Yaacov ( Yankele ) Levy, was born in Jerusalem to a traditional Yemenite family. He has been involved with education, specializing in working with disturbed children.
For about 9 years he directed a trade school for disturbed and retarded teenagers, in the Haifa area.
His more than 80 dances (see list below) were translated into English by Dina Bachar, Loui Tucker, Honey Goldfein, and into German by Horst Verke

In this exclusive interview, Bat Amanoot catches a glimpse of both the fervor of Israeli culture and the ethereal beauty of the Yemenite people that he brings to his dances.

BA: What was your first dance?
YL: Eten bamidbar

 I have a story about this dance. I was preparing it for a show for disturbed children, for Tu Bishvat. We celebrate when there are new flowers on the trees before the spring comes. I was studying in Oranim Academic College. It's a seminar for teaching teachers how to become teachers. Shalom Chermon was my teacher. He was a choreographer for a long time. I showed him my dance, and he said, "Teach it here."¯ They were very happy with the dance. After a month and a half, I was teaching it in his group and he came over looking very solemn and very sad and said, "I am very sorry but Rifka Shturman wrote a dance, to the same melody and she taught it in Tel Aviv. And people were very upset." The people there said to her, "You took it from Yankele Levy. He has only one dance. And you have so many dances." She said, "No, I got the music from the composer." The teachers, all the organizers of the courses, were angry, Gurit Kadman was angy with Rifka Shturman that she did this. Anywhere I taught, she came a few weeks later and taught her dance. So there was a competition.

In 1957 I wrote (choreograph) this dance. When I was in the United States in 1968 I came to Camp Ramah. I was a dance counselor. I taught Eten Bamidbar.

Later I came with other dances. Shalom Chermon was the first one who brought me to the public. Later we became friends Rifka and I.

 

BA: When you taught the children at the school, did you teach them dancing?
YL: At school, as a teacher, I danced a lot with my pupils. It was kind of dance therapy. But when I became the principal, I preferred to have other teachers do it, because I was very busy.

 

BA: Tell us about some of your dances to songs sung by Ofra Haza?
YL: I have a couple dance Hatishma Koli that Ofra Haza sings (composer Yosef Mustaki) from 1977 , I taught it in the United States. I have a circle dance named Zemer Nugeh with the same text. When I made Rachamim (couple), Ofra Haza was singing. I have a dance Chazor Ahuvi. Ofra Haza touched my mind and my emotions in these songs.

 

BA: What inspires you to create a dance?
YL: Yardena Cohen was my teacher. She taught us to create what was in our hearts. I like to do it like a story, like Shecharchoret.

 

BA: How do you select music?
YL: The system was, you have the music, for one year, two years, one month, any time. Now, it's otherwise. They (choreographers) catch the music from the singer immediately, writing it under their name, they don't have the choreography. The dance, either good or not good. No time to breathe. Any music I hear on the radio, I want to write a dance, it was already danced by others. There are so many choreographers.

We did it as a hobby, all my life. It was not because I needed to do it to eat. I was teaching and for 9 years I was the director of a school for children

 

BA: Which of your dances is your favorite?
YL: My favorite dance is Shecharchoret. It reflects the relationship between couples  from the time they meet, till they are married.   It is a special song;  I love it. I heard it in my youth, when I was the only Yemenite among the Sephardic people in my neighborhood Yamin Moshe, in Jerusalem.

BA: Tell us about the beautiful circle dance Eretz, Eretz (1974) that you and Shlomo Bachar choreographed?
YL: Eretz Eretz was my song. The part that talks about, “In spite of the difficulties we don’t leave our land,” touched my heart.

When Shlomo Bachar visited me in 1974, he told me that he also intended to create a dance to this song. So we decided that we each shall create a dance; the best will be published. Both were good. Then we decided to take pieces from each and put the one dance on both our names.

 

 

BA: What activities are you involved in now?
YL: I get my pension from the government. I am 73. I am very happy in my life. I was in Japan last month and taught my dances in Japan. I am going to be in New York in September.

 

BA: What message would you give to dancers about enjoying Israeli folk dancing?
YL: Today I tell the dancers - please keep the roots.

While you run forward with the new dances, remember us because we used our talent, for creating new Israeli culture, not for a living only. Don't throw out our pure creation to the  garbage.

