I first learned Zemer Atik during my undergraduate studies at the University of Louisville. I thought it was one of the most beautiful dances I had ever been a part of and I still believe that.
So far I have only taught this once to 3rd grade students. They find the A section a bit challenging but really get into the B section. I cannot wait to bring this song out again now that I know more of the social and historical implications that go into this dance!
Suggested Grade Levels: 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade
Zemer Atik (also known as Nigun Atik) translated from Hebrew means “ancient melody.” It originally comes from Israel and was choreographed by Rivka Sturman in 1956. Sturman intended that Zemer Atik, like many of the other dances she choreographed, was to be simple enough for children to perform. Through this dance and all of the others she created, Sturman established the style and characteristics of Israeli folk dance. See lyrics for the song and their translation here.
There have been reports of people performing this dance at Israeli weddings. During the A section of the dance, dancers are celebrating the new couple. During the B section of the dance, they are blessing the new couple.
Formation: The music for this dance follows an AB form.
Dancers begin in a circle with their left palm facing upward on their left shoulder; their right hand/arm extends to touch the left palm of the person in front of them. Dancers wait in this formation during the introduction.
A Section: Dancers take 4 small steps forward, starting with the right foot. Sway right and clap twice, sway left and clap once. Repeat for a total of 4 times.
B Section: Change body facing to the center of the circle. Take 2 steps inward (lasting 2 beats each) while snapping twice. Bring hands down and step back out to original place in the circle for 4 beats. Repeat for a total of 4 times.
Continue the A and B sections until the dance is complete. I like to have my students bow at the end to give a sense of finality. You could also have your students end in their beginning pose, which is a beautiful visual option.
–Learning music/dance from another culture
–Easy for AB form identification
–Clear half notes in the B section
–Wonderful way to celebrate the contributions/accomplishments of a female Jewish choreographer in the classroom setting
–Amchin, R. (2015, November 24). Folk dance discussion and Zemer Atik 2015 11 23 08 59 14 [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3PD_rIgWLk
–Bettis, A. (April 2003). Nigun atik. Andy Bettis on the Web. https://www.andybettis.com/dance/steps/NigunAtik.html
–Carnie, A. (2014, March 14). Zemer atik – nigun atik (Israel). Folk Dance Musings. https://folkdancemusings.blogspot.com/2014/03/zemer-atik-nigun-atik-israel.html
–Lipski, A. L. (n.d.). Nigun atik. Hebrew Songs. http://www.hebrewsongs.com/song-nigunatik.htm
–Nachman Music. (2018, November 6). Israel dance zemer atik – music express John Jacobson [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjTj3Eab6yo
–Ronen, D. (n.d.). Rivka Sturman. Jewish Women’s Archive. https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/sturman-rivka