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All About Dancing The Hora at Jewish Weddings

The Hora dance, sometimes also referred to as the chair dance, is a dance traditionally performed at Jewish weddings. During the Hora dance the newlyweds are lifted up into the air on chairs while their family and friends dance in circles around them. The couple holds hands, or each person holds one end of a handkerchief or napkin to signify their new union. It’s a very high energy affair and can go on for hours at some weddings! It takes stamina, but it’s lots of fun and is generally considered one of the biggest highlights of the entire wedding celebration! 

History Of The Hora

It surprises some people to find out that the hora was not actually a Jewish dance at all until it traveled to Palestine from Romania, where Zionist pioneers, or halutzim, adopted it in the early 20th century. And, the word “Hora” comes from the ancient Greek word khoros, which is also the root of words such as “chorus” and “choir.” 

In fact, traditional circle dances that have derived their names from the Greek word khoros can be found all over the Balkans and even southeastern Europe!  These dances include the Turkish and Romanian Hora, the Bulgarian Horo, the Montenegrin and Macedonian Ora, and the Russian Khorovod. The dances all have a long history and are danced in a similar style!

The Hora as we know it today, only dates back to 1924 when a welcome Hora was performed for the Jewish settlers arriving in Palestine. The Hora dance then became associated with joy and celebration, and has since been performed at special occasions like weddings, both in Israel and America. In more traditional Jewish communities men and women still dance the Hora separately in their own circles, while in more modern Jewish communities men and women dance together in circles with the couple in the middle.

When Should The Hora Be Performed?

The Hora dance is generally performed during the wedding reception, after dinner and before the dance; however, there is no set rule for when in the festivities it should be completed. Many couples opt to dance the Hora as part of their grand entrance, and many couples wait until after dinner is done, and use dancing the Hora to open up the dance floor for the evening.

Who Joins In On The Hora?

The short answer is everybody who wants to and is able to, is welcome to join in! And, because all the guests are encouraged to join, it is recommended to have a large dance floor and enough space in the ballroom to accommodate the Hora dance. 

Who Is Lifted Up On Chairs During The Hora?

While the couple (of course) is always lifted up on chairs, sometimes other honored wedding guests also join in! For instance, sometimes the couple’s immediate family members such as parents, and siblings are also lifted on chairs into the middle of the circle.

Who Does The Lifting?

Anybody can get in on the fun and do the honors, as long as they are strong enough! After all, It can be hard work, so it’s quite common to swap people in and out as the dance goes on. Sometimes lifters are decided beforehand while other times, lifters spontaneously run into the middle of the circle to do the honors.

Who Plays The Hava Nagila, And For How Long?

The couple can choose either a live band or a DJ for the music for the Hora! They will just have to make sure to plan it all in advance and discuss the details with their DJ or live band, i.e.: when they want the Hora to take place during the reception, what music they would like for dancing the Hora, and the crucial detail of the length of the dance as well! After all, all of these factors are variable when it comes to dancing the Hora!

But, no matter how the newly wedded couple chooses to dance the Hora at their wedding, our wish for them will remain the same! May today’s joy continue to fill your life forever! Mazel Tov! Congratulations!

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