The Broiges Dance

"The name of the couple is Esther and Abraham Stier,[taken in the 1950's in the USA, at a relative named Honey's wedding].   This picture was given to me by their grandson, Sol for use in a Memory book for his sister Lorretta's 80th birthday.  Sol's face lights up when he describes how his grandmother would tease his grandfather and then the grandfather would try to bribe the grandmother. He would then ransom off the children but she would "steal" them from him. The finale of the dance was when the grandfather took the grandmother around and they embraced."  Esther andAbraham did this dance at every simkhe they attended. The Stiers were originally from Russia.
(Used with permission. Photo provided by M. Schiller on December 20, 2005) Scroll down to read more about this dance.

hear vintage recording by Kandel's Orchstra
Vocal version by Shura Lipovsky 
Specific Instructions and ideas for pantomime when doing this dance are in my syllabus.

The concept of this dance holds a lot of lessons for life today. It was customary at a shtetl wedding for two individuals, usually the mothers-in-law, to dance a pantomime of fighting and then making up, a life lesson for the newly married couple. There are a number of choreographed versions of this dance in existence (see published resources Vizonsky--male/female couple version,
Freehof--female couple version & Lapson-quadrille version). Postings on the Jewish Genealogy network also indicate that in the shtetl there were certain people who customarily danced the Broiges Dance at different community events. These individuals improvised the dance as they went along. The book that comes with the cd "Klezmer Music, A Marriage of Heaven and Earth" explains how this process worked with the musicians and dancers. 

The 1936 film Love and Sacrifice includes a scene where an elderly couple argues and eventually makes up with a dance at the end. Although it's a theatrical take on the dance and not strictly pantomime, the poses that they strike and the gestures are very useful in the broiges dance. Here are some screenshots that you can view as a slideshow. Visit the Yiddish Dance in Film section of my page to view a video clip of this scene.

Love and Sacrifice

For another description of a shtetl scenario, see “The Angry Dance” in Jack Kugelmass’s book “From a Ruined Garden.” Here a grandmother believes her son is marrying below his status. She performs this dance at the wedding with the grandmother of the bride, just before the veiling of the bride. An online translation of the yizkor book passage can be found here, scroll to item E.   By the end of the dance they have kissed and made up. Scroll down this page to read recollections of this dance sent to me via email.

Making up at the end of the dance was part of the cycle of this dance, and this part was known as the Shulem Tants--making peace.  A typical melody used for the making up would be the song Lomir Zich Iberbeten (Le's Make Up)

In a posting to the Jewish Music Mailing List, Hankus Netsky noted "that men also danced the Broyges tants for all sorts of reasons.  As I understand it, it could be any combination that was quarrelling and could be done at any kind of celebration.  For example, if you owed someone money, you'd do a broyges tants so that it wouldn't taint how you acted with each other at the party. This was certainly still going on in Philadelphia in the 1950s..." (March 2, 2009 posting)

See video of Broiges Tants by the Wholesale Klezmer Band
video of myself and folk dancer Judy Silver doing a spontaneous broiges dance a few years ago.

Broiges Dance Recollection #1 as recalled by Diane Krome, Age 70, Chapel Hill NC
as performed by her grandparents. Posted by Helen Winkler March 22, 2009

The dance was done as long as I can remember at Bar Mitzvahs and weddings. It was mainly in the 50’s and 60’s while our family grew up. I am the oldest living grandchild and I am 70. It always required encouragement from the family. The music was provided by live musicians.  It was before the use of disc jockeys at these events. I don’t remember the music specifically.  I can only say it was “Jewish”, probably would be considered  Klezmer now.  I do know there was no vocal on it [instrumental only].

My grandparents’ were born near the “old” Russian Polish border, in 1885-86. They were young married when they came here. They came together. They were probably about 20 when they came.  They were the same age. All of the children were born in the US. Mother was born in 1910.  [My grandparents] were observant Jews, very traditional. My grandmother was a housewife in every sense of the word.  Her interaction with the outside world was marginal.  My grandfather was the go between with the world. Neither spoke English well.  They did understand but communicated in broken English so we learned to understand Yiddish.  Both were functionally illiterate.  They were the stereotypical immigrant of the times.  My grandfather did work in the steel plants in Detroit for many years.  He also hauled junk, delivered ice, and had an opportunity to deliver for “The Purple Gang”.  My grandmother didn’t allow it. There was an enjoyment of music.  They didn’t listen to records, the radio or attend concerts. They raised me for the most part and I played piano for many years.  They did enjoy that music…, they enjoyed classical music if someone turned on the radio, they enjoyed music at family events but I don’t remember them ever turning on a radio independently.  The only leisure reading was the Forward.  My grandfather had taught my grandmother to read it.  They did read Hebrew in the prayer books.  There was some kind of feud that left my grandfather estranged from his family.  I never knew any of them.  My mother did mention them.

Apparently they lived in Utica, NY initially. My mother was born there. One of my grandmother’s sister lived there, raised her family there.  One uncle was born in Indiana and finally the youngest was born in Detroit.  Many of my grandfather’s family were in Detroit.  We have not been able to track their arrival through Ellis Island. My grandfather changed his name at his naturalization so he wouldn’t be perceived as Polish.  His comment.

Description of the Dance:
My grand mother walked around trying to ignore my grandfather.  In pantomime he offered hugs, kisses, got on one knee and finally turned his pockets out and gave her the money he had.  Then she hugged him.
The only activity after they made up were cheers and laughter.  The dance was the activity and grandma getting the money was the resolution….General dancing continued after my grandparents finished.

Broiges Dance Recollection #2
as recalled by Milton Blackstone as performed by his mother and her dance partner
Posted by Helen Winkler Sept. 13, 2002
Milton's mother routinely danced the Broiges dance at celebrations with a family friend named Wolfe:
"It started out by the male courting the female and that developed into a disagreement followed by the male seeking forgiveness while she was very indignant.  I seem to remember a reverse switch somewhere during the dance when the female persued the offended male, after which they got together and then the freylekh celebration came in as they danced off. all our relative's celebrations .... at some point, everyone clamored for Gussie and Wolfe to do the broiges tance.....
My mom died in 1966 at the age of 76.  She came from Musnik, Lithuania in 1912 (via Riga) on the S.S. Pennsylvania and was a typical Jewish girl from a large family. Her maiden name was Lenzner.  I'm most positive that she learned this tance in Europe, although I remember that she performed if most frequently at simchas held for my father's family, mostly during the late 30's - early 40's.  After Wolfe passed away, some time around the mid-forties, my cousin Mildred took his place and did it with my mother.  I am currently 78 and I can still see them traipsing around the floor while everyone clapped in unison......
I'd love to see it performed once more! "
You may also want to read the archives of the Jewish Music list for Sept. 13, 2002:
where this  was discussed further.

Children's Version 1919 Lemberg
A children's version of the Broiges Dance fro Lemberg, involving blindfolding a dancer was written about in a 1919 German/Jewish  publication: Hermann Ehrlich, "Abzähl- und andere Kinderreime sowie Tänze aus Lemberg," Mitteilungen zur Jüdischen Volkskunde, 21 (3/4), 1919, pp.58-61.

 "Counting Rhymes and Other Children's Rhymes as well as Dances from Lemberg." "Dances" (p.61)

'Broiges. "Don't be angry, be my friend already!" The dancer suffers various penalties (punishments). With the left hand he holds a cloth against his eyes [a blindfold] the right hand on the hip akimbo.'
No further details are provided in this very short description.