If, like me, you are just catching your breath after Simchat Torah, you know the exhilaration, even the transformative power of communal dancing.
Dance has always been an integral part of Jewish life: from King David dancing in ecstasy in front of the ark to the courtship dances of Tu B’av, from the harvest circles of Sukkot to the victory dances of biblical women. An early prototype is Miriam leading the women of Israel in a dance of gratitude after the exodus from Egypt and crossing of the Red Sea. When the rabbis ask why Miriam had to bother with her dance when the people had just offered up a lengthy song of praise, the Midrash comments, “The liberation is not complete until the women dance.”
Yet, women – here, in Israel and round the world – are finding that their liberation is far from complete.
Just some ten months ago …
Ultra-orthodox men spat on young girls who were on their way to school in a small town called Beit Shemesh. My friend Miri Shalem, who was already a community organizer for the town’s women, responded: Within a week, seemingly out of nowhere, a flash mob of hundreds of women appeared to dance together in the public square. Just like her namesake Miriam, Miri’s dance made history. The dance went viral and life was never the same again. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZd0kLWP01c
Miri’s new organization called Women Dance For a Change produces flash dances on demand in response to important women’s rights issues. Like Miriam’s archetypal dance, this is a round that is open to all.
Change begins with the participants – women who dance assume instant agency over their own bodies – some for the first time in their lives. Caught off guard by the upbeat “spontaneous” phenomena, spectators have to reconsider the banishment of women from public space. Without inflammatory rhetoric, without a single placard, women reclaim the public space simply by appearing there with energy, impact and joy.
I’m helping Miri grow the movement because it resonates with everything I care about. We are up and running, planning two more Israel-based events before the end of the year.
Please like us, friend us and stay tuned for more liberation dance events near you