Kaperush, Kaprosh

Below is all the information I have been able to collect about "Kaprosh," a dance that appears in 2 yizkor books (so far) and is notated (musically) in an old, unpublished Yiddish manuscript, and was mentioned in a publication from **Lemberg in the early 20th century.  If you know anything about this dance or song, especially as it may relate to Jewish variants, please contact me.  What you will find if you scroll down this page are:  Sound clips and video of the Ukrainian version of the song/dance, yizkor book excerpts/archival sources where the kaperush/kaprosh dance is mentioned, and finally a rough translation of the Ukrainian lyrics to the song.  It is likely that the spelling of Kaprosh was erroneously created, due to transcription into Hebrew and then back to English (see Hebrew text).

**Lemberg Reference: Hermann Ehrlich, "Abzähl- und andere Kinderreime sowie Tänze aus Lemberg," Mitteilungen zur Jüdischen Volkskunde, 21 (3/4), 1919, pp.58-61.Articel Title:  "Counting Rhymes and Other Children's Rhymes as well as Dances from Lemberg." "Kaparusch. Line dance. One lead dancer." is the English translation of what is written, under the heading "Tanze." No other information is given.

Sound clips of the song "Kaperush" in Ukrainian:

Version 1 from cd: Zhyttia Buttia (literally "Life of Buttia") (2005), Track 5
Versions 3 from  Instrumental

The group Buttia now has a Youtube video in which they teach and show the dance (31:03 minutes into the video): .  As you see, it is sort of a follow the leader dance where those who fail to follow correctly are penalized by the leader with his belt.  Note that this is the Ukrainian version of the dance and we do not know specifically how it was done in the Jewish community. 

The map below shows the location of the places where Kaperush has been mentioned as occurring  in Jewish communites, in the early 20th century (communities are joined with blue line on the map).

Yizkor Book in Memory of Rozniatow
(Rozhnyativ, Ukraine)
48°56' / 24°9'
Translation of Sefer zikaron le-kehilat Rozniatow
Edited by Shimon Kanc
Published in Tel Aviv, 1974
Rozniatow, Perehinsko, Broszniow and environs societies in Israel and the USA

***Avraham Zauerberg – the Man and his Activities
by Y. Har-Zohar 
"He was a good conversationalist. He was able to tell stories and gather around him interested people who would drink up his words with thirst, words that were spiced with humor and jokes. Despite his Hassidic appearance, he did not hesitate at weddings to be at the head of those who entertained and dancfront of the bride and groom. He speedily removed his outer cloak and hat, and with a kippa (skullcap) on his head he began to sing and dance "keitzad merakdim, keitzad merakded in im" [14]. Accompanied by the enthusiastic group of singers and dancers, he would speedily arrange the well-known "Kaprosh" dance. He would direct it and issue the orders. Woe to the dancer who was not able to remove his shoe quick enough after been issued the command, or to take out his fringes from the four corners. He would have to pay good money to the band."

***FromYad Vahsem database:

1)Abraham Sauerberg was born in Jezupol in 1888 to Moshe and Dwora. He was a leather merchant and married to Tehila. Prior to WWII he lived in Rozniatow, Poland. During the war he was in Rozniatow, Poland. Abraham perished in the Shoah. This information is based on a Page of Testimony  submitted on 16-Jun-1955 by his brother

2)Avraham Sauerberg was born in Jezupol in 1891 to Moshe and Sheindel. He was a leather merchant. Prior to WWII he lived in Rozniatow, Poland. During the war he was in Dolina, Poland. Avraham perished in the Shoah. This information is based on a Page of Testimony submitted on 20-Aug-1986 by his brother

This suggests the interwar period as the time that Kaperush/Kaprosh was danced by Avraham in his community.  HW

The Book of Horodenka
(Gorodenka, Ukraine)
48°40' / 25°30'
Edited by: Sh. Meltzer
Published in Tel Aviv, 1963
Read Original Hebrew Text
The Activities of the Hitachdut
Yehoshua Shtreyt

Translation of this passage provided by Leon Balaban on March 8, 2009:
Of great interest were the Shabbat evening balls called "box evenings" (kestl uvent - Yiddish)...The highlight of the evening would be kind of a "dance ball" (krentzchen) to the tunes of our friend Shmuel Shekhter (the son of the Kleyzmer Mosh Babitzky) who played the violin. We would dance salon dances mixed with "Hora" and "Kaprosh" dances. And who can fathom the twists of that dance (Kaprosh), its roots both Hasidic and gentile. The instructor and leader of this dance was my colleague and childhood friend, Monya Shtachel. There he was leading the line holding a wet towel with double and triple knots at the end, and beware any one who doesn't mimic his movements or follow his instructions.  Every transgression was punished immediately by a whack of the wet towel by the instructor...that's how he made us dance in the cold nights of the winter till we perspired, sometimes such a dance would last four or five hours! Yes, those were the days and nights - never to return again...

