Simcha: Jewish Wedding Joy Through Dancing
If you have never been to a traditional Jewish wedding, the concept of wedding simcha, the amazing all-out joy at such a wedding, is hard to describe. It can, in fact, be quite wild, with people juggling fire, dancing in big hora circles, the bride and groom up on chairs in the middle, and so much more. The entire atmosphere is one of extreme joy, all done in fulfillment of the mitzvah of giving joy to the bride and groom.
The Talmud describes some of the extreme simcha at Jewish weddings in its era. It relates that the rabbis used to dance before the bride, with some juggling fire, some juggling myrtle branches, and some with wine glasses.
If you want to capture some of this simcha, contagious Jewish wedding joy, at your wedding, it will require a bit of advance planning. You should start by hiring a band that knows something about Jewish wedding music and can play it well and with energy. If you are unsure of their capabilities in this area, ask to see a video of a wedding they have played or seek a recommendation from a couple whose wedding they played that had simcha dancing. In addition to the band, you will want to let friends and relatives know in advance that you wish to achieve this simcha atmosphere.
One way to set a tone of simcha is to begin the dancing immediately when you enter the reception hall for the meal. To achieve simcha, this first set of dancing should be in big traditional Jewish dancing circles to fast Jewish wedding music. Songs such as “Od Yishamah” and “Siman Tov” can work well. If your band is familiar with traditional Jewish wedding music, they can recommend some energetic and joyous tunes to start the dancing off with. If they are not, purchase a CD of Jewish wedding music from one of the many online Jewish bookstores for them.
You and your fiancé may want a variety of different kinds of music to be played at your wedding. Beginning with traditional Jewish wedding music will set the tone of your wedding as one that is all-out Jewish fun and joy. Remember, there will be lots of time at your reception, during and between courses, for various types of other music.
Jewish wedding dancing has some variations. The Jewish dancing at a wedding can often look like one circle going around and around. In truth, though, there are usually many variations. Inside the center of the circle, people often take turns doing their own personalized dances to entertain the bride and groom. Some of the dances from the annals of Jewish history are quite elaborate and difficult.
The kitzatzke, for instance, is a Russian dance in which one or several people cross their hands, squat and kick out their heels from under them. The spinning helicopter dance requires four people, two of heavier weight and two of lighter weight, to huddle in a circle. They spin the circle, quickly levitating the two lighter members of the circle. Another common Jewish wedding dance is performed by two people who face each other, hold hands crossed at the wrists, lean back, and spin as fast as they can. Sometimes this dance can get a bit out of control. Often, if the bride and groom are sitting on chairs in the dancing circles, two people will crouch at the bride and groom's sides with their hands joined together in front of the couple, protecting them from any dancers who might lose control. Of course, the bride and groom also join the circles when they are not too tired.
Make sure the yichud room locks and that the guards who are the witnesses and traditionally stand outside know not to disturb you. Toward this end, take care in choosing the yichud witnesses. They should be people who will not be inclined toward loud or improper conduct that may disturb you.
Another popular two-person dance was made popular in the film Fiddler on the Roof. Two people interlock arms at the elbows and turn in a circle opposite each other, switching directions every few turns. The bullfight dance is a popular Jewish wedding dance; one partner holds a suit jacket or cloth and the other partner is the “bull,” trying to gore him. The bull fighter waves the cloth and the bull charges the cloth, their feet moving in a dance step. With the right dancers, this dance can become dramatic and seem well choreographed.
In recent years, many line dances and circle dances that fit the classic Jewish wedding tunes have emerged and can be seen on video-sharing sites on the Internet. Most of these classic Jewish wedding dances are very simple and require almost no practice — just a desire to give joy to the bride and groom.