Moshe Eskayo

For almost 40 years, Moshe Eskayo has created Israeli folk dances. His more than150 dances comprise a wide range of styles: a variety of circle dances such as debkas and horas, partner dances and line dances.
Daughter Of The Arts talked with Mr. Eskayo as he shared some secrets and revealed his own creative process.

 When did you first start choreographing Israeli folk dances?

ME: It sort of happened unintentionally. I created a dance for a
performing group. One of the dances in the performance was Hayoshevet
Baganim. The performers took the dance to the session that they danced at,
and it became a “folkdance” instead of a performance dance. From the same
performance, the other dance that got “taken” was Shibolei Paz, and that
became a very successful “hit,” and my first Israeli folkdance.

DOTA: What is it about a song that stirs you into creating a dance? Generally, which comes first, the dance or the music?
ME: If the beat and rhythm of the dance is interesting to me, I get
inspired (sometimes). In most cases (for me), the dance is created to
music. I get the accents of the dance from the accents in the music.
Sometimes, I have a whole dance done and finished, and I have no music for it. In fact, when I made Debka Oud, the whole dance was finished, and I had no music. We used to do the dance with me playing on a drum to provide the beat for the dance. I then commissioned Shlomo Shai, who is an excellent musician, to create a tune. He came to see the dance, watched how it was done, I explained to him what I wanted, and we collaborated and composed the music to Debka Oud. Here’s another bit of information: the name of the dance is an ode to the musical instrument, the oud. When the song was composed, the only person who we knew who could play the music was an Armenian Jew (I don’t remember his name, but it is on the album cover of the Kadima record). We invited him to play, and the rest is history!

DOTA: Sometimes you are referred to as the Debka King. How did that start?
ME: Someone, somewhere, on some brochure, named me the Debka King. It
stuck. I guess it is because the debka is my favorite kind of dance, and I
enjoy making debkas the most. This particular form of dance has a lot of
discipline (when done as a debka and NOT as a hora). People who debka well, dance well; it’s a pleasure to watch.

DOTA: What was the first debka dance you choreographed?
ME: My very first debka was Debka B’not Hakfar, which was done in 1965 or
1966. My version is not the one done today at sessions. Of course, it is
MY arrangement of the music that someone else took and made a dance to, but that’s another story.

DOTA: How many debka dances have you choreographed?
ME: I don’t know, I never counted. Some of them are: Debka
Simon, Debka Keff, Debka Liel, Debka Larden, Debka Skayo, Ramot, El Ali, Debka Gid and more. A “gid” by the way, is an Achilles tendon, which I tore while I was choreographing this debka. In fact I have it on videotape!!! Anyway, in the spirit of that, I named the dance after my Achilles tendon.

DOTA: Daughter Of The Arts is currently saluting Ofra Haza. Tell me about selecting Ofra Haza songs for your dances: ‘Etz Harimon 2’ (The Pomegranate Tree), partner dance, and ‘Rei’ach Tapuach’ (Apple Scent) circle, both created in 1972?
 I didn’t choose the music based on Ofra Haza. I love her voice, and I
love her singing style, but both dances had been done before she recorded
them (the songs). When I heard her beautiful recordings, I re-cut them to fit the dances. She was such a good singer.

DOTA: When did you meet Ofra Haza?
ME: I met her in Kerem Hateimanim in Schunat Hatikvah in Israel. I didn’t
know her very well.

DOTA: What is the difference in general trends of music from today, and from when you started to make dances?
ME: When I started making dances, the music was much simpler (flutes,
drums, accordions). The Na’arah record has the sound that I like very much,
not drum machines, and electronic sounds and hip-hop music.
DOTA: You host two folk dance camps, Hora Keff and Sababa. How are they different?
ME: Hora Keff is more than a folkdance weekend. It is 5 days long.
You have a chance to meet and reconnect with our Keff Family. People come
to Keff from all over the world, meet, learn new dances, and dance for 5
days. The camp is intense – long days and long nights of dancing and fun. Hora Keff will take place this summer from Tuesday, August 23 – Sunday, August 28, 2005. It will be held in Camp Monroe, which is 70 miles north of New York City. The staff so far is: Moshe Eskayo, Eileen Weinstock, Rafi Ziv, Vincent Parodi, Yaron Alfassi. Alberto Zirlinger and Carina Saslavsky will be joining the staff this year, too. Sababa is a relaxed, party camp, where we review dances, re-teach dances, and reconnect with a different choreographer’s work each year. One year we reviewed Moshiko’s dances one afternoon. One year we reviewed Moshe’s dances one afternoon, and another year it was Dani Dassa. It’s a great chance to learn dances that you missed the first time around.

Memorial Day Weekend was originally the dates of Naftaly’s Hora Dikla.
In 2000, Naftaly cancelled his camp, and then asked me to take the dates of
the camp and continue doing a camp on that weekend. Because there are so
many camps now, I decided to do a camp that emphasized classic dances. In addition to learning SOME new dances, we like to play dances that we miss in regular sessions and review and bring back some of the dances that got pushed out of the weekly repertoire. That is the basic spirit of Sababa.
Editorial note: Sababa will be held May 27-30, at Camp Emmanuel, Copake, NY.
Scheduled to attend: Moshe Eskayo, Eileen Weinstock, Shlomo Bachar, Avner Naim, Roni Siman-Tov, Yom Tov Ohayan, Michai David

DOTA: This year you offered Keff Aviv in Mexico. What is that like?
ME: Last year, I was invited to be a judge at the Keff Aviv festival in
Mexico. It is a huge event for the people of Mexico and South America, and
a competition of dance groups in categories of Folk and Modern Dancing. The level of the production was extraordinary. The excitement was palpable. I was very excited to be a part of it, and wanted other dancers to experience this event.
The idea was born to do a tour/workshop/participation event in
Mexico with the Festival as its centerpiece. In Mexico, there are many
performance groups and practically no dance sessions. In the US, there are
many dance sessions, but not as many committed performance groups. This was an attempt to bring the two philosophies together – have the North Americans see how professional the competition is there, and have the Mexicans see how much fun a regular “harkada” can be. Keff Aviv is in Mexico, and is not really a camp as much as a touring vacation with some dancing. The point is to experience the Mexican culture, and dance as an aside.

DOTA: What is the most pleasurable part about folk dancing for you?
ME: What I love most about dancing are the wonderful people that I meet. Through dancing I know people all over the world, and it has enriched my life. The people who live outside of Israel learn and become connected to the State of Israel. What can be better than that?

Moshe Eskayo’s dances are listed at:
Link from:

Links from Les Posen video site.
Moshe Eskayo’s Debka Gid 
Moshe Eskayo’s dances to Ofra Haza songs:
Etz Harimon 2
Rei’ach Tapuach

All content on Daughter Of The Arts Talks With…Moshe Eskayo is the property of Daughter Of The Arts and may not be reprinted or reproduced without prior written permission and consent of Daughter Of The Arts.

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