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Ask Izzy #4: Simcha Circle Conundrum

November 1, 2009 – 10:59 pm6 Comments

Dear Izzy,

From time to time, I find myself invited to simchas in which I am not well acquainted with the hosts.  For example, in one case we were invited to a wedding where the connection was that my wife goes to book club with the bride.  I for one had never even met the bride, let alone the groom.  When at simchas like this, I find it hard to get involved in the dancing (hora).  I feel like I’m a wedding-crasher.  As a coping strategy, I’ll either stand on the outskirts of the dance-floor and clap along to the music, doing my best to keep to the beat – or if I am a little more brave, I’ll join the outer-most circle of the dancing.  Given how unacquainted I am with the central figures of the simcha, I feel too uncomfortable to join the more inner circles.

However, I have witnessed that there are some types of guys that have no problem with throwing themselves into the thick of the dancing, even though they are also completely unacquainted with the groom etc. A small part of me looks down at these people, who are perhaps unable to ascertain their place as a mere bit-player at the function.  Mostly though, I envy these uninhibited free spirits, who dive headlong in to join a spinning huddle made up of only themselves and the immediate family members of the groom, none of whom they have ever met before.

Do you have any advice on how I should approach these trying situations?

Philip, 29.

Rose Bay, NSW.

Izzy, in his ballroom dancing champion days

Izzy, in his ballroom dancing champion days

Philip, your problem is that you’re focussing on the wrong part of the simcha.  For me, as much as I enjoy the hora, I enjoy the mixed dancing even more.  I like to go and have a dance with all the young bridesmaids.  When I was your age, I was something of a ballroom dancing champion.  As I get older, I can’t dance the hora as frenetically as I used to – but I can still swing the young ladies around and show them a thing or two about the rumba or the tango.

Ok, but to answer your question (I don’t want to get in trouble again with the editors for not answering the question): I make my decision on whether or not to jump into the hora based on what kind of table I am assigned to.  If I get a good table … something close to the dance floor and the head table, I take my place at the heart of the hora.  However, if I get a rubbish table … you know, near the kitchen, miles from the head table, then forget about it!  If they don’t want me, I don’t want them!

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  • frosh says:

    Hi Philip,

    The fabric of Japanese society is often described as being a set of concentric circles, where one has different social obligations to others depending on what circle they fall in, relative to one’s own circle.

    However, as revealed by your question, while these concentric circles may be an abstract notion in Japanese society, they are actually physically manifested in Jewish society in the form of the hora that takes place at a simcha.

  • rachsd says:

    Hi Frosh,

    I find your analogy to Japanese culture interesting, but I’m not sure how ‘Jewish’ Philip’s sentiment is. In Australian Jewish wedding culture, I would think of reticence to join the middle circles as more of an Anglo-Australian sentiment than a Jewish one, and am not sure that there really are such rigid heirarchies in the dancing circles.

  • frosh says:

    Hi RachSD,

    I think you’re missing the point. As far as I am aware, at Anglo-Australian weddings, there is no hora/circle dancing, so it doesn’t apply.

  • The Hasid says:

    Philip, there’s one at every simcha.

    You know, the long lost family friend (LLFF) that went to uni with the bride’s mum and reappears sporadically at functions that involve free food? (She’s often wearing a pantsuit from the late 80s. The same one she wore to your older brother’s bar-mitzvah.)

    And yet, despite the tenuous family connection, she dives into the festivities head first, literally throwing herself into a private dance with the bride at the centre of the hora circle!

    I love the LLFF. They bring a little colour and amusement to every simcha. I think they should be mandatory. You should be able to hire a posse of them, the way some ethnic groups hire people to cry at funerals.

    Philip – I think that business could be your calling! It would also be an excellent way to overcome your horror of the hora. (Har, har.)

  • Sam says:

    Dear Philip,
    I can empathize completely with you. In fact I am going to a wedding in the new year and I am already worried that I might be a bit shy to push myself into the inner circle of the hora dancing. I sometimes wake up in the night in a bit of a sweat worrying that I might just be on the outskirts clapping to the beat when I really should be dancing as would be normal for the father of the groom.

  • Carly says:

    We had an LLFF at our wedding in Israel. He didn’t join in the dancing, but he had the chutzpa to join in with the family photographs at the end of the wedding. Somehow none of us noticed his presence until we actually had the printed photos and saw his face appearing unexpectedly in the most inappropriate places.

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