Festive Dances


An excerpt from the Introductory essay by Shlomit Ofer, "A Time for Dancing: A suite of festive dances by Tirza Sapir"

This book comprises a suite of festive dances composed by Tirza Sapir between the years 1961 – 2011. Most of the dances were staged within the frame of festive celebrations in the kibbutzim Gat and Carmi a, performed by the children and members of those communities. At later times the dances serve as the basis f?r study material in other communities of learning and dancing – students in the dance and dance theatre tuition streams in the School of the Arts of Dance, Seminar Hakibbutzim College of Education and in the dance stream at Orot Israel College, and later their own students as well – children and youths from various communities. Teachers and students teaching within various educational frames continue to make use of these works for purposes of learning, teaching, research, creation and the production of festivities in their communities. Over many years as a student and colleague of Professor Noa Eshkol, co-creator with Professor Avraham Wachman of Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation, Tirza composed most of the dances in keeping with the thinking and principles rooted in the conceptual framework of this notation, a factor which influenced their design.

The dances in this book
The dances collected here have a number of things in common which crystallized in the course of the work on them over the years, and which constitute the rationale of their compilation in the book: Firstly, each of the dances has an educational aim. The process of teaching the dances offers teachers opportunities for improving the abilities of the learner-performers and to promote their understanding of the body’s movement in space and in time. As pointed out in Hanukka Notebook (Sapir, 1987), observation of the process of learning the dance as aimed at an educational target led to the application of two principles:
a. Each of the dances has a distinct movement subject, or several subjects all anchored in the frame of Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation and definable and writable in this language. The exercise through learning the dance and its performance is aimed to lead towards better understanding and improved movement performance of the chosen subject.
b. Each of the dances is structured in such a way as to constitute a kind of ‘lesson plan’ for the educational subject. Each of the dances has a number of ‘voices’ – a concept borrowed from the world of music and relating to the various roles of the parts of the body participating in the composition. Here, as in the voices of a musical composition, the parts can be learned independently and can be added to one another in different combinations. Thus the structure of the dance and the form of study latent in it allows for a variety of learning methods, a graduated ascent of levels of difficulty in the learning process and the creation of varying movement combinations. These elements are woven together into the complete performance, and allow maximum compatibility of the movement material to the learning group. In this respect the dances constitute in practice a collection of exercises that can serve for study, the development of understanding and the improvement of performing ability of movement and movement notation. The other common ground of the dances is their rootedness in the renewed
Jewish culture within the frame of the kibbutz community. This community is characterized by cultural creativity rooted in Jewish tradition, emphasising the aspects of proximity to nature, agricultural work and a communal society, and widening of the limited family nucleus. This subject is expanded in the essay by Mooky Tsur in the following pages, but we will make brief mention here of two aspects that characterize the dances in this context:
a. The subjects of all the dances hinge on quintessential symbols of the various feasts, which undergo ‘animation’ in movement. This symbolic representation comprised an expression of the traditional aspect of the feast, and at the same time also made the learning process relevant for the performers. Most of the music that accompanies the dances – festive songs that have become classic – relates explicitly to the symbols of the feast.
b. The dances were constructed as group dances designed for performance in a public ceremony. The structure of the dances and their affiliation to songs familiar to the celebrating public allowed the dances to be integrated in a natural way with the celebratory tradition of the kibbutz community. The third factor unifying the dances is the artistic and aesthetic aspect. In this aspect the movements in a large part of the dances were designed in a way that expresses iconically almost what is said in the words of the song.

…The_ unique combination of the three aspects indicated – the educational, the Jewish-communal and the artistic-aesthetic- together create a quintessential body of movement-cultural knowledge. This body of knowledge lays the way for a unique method of movement education which on the one hand provides for the expression of the content of the feast and identification with it, and on the other hand, promotes deep knowledge of Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation.