The "Cohanim"

By Lou Pechi


Lou Pechi logo Dancing through the last few years, I observed two types of dancers. I call the first group: "Cohanim" or keepers of the folkdance faith. They are the ones who remember not only the steps, but the exact styling, the turn of the leg, arm, or other body parts exactly as taught by a particular teacher. They're able to break the dance into minutiae steps and match them to the exact musical passage. They can read the cryptic hieroglyphic dance notations and recreate the dance exactly as it was taught.

On the other end of the spectrum are dancers like me. Under the melodious blankets of the kaval, gadulka, and clarinet wailing, I hear the faint beat of the dumbek calling me to sway my hips, wiggle my shoulders, and put on a silly ear to ear grin. To me the steps are secondary. It is the joy of the dance that matters. When I dance, I am transported to a remote village and the dancers in the circles are my fellow peasants celebrating with me.

For me to follow the syllabi directions is like dancing an "u šest" with snow shoes on, in ten foot snow. Workshops, with the exception of the parties, are a total waste on me. I can't remember a single dance. If one of the "Cohanim" starts the dance, my left and right foot brains wake up and I start to dance without missing a step.

When I try to explain to them that I don’t care if one points the left foot or steps on it, they give me a dirty-killer look. Having done the dance wrong for the last ten years, does not detract an iota from the joy I get from dancing.

So, what is the moral of the story?

We are all members of the same great group that gets their kicks from learning and doing the dances from many countries. In our own way, we learn the culture, traditions, geography, and understanding that no television program could give us. Who watches television anyway?

Our own group is diverse, and I am particularly thankful to the "Cohanim." Without them my repertoire would probably consist of just a few simple dances that I managed to remember. And without me, who would the "Cohanim" scold, when instead of following the meticulously taught steps, I take off after the charm of the 4/4 (or is it the 7/8?) dumbek beat.


As appearing in "Dancing with Two Left Feet (1)," Folk Dance Scene.
Used with permission of the author.