Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Wedding Dance

Aside from love of the language of words, music and dance are part of my life.  I have done international (Balkan) dancing for over thirty years in many parts of the world.  Even my choreography of the Greek dance hasapikos was taught in New York or so I was told.  This multi-ethnic education has taught me to appreciate the spirit of the music-dance combination no matter how “alien” it may be.

Worldwide, people dance at weddings, whether it is the bride and groom, the guests to honor them or both. Of course, the point of the dance is express the joy of the moment, however the specific culture expresses that feeling

An example of the more prim and proper west is the traditional waltz or slow dance. The bride and groom, often joined by the parents, waltz or slow their way around the stage, sharing their feeling of love (or relief that the hard part of the wedding is over).  While such dances can be quite elegant if the couple knows how to dance, they do lack a certain passion as the inner juices are restrained by the nature of the music.

Balkan music is by nature freed and less limited by 3/4 or 4/4 rhythms.  Bulgarian dances are based on anything from 5 to 21 over 16, with a slow step being 3 and fast step being 2.  So, a quick-quick-slow-quick-quick pace translates into 11/16. This punctuated rhythm adds a tension and passion to all dances, including wedding dances.  Here is a nice example:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-BvV4y2FoA

The whole scale of eastern (Arabic) music is different from Western music as are the instruments.  The expression of sensuality also has different rules.  Still, a wedding is a wedding, a happy occasion.  The actual tune and steps may differently slightly by country, but guests will immediately know that they have entered another world of dance.  Here is an example of a nice Pakistani wedding dance:  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1lrtrx_pakistani-wedding-dance_music

The traditional Jewish wedding dance is a basic hora – a line or circle of people stepping in and out as they advance - to the song “mazal tov ve simon tov”.  You can hear the music here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urVxQdgP6lo.  Unlike most dances worldwide, the men and women traditionally dance separately, often with a visual divider between them.  Because orthodox students are used to this segregated life, they have no problem dancing their hearts out without the opposite sex.  They are also a bit camera shy, which is why it is hard to find a good video.  I suggest going to an orthodox wedding to really see this happy dancing.

Finally, in this sampler kit, I propose a uniquely New Zealander way of celebrating a marriage. I originally thought that the bride was scared but it turns out she was merely emotionally overwhelmed.  I am not sure if I would like completely appreciate such an effort on the part of my friends, but I am not a Kiwi, clearly.  Enjoy: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/22/asia/wedding-haka-goes-viral/index.html?iid=ob_article_footer_expansion&iref=obnetwork

So, a wedding is universally a happy time, at least for the bride and groom.  As such it should be celebrated.  Music and dance are the perfect language.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Living among the animals

Animals are a vital part of human existence. We would starve without them, for one thing.  This significance is expressed in our vocabulary.  Children learn animal names very early, even today when the animals around us are not very threatening.  Accordingly, animal homes are also part of human lexicon.

First, animals live in our house or immediately around it.  However, if a married man goes to a cat house, a brothel, he might end up in the dog house, i.e. sleeping alone on the sofa. The reason for this behavior in the first place is they many men find marriage a gilded cage, very nice on the outside but quite restrictive in practice.

Second, farm animals have their place of residence, close to our heart. A pig’s sty is a messy place as are the rooms of many people.  Others feel cooped up in their room, like the chickens.  If you are part of a stable, you have value but not exclusive. Still, that is better than being put out to pasture, no longer needed due to age.

On the wild side, old wooden ships had crow’s nests high on the main beam to serve as lookout points. If you have a nest egg, you were financially protected for the future.  Of course, you had to avoid entering a lion’s den, which is filled with dangerous people. All in all, nothing is safer than being in your own lair, without the foxes of course.

Your home may be your castle, but your pet’s home definitely isn’t.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

55 Thoughts

Having a birthday and blog creates an irresistible urge to share private thoughts about the matter.  The purpose is not to purvey for additional birthday greetings. That consideration is of little value at my age. Instead, a post offers an opportunity for any writer to unload some thoughts that weigh on the mind and somehow organize them, thus reducing their impact in some small way.

Clearly, turning 55 has individual connotations for people, depending on their situation and culture.  For example, in America, most people would consider you old and irrelevant while in Japan, you are still quite young and ready to take on a leading role in society. In Israel, I would consider it an age of respect. Specifically, I am still productive, more than ever in some ways, but clearly not part of the leading edge of society.  Thus, I deserve respect as an elder while not yet being invisible like a retired person.

Technology is the shibboleth of this tendency.  I do not own a smart phone. The reason is not financial but, peculiarly, I simply don’t see any need for it. For me, as a member of the previous generation, a phone is a phone, period, while a computer is a computer; never the twain shall meet. Even more old-fashioned, I feel no need to be connected by Facebook, Pininterest or any other social media.  My work as an English lecturer provides me with more than enough social interaction while my daily phone calls to my immediate family members are also more than enough for me. This lack of need to be connected with the hundreds and thousands of people through technology is clearly alien to my students and their generation. Yet, as with many matters, I have no problem with my “eccentricity.”

At the same time, I feel a bit privileged, if not superior, to have grown up in the pre-computer age in that I spent my free time reading books and filling my mind with “useless” knowledge that I find extremely useful in my two professions, translating and teaching.  On the contrary, I am continually shocked by the lack of background knowledge of my very intelligent engineering students, who can run circles around me on any technical device but have almost no idea of the world before they were born. I am not quite sure who is more handicapped, they or I.

On an interpersonal level, most people by the age of 55 have gone through some traumatic event in their life.  In my case, I had five interesting years involving a divorce and a difficult situation with my daughter. The main lesson of such an experience is that happiness depends on your relations with a very small number of people.  I invest my time and energy on them; everybody else can wait.

In short, as approach my double nickel birthday on Friday, I recall that poem by Jacques Brel: je suis comme je suis; je suis fait comme ca.  I am what I am; I am made like that. Based on my genetic history, I have around 35 more years to go.  I plan to enjoy each one as much as I can and do it, as Frank Sinatra said, my way as much as I can.