Rebooted by COVID: Options have expanded for Israeli folk dancers

PHOTO: Israeli Folk Dancers are happy to return to in-person dancing on wood floors. Café Shalom, above, is just one of several returning options in Portland.

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As dancers rejoice over the return of indoor, in-person dancing, opinions differ on whether Zoom will continue to serve the global Israeli dance community that arose during pandemic restrictions.
Last week, Portland dancers could dance indoors at Leedy Grange on Monday, at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center on Wednesday and with Café Shalom on Southwest 17th on Thursday. Sunday sessions are set to return to the Fulton Park Community Center on Sunday evenings sometime this month. Outdoor dancing, which began in October, at the Multnomah Arts Center on Sunday afternoons draws crowds for a beginners’ class, open dancing and partner dancing.
“Transitioning to in-person dancing has been done conscientiously with specific guidance re: hygiene, mask options and vaccination issues, says Allison Victor, who teaches at the MJCC and leads Café Shalom. “I’ve received very positive feedback from dancers, how wonderful it is to dance together in person, indoors on a wooden floor, especially after being vaccinated. A few aren’t quite comfortable to return yet, but are cheering us on from the sidelines.”
Rules vary by dance location, but all sessions have requirements in place to create a safe return to the dance floor.
At Leedy Grange, dance leaders Sue Wendel and Donna Cole allow only 15 dancers at a time with vaccinations required, social distancing and no hand holding. But the sessions are expanded using a hybrid format. Donna expects to offer the hybrid model at Fulton, as well.
“So while we are dancing in person, the dance floor includes Zoomers from across the nation and beyond,” says Donna. “Last week, one of my dancers Zoomed in from Israel.”
“We are following safety protocols on the dance floor and remaining fluid as the course of the pandemic continues to change,” says Donna. “My main goal is to provide a safe experience for the dancers.”
Sue says whether the Leedy Grange dances will be weekly, every other week or less often is in flux. “It’s just a very bizarre time, and it’s fluid you know … we’ll revisit and see how things are going,” says Sue. “Things are just changing daily.”
Sue says if pandemic restrictions return, dancers may be asked to mask or the sessions may return to Zoom only.
Donna discovered dancing on Zoom shortly after the pandemic began last March.
“Shortly into the program, I realized that even though we were not dancing together, we were actually dancing together all over the world,” she says. “It was a powerful, spiritual and healing feeling to think that in the midst of the unknown, the Israeli dance community was moving together to the same steps and music, at once all across the planet. One of the unexpected outcomes of this new format has been that dancers have become connected to other dancers from all over the world, so this has been good for the dancers and for IFD (Israeli folk dancing).”
“I expect that even with the return to in-
person dancing, we will still see online dancing continue at some level,” Donna says.
Allison agrees Zoom has offered some benefits to the dance community. “Many of us have been dancing on Zoom, which has allowed some opportunities we hadn’t realized before – including live sessions with choreographers and session leaders from Israel to Europe to South America! I’ve been able to connect with teachers who I’ve only seen as names on email lists previously!”
“There have been gifts through the challenges and lots of enthusiasm for returning (to in person) as safely as possible,” says Allison of the dichotomy.
Zoom has been nice since you can dance with people far away, but Rhona Feldman says it’s just not the same as dancing together. Rhona teaches a dozen beginners in Multnomah before hosting an average of 20 dancers for the open outdoor dance.
“I think on the one hand, it’s really nice to connect with people from other cities and countries,” says Rhona, adding that she doesn’t know if dancing is the best use of Zoom for worldwide connections. She says she definitely appreciates that Zoom will let her “attend” her nephew’s upcoming wedding in Israel.
“I feel like the more options we have, the more people we get dancing, the more familiar people are with dancing and the more we attract more dancers,” says Rhona. “For anybody who comes regularly, it’s a real passion – it kind of gets under your skin.”
Sue says some people who started dancing with her on Zoom during the pandemic have now come to in-person dancing at Leedy Grange. “People are just so excited to dance together in person.”
Some people “just can’t handle the whole Zoom universe,” says Sue.
Rhona says she thinks time will tell if Zoom dancing sticks around.
 Donna says dancers have been really excited to return to indoor dancing on an appropriate wood floor. “Their excitement to return to indoor dancing is a reflection of their connection and the significance of the dance community,” she says. “There is more than just dancing happening here – we celebrate holidays, birthdays, Israel, family events and whatever else comes our way – and there are dances that are choreographed for these events. too. All of this – along with dancing together to the same steps in a circle facing one another – is a great equalizer that unifies us in a beautiful way.  It does not matter how well one can execute dance steps – all are welcome in the dance circle.”
For up-to-date information on in-person, hybrid and virtual dance sessions and the restrictions at each in-person location, visit You can also email website editor Sue Wendel at, or contact the leader of the dance session you are interested in – Allison,; Rhona,; or Donna,




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