Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hava Nagila Emerges as Popular Theme for Performing Gymnasts

Since we started this blog almost two years ago, we've had a special fascination with the many ways that different cultures have adopted Hava Nagila as their very own.

While we haven't found anything more bizarre than the burlesque dancer in Thailand, one of the more popular posts on Jewish Humor Central, we have shared videos of the song performed in India, Italy, the Shetland Islands, Peru, Russia, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Cuba, and as Texas country music.

On Tuesday, Dvora Meyers of JTA reported that the song, originally a Ukrainian folk dance, has become a preferred background piece for gymnasts performing at championship events.

In he JTA piece, Meyers wrote:
Alexandra Raisman, 17, one of the top elite gymnasts in the United States and a member of the 2010 U.S. World Championships team that took the silver medal last year in Rotterdam, will perform her floor exercise routine this weekend to a string-heavy version of the classic Chasidic niggun, or wordless melody. And if she succeeds in making it to London for the Olympic Games in 2012, she plans to perform the routine on the sport's biggest stage.
Raisman, of Needham, Mass., is trained by the Romanian couple, Mihai and Sylvia Brestyan, who coached the Israeli national team in the early 1990s and also is training world vault champion Alicia Sacramone. The coaches and Raisman's mother selected "Hava Nagila" after several exhaustive late-night online searches.
Reisman, a recipient of the Pearl D. Mazor Outstanding Female Jewish High School Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award given out by the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in New York, says she is proud to be using the Jewish song "because there aren’t too many Jewish elites out there.”
Even more important to Raisman than the tune’s Jewish connotations, however, is the quality it shares with similar folk tunes -- it inspires audience participation.
“I like how the crowd can clap to it,” she says.
It's time to clap along to Reisman's routine in the video below. If you really like gymnastics and want to see more, we're also posting videos that Meyers found of four other gymnasts performing to the same tune. Hava Nagila v'nismecha!

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