Taboo lifting on contemporary dance for Orthodox Jews in Israel

While the creation of new forms of dancing remains vibrant in Israel, this environment has barely made an impact upon Orthodox Jews, who limit their dancing to traditional forms, especially at weddings—until recently. While still unusual, there are now a few contemporary dance companies formed by Orthodox Jews, reports Aude-May Lepasteur in the Swiss daily La Liberté (November 26). The journalist interviewed researcher Ana Laura Rodriguez Quinones (University of Lausanne), who confirms that women are facing strong hurdles, starting with the fact that they have few opportunities to train at young ages. Orthodox Jewish women have a hard time justifying the practice of contemporary dance since Orthodox Judaism emphasizes the concept of tzniout (modesty), associated with an appropriate moral behavior.

In order to provide legitimacy to modern dancing expressions, Orthodox Jewish dance companies tend to choose topics related to Jewish religious traditions, refer to rabbinical writings, describe dancing as a way to glorify God, and keep Orthodox clothing when dancing. Moreover, most female dancing groups only perform in front of female audiences.
Rodriguez Quinones has identified three female (Halelu, Tehalelia, and Carmia) and one male (Ka’et) Orthodox Jewish contemporary dance companies currently active in Israel. The last one comes from a less conservative Orthodox milieu and also performs in front of mixed audiences. Te Ka’et Ensemble also invites well-known rabbis or musicians to perform along with them, thus attempting to gain recognition of their artistic work within Orthodox circles. While still limited in size, this trend is emerging and potentially expanding.
(Halelu –
Performance by Ka’et Ensemble: