I created Shalom when I started my own class in '93 or '94, specifically to be the last dance of a session.
I had always been dissatisfied with the way dance evenings had ended; maybe with a dance I didn't like, or maybe I was in the kitchen talking and didn't realise it was the last dance.
I had this vision of a dance where everyone would dance and sing.
To that end, I made it simple and singable. And the vision came true; in my classes, the dancers would all join in, sing, and at the end, embrace and farewell each other, arms on shoulders, as was intended.
As well, I wanted the dance itself to be symbolic of a farewell, because when I created the steps, it was just that, a bunch of steps.
I analysed the way I farewelled a friend, and realised there were two important elements.
The first was saying words of farewell. That was easy; ensuring the dancers sang the words Shalom in the chorus (at least Shalom, the rest of the chorus if they were up to it).
The second was moving physically closer, usually ending in an embrace. That was also easy.
I wrote a simple introduction, so that when the dancers heard it (I never had to announce it as the intro was enough), they congregated on the floor and danced the first time through holding hands. The second time through, they moved closer, dancing with hands on shoulders. For the finale, still with hands on shoulders, they took five steps into the centre, a final embrace! At that stage, they usually kissed as well, so it was certainly representative of the physical elements of my farewell.
When I first created the dance, my two sons and I recorded the song. I was very excited, as I was going to play guitar with the boys, both professional musicians. The night before the recording, I sliced open my thumb, had micro surgery and turned up at the recording with my arm in a sling! At least I sang with the boys.
When I got round to putting the dance on my website, I decided that the song needed a bit of a freshen up, so I got Simon, one of my sons, to do it, as the other was living in London at the time. Simon recorded all the vocals and instrumentals for this version.
I recently spoke to a dancer from Canberra where I taught the dance in the mid 90's, and he told me that they still always finish their sessions with Shalom.
I recently saw the dance done by school kids. At the Nirkoda Israeli Folkdancing Club break up party in Melbourne, December 2006, a grade 3 class taught Israeli dancing by teacher Rosie Tusia put on a performance, and they finished their performance with Shalom; it was just lovely.
But the most exciting time was opening the 2005 Mechol Hashalom camp in France by teaching Shalom in front of over 200 dancers, through the kind invitation of camp director Benny Assouline.This is what made it possible for the dance to be registered with the Irgun, and is something I'll never forget.
I've received numerous requests for the music from overseas, but the icing on the cake is having the dance approved for registration. (Confirmed December 2006)
Having the dance registered is no guarantee of success, but for me, it is the recognition that is important, and also recognition for creators in the diaspora.
I've been creating since the late 80's, and used to go to overseas camps shlepping videotapes of my dances; of course, no one was interested in looking at tapes made by some guy from Australia, but the internet has made the world of difference. These days, with a one-stop site like Israelidances.com, it's all there for the asking - anything you want to know about IFD at your fingertips.
So there you have it, nothing special, but a case of if you at first you don't succeed, just keep trying for 18 years!!
I guess the last thing to say is that I don't operate in a vacuum. Sure, I choreographed the dance and wrote the music and words, but Ruti Blum, a friend of mine, translated the words into Hebrew for me. My video partner, Sharonna Brott, always does my dances so beautifully, and particularly in Shalom, her timing is simply breathtaking. My pal Les Posen videos and digitises my dances, and as with Sharonna, nothing is too much trouble for him. Without them, this article would not have been written.