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Do you have your tickets for the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble Gala Anniversary concert?

by Jane Enkin, June 1, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
8 pm
Centennial Concert Hall
555 Main Street

To make a donation and reserve a special seat, call the Chai office 204-477-7497

or for tickets, call 1-855-985-5000  or contact Ticketmaster online.

Tickets will also be available at the door.

This will be a wonderful, rich event. Rabbi Alan Green of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue is excited to take part in the evening, along with Cantor Anibal Mass and the Shaarey Zedek choir. This will be a joint anniversary celebration; the Chai Folk Ensemble has its fiftieth anniversary, and Shaarey Zedek Synagogue celebrates 125 years.

Winnipeg is very lucky to be the home of the Chai Folk Ensemble, North America's oldest and largest Israeli dance company. A live band and an ensemble of talented singers make their performances unique.

Circle dance with folk music has a long history in Jewish culture. Miriam led the Jewish people dancing after the parting of the Red Sea, and midrash and traditional mysticism emphasize that Miriam's dance was a circle – everyone was in an equal position in the dance and everyone danced together as one.

From the first years of Jewish pioneers, people saw a need to build a new culture, one that brought immigrants from diverse backgrounds together. Music and dance were a significant part of their new identity.

“Gurit Kadman, one of the seminal figures of the Israeli folkdance movement, maintained that 'for people who fervently wished to have dances of our own in our lifetime, there was no choice' than to break with the traditional view that folk dance takes generations to create.
“Israel's first choreographers created folkdances based on no existing tradition. They worked with some basic elements--Hasidic, Balkan, Russian, Arabic, and Yemenite dance steps--but the dances they created conveyed a distinctly modern Zionist outlook. The pieces emphasized what one might call a classical Zionist ideal of returning to the land of old, of reviving the spirit of the days of the Bible, and of deepening love for the country and its landscape.” (Dr. Dan Ronen on the website My Jewish Learning)


Early pioneer dances emphasized simple steps to encourage everyone to participate. Folkdance in Israel continues to exist as a participatory activity, but it also has developed as a performance art, with sophisticated choreography.

In Winnipeg, as in other parts of North America, folkdance from the land of Israel became popular by the 1940s. Joyce (Dorfman) Mollov was born in Winnipeg. “As a child she learned from Cantor Benjamin Brownstone to associate a sense of creative freedom with Jewish expression. Her interest in dance brought her to the Winnipeg School of Ballet, where she was later asked to teach and to join the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company. Wanting to express herself in a Jewish context, she choreographed and directed the annual Canadian Young Judaea concerts. When Mollov left for New York, Sarah Sommer, one of her dancers, replaced her. Sommer subsequently founded the Chai Folk Ensemble.” (Ruth P. Schoenberg and Ruth R. Goodman on the website Jewish Women's Archive.)

And that was fifty years ago. Generations of children have learned and enjoyed the dances, and felt the connection with Israeli and Jewish identity that the beautiful dances provide. Enthusiastic young adults have shared this beauty with audiences.

Come celebrate with the vibrant, skilled exuberant dancers and musicians of the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble

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