Ad Or Haboker

"Small exclusive circle! Small exclusive circle!"

When that cry went up in 1978 or so during Israeli Dancing in MIT's Sala de Puerto Rico, you knew what was coming; Ad Or Haboker! It was my favorite dance in those days. But I don't think that it was ever done much outside of Boston, and even there it is rarely, rarely done today.

With just about any other dance, we welcomed anyone who wanted to join in. We held hands for a lot of dances in those days, and especially for this one. But if somebody tried to grab your hand for Ad or Haboker and you suspected that they did not know the dance, you pushed them away. Small exclusive circle!

In fact, even if you knew the dance, you could get pushed away if the circle already had enough dancers. Eight was a good number. Ten max. If you could not get into a circle before it started to get too big, you had to run around the floor waving your hands, issuing your own plaintive cry: small exclusive circle!

The dance combined upbeat music and fast footwork. Comparable dances might be Bakramim or, more recently, Melech Ha Olam. Could you see trying to do Melech HaOlam in a tight circle of about eight dancers, holding hands to the extent possible? Small exclusive circle!? I don't know.

But what differentiates Ad Or Haboker from every other dance is the way that energy conveys around the whole circle. You feel just as connected to the dancer across from you in the circle as you do to the two people next to you whose hands you are holding. It's a feeling I've only experienced while doing that dance. And only with a tight circle of dancers all going full speed and in step with one another. Small exclusive circle!

It's because you wanted to feel the energy that you pushed away the Road Hazards. Road Hazard is a term I came up with a few years ago for somebody who gets in the way of the flow at dancing. To avoid Road Hazards at Israeli dancing, you have to look ahead, anticipate, and sometimes take evasive action. Being a Road Hazard can be a function of inexperience, but not always. Some very experienced dancers are Road Hazards, and I think it's because they do not use their peripheral vision to locate where they are relative to other dancers. Conversely, an inexperienced dancer who uses peripheral vision well and has instinctively nimble feet may not be a Road Hazard at all.

Ad Or Haboker has two parts and an interlude. Part One moves to the left. You start with a Mayim step, right foot crossing over left. You then do something that accomplishes the same thing as a Mayim step, except that the rhythm is right, hop, left-cha-cha (backward). That is, you cross over with your right, then hop on it as you turn to face right, and then take three quick steps backward (left-right-left), so that you are continuing to move to your left as you face to the right. Then you repeat, starting from the beginning.

Next, you start another Mayim step to the left. However, for the last two steps you lift your knees high as you step. You then take four backward steps lifting your knees. Another way to describe this measure is that you cross right over left, step with your left, and then take six backward prancing steps to your left, starting with your right foot and ending with your left foot. By now, the circle is really moving and the dancer's arms are stretched and hands are gripping for dear life. Since this is MIT, a physicist could tell you that a lot of centrifugal force has built up. If anyone ever let go at this point, dancers would go sprawling and there would be casualties. Fortunately, I never saw anyone let go.

But with the last prancing step, you stop moving to the left. Now, you sway right, left, right, left, and then do another Mayim step to the left.

Part two is what you see in Bakramim. You run four steps to left and then take four counts to leap to the left and clap your hands. Then you re-grab hands and switch directions to the right, using an open Mayim and then prancing. That is, step right, cross left, then prance backward toward the right (facing left) for six steps.

The interlude is just Mayim steps. There is an inferior instrumental recording that leaves out the interlude. That is not the one you want to dance to. You want to dance to the Karmon Israeli dancers and singers record, which has the interlude.

The dance also ends with a series of Mayim steps, until the music stops and the dancers stop moving and triumphantly hold up the other dancers' hands.

I do not think that Ad Or Haboker is registered as an official Israeli dance. It may only have been choreographed as a performance dance, and then some dancers in the Boston dance community decided that they wanted to do it at the MIT session. It is likely that Moshe Eskayo was the choreographer, because he subsequently came out with Bakramim, which as noted borrows a part from Ad Or Haboker.

Eskayo is such a genius that there probably are a number of dances that he choreograped that are totally forgotten and yet are at least as much fun to do as some of the most popular contemporary dances. Someday, I'll have to write about his version of Debka Oud!

Other essays in this series