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May 03, 1996 - Image 86

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-05-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Happy Feet,

Happy Hearts

Israeli
folk dancers
tell stories
of romance,
culture,
therapy and
time travel.

RUTH LITTMANN

SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

here was a silent little dance
Sunny Segal performed at
night in the barracks of Bergen
Belsen.
Back and forth in her bed
she'd shake, enjoying the
freedom of movement.
By daylight hours, no prisoner in the
concentration camp dared to budge an
inch out of synch with the others. Their
daily lives were choreographed to the
hateful whim of Nazi guards.
It was a dance of life and death. To
the left. To the right. Somehow, Ms.
Segal and her immediate family sur-
vived.
When they settled in Holland after
the World War II, 6-year-old Sunny
and her younger brother joined B'nai
Akiva youth group, where they learned
about Eretz Yisrael and discovered Is-
raeli folk dance.
"For three years, all I was allowed

to do was shake back and forth in bed
— for three-years. That was my en-
tertainment. When I came out of
Bergen Belsen, I wanted to dance and
dance. Live and live. It was like some-
one was pulling my strings," she sayS.
Ms. Segal, now 5 6; has since moved
to Detroit, where she teaches otheis
the very dance steps that helped de-
liver her from a childhood of horror
to happiness.
"In Holland, the dancing came very
easily to me," she recalls. "It made me
feel happy. Love for the world and love
for people — except for the Nazis, of
course."
Today, Ms. Segal is among many lo-
cal Jews — and gentiles — who find in
Israeli folk dance something tran-
scendent, something hard to describe.
The art form, they say, offers a myr-
iad of benefits. Clearly, it's good exer-
cise. The stomping and running,

.

twirling and reaching make for thor-
ough cardiovascular workout routines.
Less obvious, perhaps, are therapeu-
tic effects for dancers, like Ms. Segal.
"It's the equivalent of seeing a psy-
chiatrist," she says. "It relieves you of
tension that builds through the week."
In southern Michigan,. Israeli folk
dance classes are held at the Jewish
Community Centers in Oak Park and
West Bloomfield, and in Ann Arbor at
the University of Michigan Hillel.
For some participants, the dance
floor has served as a venue for meet-
ing their beshert, or meant-to-be. And
for others, it's a time machine — cat-
apulting them back through decades
to shtetls and kibbutzim.
Ruth Voss, 34, lived in Seattle,
Wash., during the mid-1980s when the
city was full of folk-dance groups. De-
ciding to explore her Jewishness, Ms.
Voss enrolled in a class.

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