Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dance cliques

One Saturday afternoon in Central Park, when I was in my early 20s and living on the Upper West Side, I came across a group of dancers dancing to this incredible ethnic music. I stood there transfixed for hours and asked where I could learn these dances. The dancers told me of a couple of places where international folk dancing was taught, and I remember learning the dances in a large loft somewhere in Manhattan. I became part of the "in group" of dancers, even progressing to a point where I was going to join a Yugoslavian dance troupe that would dance in the 1984 Olympics - until marriage in 1983 and a move to Toronto put a stop to those plans.

But I loved dancing and even in Canada I danced Israeli dance three times a week. It was enjoyable, though not as diverse music-wise as the international dance scene. I remember, being Orthodox at the time, when one of the male dancers, during the couples' dances (the Orthodox women usually had other women as partners), pulled me over to dance with him, and I heard gasps from the other dancers..."but she's religious!" I felt like I was one of the characters in Fiddler on the Roof, when one of the secular son-in-laws of Tevye's daughters pulls the mother or the wife in to dance with him at a wedding amid gasps from the others.

When I moved to Israel, in my 40s, my neck wouldn't cooperate with me and the osteopath told me the impact of my dancing is probably what caused the pain.

So I was quite happy to be invited by a friend to Greek dancing in Jerusalem. The evenings are cool and I know from international dancing that there is not quite as much running and jumping in Greek dance. I told my friend who had been dancing for 5 years that I'll figure out the steps quite easily. There's much repetition and I know the rhythms of Greek/Balkan music. I pretty much followed along, not stepping on anyone's toes, and felt so happy to be dancing again, feeling that my legs were getting a good workout. It was someone's birthday and there was a huge spread of salads, pita, wine and ouzo, even eclairs, which were tempting but what is the point of a workout when you stuff yourself with those things!

One guy came over to me. "You need to come at 6:30 to learn the dances, this way you can be part of the circle and won't throw people off."


"I wasn't throwing anyone off. Didn't you see that I knew the steps to the last dance?"

I had seen the same guy dancing next to another new woman who didn't know the steps at all, but he held onto her anyway. Did he tell her the same thing?

"This way, no one will be under pressure," he continued.

Greek dancing puts people under pressure?

"I wasn't under any pressure!" I told him. The guy was pissing me off.

There were about 5 dances that had more intricate steps and I followed in back of the circle, just to be polite, but people can get really antsy about newcomers. Even my friend remarked that she even thought she had been dancing 5 years already, no one ever bothered to celebrate her birthday there.

"They can get pretty cliquey here," she informed me.

Well, I can remedy that and invited another friend to join me next time, and maybe she'll invite one of her friends. And we'll make our own clique of newcomers.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

When Worlds Collide

I'm so happy to be off work for two weeks. Not that I have anywhere to go. I usually take stay-cations. August is atrociously expensive everywhere and Hubby is busy with work. But I am happy to be away from the cookie jar across from my office which is filled with Pepperidge Farm cookies - both Brussels and Milanos. I begged the office manager to revert back to buying cheap nasty-tasting cookies so I wouldn't eat them, but these are irrestible and I've gained weight. Now I have 2 weeks to recuperate from my sugar addiction, have a healthy leisurely breakfast and a non-rushed dinner at home with some dinners/lunches out with friends. And I can't forget the grandkids. No - not the grandkids. See, I'm not the kind of granny that watches the kids for weeks while their parents fly off somewhere exotic, or the self-less grandma who just wants to be with the little ones, and then is exhausted and needs yet another holiday. Their other granny had my eldest grandkid of 6 over at her house for weeks on end during July but he wasn't bored because all his cousins were over visiting that granny as well. Besides, that granny never leaves the house. Ever. She's the type that stays home and cooks and cleans all day.

We were discussing the differences in culture over lunch one day - me, my daughters and my son-in-laws. I asked them why they were never interested in museums, in culture, in going out to festivals and why do they just eating schwarma on their evenings out. Why?

