogue and its congregation is very giving and there are continual food drives, clothes drives and other activities concerning charities, Recently there was a craft show that encompassed a good portion of the building and the outside lawn as well.

You should also understand that the Germantown staff is very important to all of us, dancers and congregants alike, and the building is closed to commemorate Christian Holidays such as Christmas and Easter weekends to accommodate the staff. Obviously Israeli dancing is pre-empted for appropriate Jewish Holidays.

Once you are here, what should you expect as far as Israeli dancing is concerned? From what I understand this Sunday session is unique having both a dance leader, Grant Shulman and session coordinator, Tamar Magdovitz. During each session expect a set of announcements from either of the two or possibly both. Germantown is very friendly and tries to go out of its way to welcome newcomers or those returning from dance layoffs. To help this, names are given at least once a session, sometimes more than once.

In my opinion Grant is also very accommodating as to play selection and instruction. It is not unusual for dancers to request a refresher on the steps of a dance and Grant will try to provide this. In addition, once or twice a year Don Schillinger will appear to hold a seminar and several times a year Jani Rosen will teach a dance. Other members of the session including myself have shown dances in the past. Even as a dance is playing there might be a discussion of the correct steps to it. Recently, such a discussion involved Eilat, one of our repertoire of dances, and how one of the turns should be performed. Everyone who has expertise is welcome to join these discussion of steps where it is appropriate.

Now, let's discuss some combination of dances and then some specific dances. We'll start with what is called Grant's Melancholy Trio. I think the Mark (or Marc) mentioned above coined this designation although he denies it. In using this designation, we are dealing with 3 dances which sometimes are played together but in most cases are all played separately through the session. This I can tell you, this same Mark does keep a count of these as they are played counting them down until all three have been danced. Here is the names of the three dances (TDC Note: We've listed them line by line to add information that Minna would not have available)

Recently someone mentioned that from what they know two of the dances (Bachalom and Overet Orach) are the only choreographies of Ami Ben Shushan. If that is correct we still must consider Ben Shushan more than a two hit wonder. When played, all of these dances, including his, create a soothing mood given the music and dance steps.

Recently, I added a designation for a trio of dances, now to be known as the Germantown schmaltzy trio, created by more established and known choreographers. I'm sorry, but I just had to do this given the feel of the steps and music. Sometimes choreographers make these dances a little too involved with exaggerated hand, foot or body movements, at least to my way of thinking, and three current dances we are currently doing each week fit this bill. So, for your information, here is the list of the Germantown schmaltzy trio (TDC Note: We've listed them below to give additional info)

On one recent Sunday morning these were played in succession which gave me the idea of naming them such. Like other such names, this seems to have taken hold and, no doubt, some day if you are at Germantown dancing, you will hear this reference, too.

Israeli dances have names generally in Hebrew and, although I don't have this problem, some of the dancers do not speak this language, so there is continual references to these dances by pet names. For instance, many times the dance, Zohi Artzi, will be referenced as that western dance. At the session we all have become accustomed to understanding that a dancer means Shufni when they ask Grant to play the dance that goes 3 and half times (one dancer counts up the cycles of this particular dance as it is played). Other dances, such as Sapari, have alternate descriptions. In Sapari’s case this dance is sometimes referenced as the snake hissing dance. Recently, we have been revisiting Toda La'el which has a very unique sequence to its parts. I think it was Tamar who coined it the binary dance since the first part is done 2,1,and 1/2 times through the pregression of the music.

To some degree, it's these alternate designations that make this dancing fun to some of the dancers and the alternate names may have more meaning to dancers than the real names. But, above all, it is the people, and their individual characteristics, that make dancing fun for all the participants at the Sunday Germantown session as I will explain below.

For the beginning Israeli dancer, it may seem that the dances all have uniform choreography but certain dancers take exceptions and modify a dance's steps for whatever reason. Generally they do this to dances that they themselves enjoy. At Germantown, there are a set of dancers that take the lead in doing this and also there are the dancers who try to follow this type of lead. Mark (or Marc) is such a dancer who modifies or exaggerates steps, for example. There are certain dances where he has his "affectations" and you should watch for this. But even more so, watch the dancers who attempt to imitate him both seriously and in fun. One such dancer who imitates him well is John Frank who matches Mark's movements stride for stride. When Hanasich Halavan, Mamriim or Salamati come on, Mark takes the lead but both John and I (as I must admit) follow these exaggerated movements into and out of the circle. Now, other dancers do similar affectations in some aspects to other dances and this is what makes Germantown fun as Grant recognizes this and will play selections based on who is in attendance.

I must admit to doing my share of this. I guess I exaggerate Klezmer and Etz Hamishalot, for instance, and some dancers have picked up on this. And, recently, several of us have tried to mimic the grace and style of Grace who is a long time Israeli (and ballet) dancer. The aforementioned John Frank exaggerates Kachol and we have all taken to ‘enhancing’ Kama Ahava Yesh Be'einayich with exaggerated jumps into the center.

I mention this not to make fun of anyone, but to inform you. Everyone has a different favorite and we all move to different rhythms and beats of music. If you join our Sunday morning session inevitably some piece of music will move and stimulate you so that if I ever write another of these articles (TDC note The offer is always open), you will be included in this type of discussion

[TDC note: Below is a list of dances mentioned in this script beyond Grant's melancholy trio and Germantown's schmaltzy trio]