Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Seven dances for Simchat Torah in the Youtube Era

On Simchat Torah (literally 'Rejoicing of the Torah'), one of the ways we rejoice is by dancing with the Torah.  Traditionally we do 7 hakafot - 7 circles, or 7 rounds of singing and dancing before we read the closing verses followed immediately by the opening verses of the Torah.  In Kabbalah - Jewish mystical teachings - these 7 cycles are associated with the 7 lower sephirot of the Tree of Life.  These vibrate with the energy of 7 attributes of God and we, made in God's likeness, also possess these attributes.  At our synagogue, each of our cycles is accompanied by our wonderful B'nai Israel Band striking up another tune, but we don't really pick up on different energies or styles for our 7 dances; we begin a little more sedately, but then we bring things up to a lively tempo and we largely remain there for the rest of our celebration.  Its a great atmosphere, and we try to ensure that as many people can dance with a Sefer Torah as possible.

But this year I thought I'd explore the idea of these 7 different energies/attributes through associations with dance on the blog - something that is possible in this Youtube Era.  And so, with a little help from Google, this year's Simchat Torah blog is a journey through the 7 hakafot as 7 dance images that reflect the 7 energies of the sephirot.

Hakafah 1: Hesed - the Dance of Love
Free-flowing, generous, all-encompassing; like the waves lapping on the shore, over and over...

Hakafah 2: Gevurah - the Dance of Power
Hard-edged, bounded, firm, strong, staccato...

Hakafah 3: Tiferet - the Dance of Beauty
Graceful, balanced, blending, soulful...

Hakafah 4: Netsach - the Dance of Eternity
Vision, expansive, unfolding, embracing...
The artwork of Francene Hart, Visionary Artist

We are surrounded by spiral every time we step into relationship. Guided by love and respect, spiral fearlessly into what might just be one of the most important dances of life. Know that in loving you will be loved.

Hakafah 5: Hod - the Dance of Splendor
Explosion of sensation, joyful fulfillment,  elegant, spirit (ruach)...

After an overdose of streptomycin to treat a high fever at the age of two, Tai began to lose her hearing. She didn't realize this until she tried to join a group of friends in a sound-distinguishing game. She was five by then and other kids were going to normal schools. Little Tai, thrust in deep depression and solitude, had to go to a primary school for the disabled.

Life had to carry on but a young heart sobbed on in a soundless world… All until one day when a teacher at the special school brought a drum to class and started to beat it, Tai was thrilled by the rhythmic vibration that passed over her body from under her feet. She was overwhelmed and simply bent over to the wooden floor: It was the most beautiful sound in the world to her.

 To again experience such a feeling, Tai would press her little face to a loudspeaker and imagine the dance on TV. It was her language and the only one, to express her understanding of the world. From then on, Tai became obsessed with dancing...

Tai's outstanding performance brought her to the world stage. She is the only Chinese dancer to have performed both at Carnegie Hall inNew York and La Scala in Milan. And a poster of The Spirit of the Peacock by her at Carnegie Hall is the only one from China.

Now when the curtain rises, the lights come up and the music fades in, there is Tai in the elegant flowing dress signature to the piece. She moves with her impressionistic interpretation of that precise-stepping and extraordinary land bird. As if in a silent wood, on a green lawn, or by a gurgling brook, with expression of face and body she captivates with physical interpretation and spirit

Hakafah 6: Yesod - the Dance of Foundation/Life Force
Righteousness, justice, inclusion, connection...

There are so many Dance Foundations to choose from, focusing on all kinds of dance of all kinds of communities.  The following clip from the American Dance Wheels Foundation felt like a particularly appropriate interpretation of life force; something unexpected, yet powerfully integrative:

Hakafah 7: Malchut - the Dance of the Shechinah
The earth, the moon, the apple orchard, the rainbow...


  1. What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing these seven dances!

  2. Fantastically clever and a very different way of approaching this custom. Chag Sameach!