The music is loud, joyous, bursting at the seams. I spin around and around, holding hands with friends, strangers, making room for anyone who wants to join this circle. We are at a Bas Mitzvah dancing the Hora, a dance 19th century Jewish immigrants packed in their suitcases, hauled over the ocean and brought to this new country. Today the tune is familiar to many, Jews, Christians, Muslims — it is played at every Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah and many weddings. The dance is simple– join hands, make a circle, cross one foot over the other and try not to put your heel (especially your high heel) on someone’s else foot. The beauty is in the inclusion. To be a part of this, all you need to do is join the circle, let it open and take you in. Any hand is welcomed — just keep the circle spinning.
As I whirl around, grasping hands, it hits me that as basic as this movement is, it is precious. Inclusion like this is hard to come by when the music is off and we remember ourselves, our fears, our assumptions. I think about the organizations I know where bringing many voices to the table can be struggle, a wrench thrown into the culture , and yet, the results are so much greater, the investment in achieving results much richer when room is made for new perspectives to be heard.
There’s another important part to this dance. The leader rises above, literally. The circle contains the bride, the groom, the Bat Mitzvah girl or Bar Mitzvah boy raised high above the dancers in a chair supported by those who step forward to safely elevate the leader above the rest. So, there is no question of who is in charge, she or he is looming above. We all know our roles here. The dancer, the lifter, the leader. It’s easier, safer to move forward when the leader is also taking the risk (you try sitting in that chair, it’s kind of scary) and is just as engaged in the process. Getting involved is less precarious when we know what our role is, what is expected of us. And the motivation is greater when we know what kinds of opportunities exist to advance and make a difference — feeling strong? Grab a chair leg and lift the leader!
There we are, a circle of dancers, lifters, a leader, everyone included, everyone sweating together to bring it to life. The Hora lasts for only 15 minutes; may its lessons last a lifetime.