 

 

 

Surrounding Yankele Levy (center) Choreographers: Moshe Telem (Background) Victor Gabay (holding microphone) Se’adia Amishai (right)

Yankele Levy will teach in New York City, Sept. 2-5, 2005 at the 14 th Annual Shorashim, Roots of Israeli Folk Dance weekend. It includes 4 nights of marathons and 3 days of workshops. For more information, call 917-207-0093; rdr@rikud.net; www.rikud.net (This information provided by H. Kaufman)

LIST OF DANCES CHOREOGRAPHED BY YANKELE LEVY

(list provided by Mr. Levy)

NAME YEAR CHOREOGRAPHED

1. AD HAPA'AM HABA'AH 1989

2. AD SHEYAFUACH YOM 1962

3. AHAVAT ZION 1981

4. AHUVI CHAZOR (Chazor Ahuvi) 1980

5. AL SADEH VAYA'AR 1984

6. AL TEVATRY 1985

7. ANI VE'AT BAYA'AR 1995

8. ASHRECHEM ISRAEL 1978

9. AT, ANI V'HARUACH 1977

10. ATZEH HAZAFZAFOT 1970

11. BARCHA LA'KIBUTZ 1979

12. BAT TEIMAN 1970

13. BEBOR ATIK YOMIN 1980

14. BEN PRAT V'CHIDEKEL 1970

15. BEKEREM TEIMAN 1979

16. BIFA'AT HAKFAR 1969

17. BOI NA'ARA 1978

18. BOU V'NASHIR 1988

19. CHALOM NIFLA 1983

20 CHAVATZELET SHARONIM 1981

21. CHOF SHAKET 1977

22. DEBKA CHAG 1965

23. DEBKA HABANIM 1976

24. DEBKA HABOTZRIM 1963

25. DEBKA KAFRIT 1962

26 DEBKA L'ADAMA 1959

27. EL HAGAN 1976

28. ERETZ, ERETZ 1974

29. ERETZ ISRAEL YAFFA 1980

30. EREV RAD AL KFAR 1975

31. ETEN BAMIDBAR 1957

32. GEULIM 1970

33. HABAKASHOT 1972

34. HACH BASELA 1974

35. HACHATUNAH 1971

36. HACHINANIT 1970

37. HADUDAIEM 1966

38. HAJEVERET. 1984

39. HAKOL PATUACH 1994

40. HALELOT BIK'NA'AN 1988

41. HAMECHAZRIM 1972

42. HAPARPAR 1973

43. HATISHMA KOLI 1977

44. HA TUSTUS 1971

45. HAYOSHEVET BAGANIM 1972

46. HEYI SHALOM 1988

47. HINACH YAFFA 1966

48. HORA 1979

49. HORA BIKA'A 1972

50. HORA CHADFRA 1972

51. IMI, IMI 1980

52. KAD EL KAD 1978

53. KIRYA YEFEFIYA 1978

54. KISME SHAUL 1982

55 KESHOSHANA 1960

56. KOL HANESHAMA 1981

57. KUNI LEMEL 1966

58. LAILA B'KAHIR 1983

59. LAMENAZEAH 1964

60. LO AHAVTI DAI 1977

61. MECHOL HA'AVIV 1975

62. MECHOL HAGAT 1969

63. MECHOL HALAHAT 1968

64. MECHOL HAPERACH 1975

65. MECHOL HASHABAT 1973

66. MISHOL HAPERE 1970

67. RACHAMIM 1985

68. ROSH KATAN 1986

69. RUACH AZUV 1988

70. SEIE YONA 1974

71 SAME'ACH AL HALEV 1988

72. SCANDAL 1981

73. SHABBAT RE'IEM 1982

74. SHECHARCHORET 1971

75. SHURU HABITU URU 1973

76. SHUVI HASHULAMIT 1982

77. SIMCHAT CHASSID 1967

78. STIRAT LECHI 1990

79. SUS VE'ROCHBO 1977

80. TZUR CHASSIDI 1980

81. TZUR MISHELO 1972

82. YELED HIZAHERA 1965

83. ZE MA SHEYESH 1995

84. ZEMER NUGEH 1977

 

Link: Yankele Levy dancing his circle dance Zemer Nugeh

http://homepage.mac.com/israeli_folk_dances/iMovieTheater302.html

Site of Les Posen

 

Words and transliteration to Zemer Nugeh

http://www.hebrewsongs.com/song-zemernugeh.htm

 

Ofra Haza    Zemer Nugeh "SHIREY MOLADET" CD

 

Link: Yankele Levy dancing Chazor Ahuvi (partner dance) Ofra Haza singing

http://homepage.mac.com/israeli_folk_dances/iMovieTheater248.html

Site of Les Posen

 

Link: Lyrics to Eretz, Eretz

http://www.hebrewsongs.com/song-eretzeretzeretz.htm

http://www.hebrewsongs.com/