"Formation" is a word used to describe the general shape of a dance. There are three basic formations you are likely to come across in Messianic and Israeli dance:
These come in many different varieties, and are explained more fully below. There are also more complex formations, such as processional dances, medley dances, and performance dances.
- 1 Basic Formations
- 2 Circle Dances
- 3 Line Dances
- 4 Partner Dances
- 5 Complex Formations
- 6 Some abbreviations
Below are the three main formations you will come across, in order of their popularity in Messianic dance. Keep in mind that there are few Messianic partner dances (though there are some), but in Israeli Folk Dance, there are more partner dances than line dances.
The circle dance (Hebrew: ריקוד מעגל rikud ma'agal) is the most common type of Messianic or Israeli dance. It is also one of the oldest formations of dance in the world - cultures from all over the world dance in a circle. Dancing in a circle is great for community dancing, like folk dancing, and worship dancing, like Messianic dancing, because it doesn't focus on any one dancer, and is easy to follow.
When dancing in a circle, there are some terms which are commonly used to describe directions. The rim of the circle is called the circle line or line of direction. You can travel (move) either clockwise (CW) or counter-clockwise (CCW). These are also sometimes called Right (R) and Left (L), but it should be noted that Right and Left switch when facing Out (O) of the circle. If you are moving In (I) or Out (O) from the center of the circle, you are moving on what is called the "spoke," like the spoke of a wheel.
- Circle Line/Line of Direction
- Clockwise (CW)/Right (R)
- Counter-clockwise (CCW)/Left (L)
- In (I)
- Out (O)
Notes About Circle Dances
Circle dance are sometimes done holding hands, or with arms linked at the shoulder. If this is the case, it should be notated in the dance. In Israeli folk dancing, many times a dance (particularly debka dances) is done in a circle holding hands, but with two people at the ends NOT holding hands, so that the overall shape is a semicircle or a broken circle. This is still a circle dance, but in Greek folk dancing, this same shape is called a "line dance."
The line dance (Hebrew: ריקוד שורות rikud shurot) is another common dance formation in both Messianic and Israeli dance. In Messianic dance, line dances are a wonderful way to present a dance to the congregation as a visual gateway to worship. In Israeli dance, they tend to be set to more modern, upbeat music, and use more contemporary steps, pulling from jazz, hiphop, and other modern styles of dance.
Directions when referring to a line dance are similar to directions in a circle, with a few obvious differences. There is no center, and most dance don't start facing in, but facing "front" (F). The other directions are simply right (R), left (L), and back (B). Some dances, particularly in Country Western line dancing and international line dancing, are called "2 Wall Dances." This means that the dance has one part, which is repeated to the front and then the back, over and over. And example is the Israeli dance Linda Eh by Ira Weisburd. There are also "4 Wall Dances," similar to 2 Wall Dances, but with one part that repeats to the Front, Side, Back, Other Side. The popular Israeli dance to the song Yo Ya is an example of a 4 Wall Dance.
- Front (F)
- Back (B)
- Right (R)
- Left (L)
- 2 Wall
- 4 Wall
Notes About Line Dances
When choreographing line dances, it is important to make sure the dance doesn't travel more in one direction than another, because you will quickly run out of space. An easy way of doing this is to make the dance very symmetrical. With experience, choreographing different formations of dance will become easy and fun.
A partner dance (Hebrew: ריקוד זוגות rikud zugot) is a dance designed for two people. Because of the nature of Messianic dance, and it's focus of praising God, there are only a few Messianic partner dances. In Israeli folk dance, however, there are many partner dances. In ballroom dance, and in most couples dances like the two step, swing dance, etc, the dance either travels in a fixed plane, and is called a slotted dance, or simply moves wherever the man leads. Israeli partner dances, due to their folk nature, are more structured. Most Israeli partner dances are structured as two concentric circles, with the men in the inside circle, facing out towards their partner. Still others start in one circle, with men to the left of their partners. There are a few partner line dances, however, which also usually start with men to the left of their partners.
In most partner dances, the men start with their left foot, and the women with their right foot. Sometimes, however, both dancers start with the right foot, and occasionally, in dances like Kan BaDarom, the usual feet are reversed, so that women start on left. Because there are two people involved, general terms such as "towards the man," "towards the woman," clockwise, counterclockwise, "outside foot," and "inside foot" are often used to avoid confusion. If a couple are in concentric circles, men on the inside, both facing counter-clockwise, then the "outside foot" is the man's left and the women's right.
- Men usually start on left, women on right, but not always.
- Towards to man (Hebrew: al ha'ben)
- Towards the woman (Hebrew: al ha'bat)
- Clockwise (CW)
- Counter-clockwise (CCW)
- Outside foot
- Inside foot
Notes About Partner Dances
While there is nothing inherently wrong with dancing with other people, it's important to remember to be careful and guard your heart - dance with a spouse or keep it platonic. While there may be a need for a romantic dance to Godly, uplifting music, Messianic dances focuses primarily on worshiping God, and dancing with another person would distract from that. Keep in mind, when thinking about partner dancing, that there is a time and a place for everything.
Notes About Mixers and Trio Dances
Some partner dances have a part that ends with one circle moving and the other standing still, so that each person gets a new partner at the end of each part. These dances are called mixers, or partner mixers.There are also some (very few) dances, in both Israeli and Messianic dance that are structured as Trios. Trios are usually very simple dances in three concentric circles, with two girls to every boy. There are also trio line dances.
Besides the straight-forward dance formations, some dances have more elaborate shapes and structures. These include Processional dances, Medley dances, and Performance dances. You can learn more about these below.
A processional dance is a dance, usually with fairly simple choreography which travels predominantly in one direction. These dances are led by one person, with other dancers following them in a line. A rough but accurate analogy would be to the Latin "Conga line," or the Arab "Dabke." Processional dances tend to be simple to encourage the congregation to join in, and travel a lot so as to not get caught up between aisles or pews.
A medley dance is a dance in which the whole group shifts, sometimes more than once, from one formation to another. An example would be if a dance had everyone in lines, and then everyone moved into a circle together, or if a dance began in a circle and ended as a processional.
A performances dance, like a medley dance, can be composed of many different permutations of circle, line, partner, processional, etc, but with one difference - in a medley dance, everyone does the same thing. In a performance dance, different dancers do different things at different times. This could mean a dance as simple as a circle dance where different people turn at different times, or something more complicated, like a dance with two circles which wove in and out of each other, or something really complex, such as a circle where several dancers broke off and form a second circle, then rejoin.
- Circle - C
- Line - L
- Partner - P
- Partner Line - PL
- Partner Mixers - PM
- Trio - T
- Trio Line - TL
- Medley - MED
- Processional - PRO
- Performance - PER