Jill Gellerman

Jill Gellerman has a long history studying traditional Jewish dance, and we’re happy to welcome her to Madison’s A Biselle KlezKamp for the second time this year. Want to know more about her work, and what she’ll be doing at ABKK? Read on…


1. Tell us about your work and interests.

I graduated with a BFA in Dance from UW-Milwaukee in 1970. Since then, I’ve danced, written about dance, and taught dance widely‚ from Western Illinois University to Yiddish Summer Weimar. My research interests related to Yiddish/Jewish culture include the connections between dance, women, and performance in the Orthodox Jewish community.

2. What’s your favorite new project right now?

Building on the success of the first festive Fifteenth of Av Forshpays featuring A Biselle KlezKamp Yiddish music and dance faculty in Milwaukee last summer, I am arranging a second artist in residence program at Milwaukee’s Chai Point Center for Senior Living on Friday, July 25, 2014.  ABKK faculty member Susan Leviton will perform her pre-Shabbat a cappella “Songs of Spiritual Yearning” on campus, at 1400 North Prospect Avenue, from 1:30pm to 2:30pm.  The program is free and open to the public.  You can read about it here: http://susanlevitonarts.com/program-offerings/yiddish-song-lecturerecitals/

3. What kinds of classes will you teach at A Biselle KlezKamp and winter KlezKamp?

I’ll be teaching simkhe dancing—that is, the popular folk dance repertoire for joyous occasions in the Jewish community. These classes contextualize Yiddish dance and music, exploring both the roots and routes to innovation in contemporary Jewish life.
This year’s program continues to stress the interrelationship between music and movement by drawing on the rich dance repertoire of the klezmorim, historically, those versatile professional instrumentalists from Eastern Europe who played for both Jews and non-Jews in the Russian Pale of Settlement (ca. 1794-1917).  In connection with the latter, we’ll learn dances that were not only considered to be Jewish, but also co-territorial non-Jewish dances performed by Jews.

4. What do you do when you’re not teaching at KlezKamp?

I’m busy managing my husband’s ophthalmology practice, and collecting Yiddish dances on YouTube.

5. You’ve been to Madison before–tell us about your memories..

When I first came to Madison, I was an undergraduate English major. I lived at Langdon Hall and attended classes during the Dow riots (1968). So, visiting after so many years brings back memories of campus life.

More about Jill at ABKK: Jill’s bio is here, and descriptions of the classes she’s teaching are here.

For complete information about A Biselle KlezKamp 2014, go here.

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