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Sher

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Published on May 17, 2009

The Sher is an Eastern European Jewish folk square-like dance. This tutorial is produced by Asya Vaisman (contact: asya.vaisman{_.at._}gmail.com); animation is by Asya and Shura Vaisman; the audio track "Russian Sher "is from the Klezmer Conservatory Band "Thirteenth Anniversary Album".

Description:
The dance consists of four main figures. Participants: four couples, woman on the right of the man, all facing center.

1) All participants join hands, circle counterclockwise for 16 counts; then turn around (counts 15 and 16) and circle clockwise for 16 counts, returning back to their original places.

2) Couples join hands for a promenade, with the man on the inside and the woman on the outside of the circle. They promenade counterclockwise for 32 counts, with the man usually turning the woman on counts 6-8.

3) Couples 1 and 3 walk towards each other for 4 counts, then back to their places for 4 counts, then they exchange places (8 counts). Couples 2 and 4 do the same: advance, go back and exchange places. Repeat, so that everyone ends up back in their places. (There are multiple ways for couples to exchange places. For example: one of the couples raises their arms to produce an arch, and the other couple passes under the arch. Another method is to have the couples slip past each other as follows: the couples advance towards each other, then each couple moves a bit to their own right. The couples then move past each other with the men passing left shoulders. The couples then take the exchanged positions in the square. For other examples see the clip.)

4) First man steps into the center of the circle and dances alone (4 counts); advances towards the first woman on his left (4 counts); and dances with this woman (8 counts); dances alone again (4 counts) and then dances towards and with each of the women in the circle (4 and 8 counts, respectively), continuing the pattern clockwise and ending with his partner.

After the four figures are completed, the sequence is repeated exactly as above three more times, such that each of the remaining three men can perform figure 4. Man 2 is on the right of man 1, and so forth, counterclockwise.

After the men have all had a chance to shine, the women take turns having their opportunity to do so, starting with woman number one, then the woman on her left, and so forth, clockwise. The woman dances with the man on her right first.

According to Michael Alpert, "Ideally, [the sher] should have a sense of constant motion, like the gears of a clock... If you're not the one dancing in the middle, [you] dance in place. Traditionally when people do it, the steps are not in sync with the musical phrase; nobody cares about the musical phrase- what's important is the rhythm..., and what's important is that you keep dancing" (from "The Evolution of Philadelphia's Russian Sher Medley" by Hankus Netsky in "The art of being Jewish in modern times", ed. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Jonathan Karp., Penn Press, 2008.)

Animation: VVV Productions, © 2009.

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