"The Israel Museum?" scoffed one son-in-law, who I thought had the potential to be more cultured than the rest. "It's full of leftists!" was his excuse why he doesn't step foot in there or the Bible Lands or any other museum.

I was furious - "What about the exhibit on Hasidim? huh? Were all the Hasidim leftists? How about the synagogue repicas? Why can't you come out of your narrow world."

I was getting really angry at their narrowmindedness, my daughters included.

And then I thought of a great idea which will make everyone happy. If my kids don't get it, maybe my grandkids will. I'm gonna take my grandkids, at least the oldest ones, to museums, fairs, etc. The science museum is great for kids, as is the upcoming Kite Festival at the Israel Museum and the Bible Lands Museum has a two-hour tour discovering the Mystery of the Pyramids.

This past Friday I took my 6 year old grandkid to the First Station - the refurbished Turkish-era train station that had been neglected for 10 years or more. It had been open since June, but my kids don't know it even exists. It's a remarkable place with activities for kids, films, concerts, shows, food courts, restaurants, carts where designers sell their fantastic selection of handmade clothing and jewelery. We listed and danced to songs welcoming the Sabbath, ate an enormous portion of ice cream at Vaniglia's until it dripped down both our faces, and we just pointed fingers at each other and laughed, I bought him a ridiculously expensive balloon, shaped like a beagle, that "walked" when you put it on the ground and if he comes to my house on my day off, I'll make him his favorite food - pancakes. It's a food he always asks for when he comes over, even on a Friday night.

So, yes, I may not cook 1,000 dishes over Shabbat and stay home all day and all night while everyone comes to visit, but I will be the granny who will make sure the kids love the rich culture that Jerusalem has to offer.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

No more chaos

My daughter gave me instructions by phone.

"Please don't look at the video of the wedding and the CD of the photos on Shabbat. OK?"

I sighed and agreed. Shabbat is the day of rest from work, when I can enjoy viewing such stuff that I have no time to get to in the weekday rush.

My youngest daughter had just gotten married in May and disturbed all the secular guests at that wedding who were shocked to find that dancing was going to be separated by gender. Their rabbi had asked them to do so and they were going along with it. They even stopped the music a number of times when men and women started to dance together. Protests were stronger coming from the groom's side, as there were 600 of their guests and there were just a mere 50 guests on our side. Most of our 50 guests were North Americans, and were used to this type of wedding.

We weren't too pissed off at their rabbi who told them not to live with either of their parents, as many young couples do for a year or two so they can save money. It pushed them into being responsible adults for the first time in their lives.

Hubby and I went to her house for a Friday night meal. She had cooked an amazing dinner and seemed so at ease with her new role as wife. This daughter, who was the messiest girl in the Middle East, was now keeping a spotless home. She now has her hair and elbows covered, in accordance with the strictly Orthodox, and this change of lifestyle had me reminiscing on the way back home with Hubby.

"Remember all those times when taxis would honk at 4:00 am years back because she just ran out of the cab without paying?"

"Remember all those all night 'nature trance parties' that went on in secret locations all over Israel that she went to every weekend?"

I had bought new folders to sort out our new home office, made possible by all the girls leaving home and leaving us with a spare room.

As I rummaged through her files, I came across letters from the courts, lawyers' bills - from 2002 to 2007 -when her hobbies were shoplifting, stealing charity boxes, trying to get into Teddy Stadium with a knife, painting graffiti on public buildings and simply passing a joint to her friend which resulted in 120 hours of community service. We had our hands full with that girl. It had seemed like 24/7 chaos in our lives. It was frightening not knowing which way she was gonna go in life.

I remember my boss telling me not to worry, during those awful years. That she would give me the most "nachas" (pleasure/pride) one day. And he must have been a prophet to foresee that, because I couldn't. And for once, though I am not a fan of rabbis, I am grateful to the influence this particular rabbi has on her and her new husband. I don't give a shit if he wants her to wear a burka. Funnily enough, I'd be all for it.