Dances and balls appear throughout world literature as venues for young people to meet, flirt, and form relationships, as any reader of Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace, or Romeo and Juliet can attest. The popularity of social dance transcends class, gender, ethnic, and national boundaries. In the context of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Jewish culture, dance offers crucial insights into debates about emancipation and acculturation. While traditional Jewish law prohibits men and women from dancing together, Jewish mixed-sex dancing was understood as the very sign of modernity––and the ultimate boundary transgression.
Writers of modern Jewish literature deployed dance scenes as a charged and complex arena for understanding the limits of acculturation, the dangers of ethnic mixing, and the implications of shifting gender norms and marriage patterns, while simultaneously entertaining their readers. In this pioneering study, Sonia Gollance examines the specific literary qualities of dance scenes, while also paying close attention to the broader social implications of Jewish engagement with dance. Combining cultural history with literary analysis and drawing connections to contemporary representations of Jewish social dance, Gollance illustrates how mixed-sex dancing functions as a flexible metaphor for the concerns of Jewish communities in the face of cultural transitions.
About the author
Sonia Gollance is Lecturer in Yiddish at University College London. She has previously held appointments at the University of Vienna and The Ohio State University.
"It Could Lead to Dancing is a fascinating exploration of the role of dance in literary representations of Jewish modernization and secularization. With sources from memoirs to dance history, focusing primarily on German and Yiddish fiction, this wonderful, immensely learned, and original book will attract interest among literary scholars and beyond."
—Naomi Seidman, University of Toronto
"Extensively researched and deftly written, Sonia Gollance's rich study guides us through a nuanced cultural history of Jewish mixed-sex dancing from the long nineteenth century into the present day. It Could Lead to Dancing confirms the importance of the Jewish perspective in literary dance studies, casting light on the dance floor as a site where social comportment reflected the political pursuits of acculturation, emancipation, and female empowerment."
—Lucia Ruprecht, Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge