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Yiddish Dance Action Network: Calling All Zamlers!

From Helen Winkler:

The Yiddish Dance Action Network is an association of musicians, dancers, ethnographers and others who strive to document and continue the traditions of Yiddish Dance. We need your help. We seek materials and memories that will help complete the picture of what Yiddish dance was and what it can be. Examples of useful documentation include:

  • memories of Yiddish dancing: perhaps you have a family member or friend who recalls the old dances and wants to share these memories
  • old family films, home movies or photos of celebrations that feature Yiddish dance
  • written descriptions in books or personal accounts of the dances, such as written memoirs

If you have information about the dances that you would like to share, please contact us: E-mail Helen Winkler or orPete Rushefsky

*Zamler is the Yiddish word for compiler. Zamlers gather together scattered things in order to form a collection.

For hundreds of years, Ashkenazi Jews were part of a diverse tapestry of ethnic communities in Eastern and Central Europe. Dance, particularly during wedding festivities, was an important means of cultural expression and community cohesion for Jews living in cities and shtetlekh (villages) alike. These old Eastern European Jewish folk dances are now known as Yiddish dances. Examples include the freylekhs, bulgar and sher. To find out more about the dances visit www.yiddishdance.com.

A variety of factors caused most traditional Yiddish dance and its associated klezmer repertoire to fall almost completely out of practice by the 1960s. While remnants of a limited number of dance forms and gestures are retained in Hasidic communities, today there are but a few elderly immigrant and second-generation Jews left who still perform, or can even recall traditional dance from either Europe or America.