Martha Graham called dance the “hidden language of the soul,” and Gabrielle Roth says, “We dance to disappear in something bigger…to fall in love with the spirit in all things.”
Since Michelle and Kyle got married in Napa recently, guests couldn’t stop talking about the dance called “The Horah” where everyone gathers around the bride and groom and dances around them in a circle. Having married into a Jewish family, I have had many opportunities to partake in this fun, heart-opening, spirited dance.
For those unfamiliar with this circle dance, at some point, chairs are brought on to the dance floor for the married couple to sit on, and several able bodied guests (hopefully not hammered by alcohol)🙂 hoist them up into the air like a “King and Queen,” for the evening. The Horah is a type of Israeli folk dance that originated from Romania (and dates back even further to ancient Greece). During this topsy-turvy dance where the bride and groom are up in the air together, they each hold on to the end of a handkerchief or white linen table napkin. This smbolizes the connection to each other and represents the sealing of their marital vows.
One look at these photos, emailed to me by my sister Josie, and brother Steve, and one can see that being lifted in the chairs can be as scary as it is exhilirating. It’s like riding a mechanical bull at your local country western bar—not for the faint of heart. If you don’t believe me, just ask Academy Award winning actor Michael Douglas. During his son Dylan’s Bar Mitzvah celebration, he pulled a muscle while being hoisted up in the air during the chair dance. All the jerking up and down, and back and forth, left him limping for days. That said, I am happy to report we all survived the dance without injury.
The “chair dance," has always been a mainstay of Jewish wedding celebrations. Ever since Fidler on the Roof, it has become part of our pop culture. It also has become part of the the music/dance play list for interfaith couples—where one spouse is Jewish. Judging by their own experience and that of our guests, I know Kyle and Michelle would agree that the wedding reception wouldn’t have been complete without The Horah circle dance and chair lift. This beautiful ritual symbolizes how much joy family and friends have for our beloved newlyweds.