Bat Amanoot takes both a nostalgic and contemporary dance journey with
In keeping with our tribute to Ofra Haza, combined with a celebration of Passover, Bat Amanoot talked to Mr. Bachar about his dances Shir Hashirim and Tfila both songs sung by Haza. He shared not only his comments about Ofra Haza's songs and his choreography, but also an exploration of his creative process.
Note: Shir Hashirim, which is in the Tanach, is read on Passover.
BA: How did you start choreographing dances?
SB: At first I choreographed for Kibbutzim in Israel. Hashachar was my first dance in the United States, here in California. When I came to the United States, in 1962, I did Hashachar, all of sudden it was boom! From all over the United States they started calling me. I choreographed Hashachar for stage. The music was so beautiful, and I wrote the lyrics. So I decided to do it for class, it was very successful. That gave me a push to keep choreographing. Until then, I didn't do too much choreography. So I went with the times. Israel became an open stage for singers. Everybody had his own style, more modern, more jazzy, that was more for my taste. This is the way I produced my records. So I brought the music from Israel Sham Harei Golan (1971) and Tzadik Katamar (1965), Jonathan Gabay) and some debkas written for me, and I put them on records, with different instruments like harpsichords. I sold 50,000 records, it was unheard of; that was in the 1970's. I had a friend who was a composer, Toby David. He produced 14 of my records.
BA: What types of music are you drawn to?
SB: I went through stages in my life in music. I'm Sephardic and I was very
influenced by the Spanish music. I tried to utilize this music with the music that I started dancing to at the time, like Rifka Shturman's. But I found out that our style (Sephardic) of dancing did not go well. It was more of a family-style dancing. So I started going Biblical and whatever came out in Israel at the time. That was in the 50's.
BA: One of your very popular circle dances is Shir Hashirim. How did you decide to choreograph this dance?
SB:I did it first as a couple dance. I introduced it in Israel, and it didn't
catch. When I introduced it they didn't do too many partner dances. If something wasn't accepted I dropped it.
Folk dancing is for fun, for self-expression. Then I tried it in a
circle. I went
to Israel the next year. I used to go every year and teach 30 workshops in Israel, all over the country. Yankele Levy used to arrange it. Starting in the 80's all the way into the 90's. Mishael (Barzilay) and Yankele arranged workshops for me. When I came, they took me every place.
The music is so pretty, Shir Hashirim. It's from the Songs of Songs.
I did the
circle and went to Yankele Levy. He had four classes. The first one was beginners. He said, 'Shlomo, why don't you try this dance with the beginners?' They were crazy about it. I thought, 'Wait a minute, what's going on here?' You never know.
BA: How did you change the choreography from the couple dance for the circle version?
SB:It (couple version) was more Yemenite. At the time, the Israelis didn't like Yemenite music too much. They went away from it. Yemenite dances didn't go at the time. Here and there yes. So I was shocked They said, 'Put it again.’ Yankele said, 'You are going all over the country teaching this dance.' They did it with 200-300 people. I said, 'Do it with spirit.' They just loved it all over Israel. They used to call me Mr. Shir Hashirim!
BA: You have another very popular circle
dance called Tfila.
When you first heard the music, how did you decide that you wanted to make a dance to this music? Did you meet Ofra Haza at that time?
SB: I met her before in Israel, before that. When I heard Tfila, she came out with the record, which means a prayer. I was really taken by that, Tfila, a prayer. We needed a prayer at that time. I choreographed it in New York. I was in New York for camp Dalia I used to do with Tamar. Usually I came two or three days earlier to help get the camp together. She had that record there. I listened to it and I said, 'My God, this is very beautiful.' Even though you think of Tfila as very peaceful, the energy of the music gave me stamina to do with Tfila in a way so that the movements project the feeling that I had about Tfila, pushing it to the limit.
When I shake, (he demonstrates shimmy shoulder movement of dance part) give us, give us this prayer. The words are: Shmor na aleinu komo y'ladim, Please guard us God, like we are kids. Shmor na v'al ta'azov. Protect us,
and don't leave us. Give us your blessing, but don't leave us. The
choreography went to a certain level that I didn't even expect. I made it a
little faster than what she sings. If you go by the rhythm that she recorded
(slower), I felt like (there was) more energy there that I could introduce into the dance.
BA: You met her before, when?
SB: I met her in the 70's when I was at Mishael's house (Mishael Barzilay). She was a neighbor of Mishael. Her father used to go to a synagogue where Mishael goes. She was there once with her father. I can't believe she's gone.
BA: What motivates you to keep creating
dances and teaching to dance groups?
SB:You know, Mayim I can teach a hundred times as long as I know people want to learn. To me beginners are new blood coming to this beautiful culture of Israeli dancing.
Shlomo leading dancers at
Shlomo - Hadarim Dance Ensemble
Photo Credit: Hadarim Album Cover
Vintage Israeli Dancing
Shlomo Bachar was born in Jerusalem and is a fifth generation Sabra. His background includes dance, choreography, pantomime and drama. He has appeared with the National Theater of Israel, was the director-choreographer of the Hadarim Israeli Dance and Song Theater and joined other choreographers at the 50th Anniversary Gala Celebration of the Israel Folk Dance Festival in 2001.
His Hadarim dance club in Los Angeles, offered classes and open dancing from 1969 to the 1990's. He continues to choreograph and teach at dance camps and run his own classes.
Video link for Shir Hashirim website of Les Posen
Video link for Hashachar website of Les Posen
Shlomo Bachar's dances listed at:
http://www.israelidances.com/search.asp?S=A&intPageNo=1&ChoreographerName=Shlomo%20Bachar or go to http://www.israelidanceaustralia.com/
Shlomo Bachar runs two regular classes in California: Malibu, Mondays, 8 - 10 pm and in Burbank on Tuesdays, 11 am - 12:30. For details call 818-501-7174
Shlomo Bachar will be a guest choreographer at these Israeli Folk Dance Camps in May:
CALIFORNIA - Israeli Folk Dance Camp, May 15-17, 2005, Shalom Institute, Malibu, CA
Beginners and non-dancers welcome. Contact Naomi Silbermintz at 818-905-8646 or
NEW YORK - Sababa Folk Dance Camp, Memorial Day Weekend May 27-30,
Emmanuel, Copake, NY Contact Phone 516-569-5333 or 212-942-4143 FAX 212-942-0274;
email email@example.com; www.sababadance.com
All content on Bat Amanoot Talks With...Shlomo Bachar is the property of Bat Amanoot and may not be reprinted or reproduced without prior written permission and consent of Bat Amanoot.
©Bat Amanoot 2005