Note:  other references on the Gorodenka web page indicate the time frame as some time during the 1920's

From the archives of the Jewishgen listserv., original posting written by Jeff Wollock based on an unpublished manuscript notation from Stanislav, ca. 1940:
Date: Thu, 27 Dec 2001 22:28:55 -0500
Subject: Stanislaver (and region) klezmorim

Dear Galitsyaner Researchers,

Does anyone remember the violinist Jakob (Yankev) Zeltser, or any of the other musicians that played weddings in Stanislav and vicinity before the war?

Does anyone remember the special dances that were done at Jewish weddings in Stanislav, such as: Bojker and Erdewei (also popular in nearby Carpathian shtetlakh like Yasen, Mitvina, Delyatin and Pereginsky); Kaperush (a dance where everyone has to imitate exactly what the leader does.) Or any of the other dances, such as Mitsve-Tants, Broyges-Tants, slow volokh, sirba, kolomeyka "Kabinya Marisya", Yidishe Troika, or Hutsulka? (Frescoes of Hutsul dance in Bukovina, below. Photo by Eve Jochnowitz.)

Or wedding songs like "Shrayt shoyn 'Mazel Tov'", "Ot Azoy Makht Men Khasene Kinder" and "Chipkelakh mit Fasolyes"?

Jeff provided the following commentary about the musical notation in the manuscript, as compared to the sound clips on this web page(April 1, 2009):
"(1) The A sections are the same, except for the key, and also on the second clip the B section is cut off, so it might very well be identical.
(2) very often, Ukrainians play kolomeykas and such (which we would call a type of freylekhs) considerably faster than Jews would play them. However, the kaperush (both clips) is moderately fast, has a nice "Jewish" feel to it. I really like them.
(3) it never fails to amaze me how much information about a given piece of music is NOT captured by a notated transcription, especially when it is a mere lead sheet. Your clips give a much better idea of the music than what I have. To me the clips sound as Jewish as they do Ukrainian.
(4) that being said, I can tell you that the A section as I have it is nearly identical to what's on your clips; the B section is a little different, but not very.
The writing (in Yiddish) is: "One man leads the dancers. All the movements that the leader makes must be imitated by all the others. When one of them does not imitate it, he pays a fine." "shtrof" could be translated "penalty," but in any case I think money is meant. Very little money, of course, but it would add up, and I assume the pot would have gone to the klezmorim."
No lyrics were provided within the musical notation.

He also commented on the Kabinya Marisya melody:
""Kabinya Marisya" is actually a very well-known kolomeyka with the a section in minor (it's not THE "Jewish" kolomeyka in mi-sheberekh mode), but I don't know whether it always goes under that name. The tune is also called a kozatchok. There is a recording of some of these by Shloimke Beckerman on a cassette available from Kurt Bjorling, and one of the tunes is this. If I recall, there are four sections, the first in minor, the second in the relative major, the third in mi-sheberekh, and the last in minor.

Ukrainian version of the song lyrics and dance:
The group Buttia now has also posted this addtional Youtube video of the dance:

This rough translation of the Kaperush lyrics and instructions was contributed to the Jewish Music mailing list by Bob Rothstein on March 5, 2009.  Many thanks.
source:  Buttia web site, no longer online (2020)

Only men play. A "leader" is chosen - a clever and agile young man with
a belt in his right hand. The musicians play and sing:

Kape-, kape- kaperush, darling kaperush,
Don't touch what isn't yours because you'll be punished!
Let's go, guys, let's go quickly,
Smoke tobacco, drink beer.

The "leader" approaches each man in the room in turn, puts his right hand on his shoulder and puts the person behind him, thus gathering players. When all who want to have joined Kaperush, they all stand in a single circle. The "leader" shows various movements, for example, he hops on one foot, walks in single file, waves his arms, dances with a girl, kisses a girl, picks her up in his arms, etc. The other players have to repeat everything that the "leader" shows. If someone doesn't perform the activity or doesn't perform it correctly, the "leader" hits him painfully with the belt - so that others wouldn't be inclined to do the same.

A contributor to my website, Halina Minadeo (thanks Halina!), reports that there are some additional versions of Kaperush in Ukraine:

1)  "...a Carpathian style courting dance often done as one of the ritual songs and dances outside the church at Eastertime--"hailky."  A girl holding a scarf stands in the center of a circle of young people and sings:  "I shall go out into the maydan (square) / I shall go out to dance / To the one whom I love, I shall give / My face to kiss.      I have an embroidered shawl / with four corners /  The one whom I love--I shall kiss.  / I shall spread it (the scarf) under his feet.     I have an embroidered scarf with four edges / The one whom I love--I shall kiss / I shall go down on my knees."  The young man and girl both kneel on the shawl and kiss as the others dance around them in a circle.  This has no resemblance to the "command" kaperush and is very slow and monotonous.  The dance starts at about 1:10  in the video

2) "...a Bukovyna dance called Keprush, very lively, with young men in typical costume dancing in a circle and in groups of two, joined by young ladies with whom they dance in pairs. "