Everybody cut footloose


Over the past two weeks, I’ve found my mind drifting back to 1984 and the Odeon Cinema in Hendon.

It was here that countless Jewish teens from London got their first taste of Bacon – Kevin Bacon to be precise – in his breakout role as Ren McCormack in the now classic movie Footloose.

Let’s be honest, simply hearing that word starts our toes tapping as the Kenny Loggins anthem plays in our heads and we recall that final scene where Ren and the rest of the town’s teens cut loose on the dance floor.

But that’s not the scene I’ve been remembering.

No, my mind has been at the council meeting where Ren, quoting passages from the Bible, convinces John Lithgow’s Reverend Shaw Moore and his fellow councillors to overturn the town’s ban on dancing. Psalms, Samuel and Ecclesiastes are all referenced by Ren to show that God not only approves of dancing, he encourages it as a meaningful, symbolic and spiritual activity.

These past two weeks, I’ve felt a little like Ren in the council meeting (certainly not like Ren on the  dancefloor, any moves I once had are long since gone).

But just as Ren stood up and argued for a high school dance against the naysayers in his community, so I’ve been advocating for a dance event against some naysayers in our community.

And I stress the word ‘event’ as some people,  who haven’t really looked into it, have mischaracterised it as a ‘party’.

To be sure, nobody involved in organising ‘We Will Dance Again’ is calling it that.

Very simply, the words I’ve just used – ‘We Will Dance Again’ – has become a popular slogan in Israel, a rallying cry of a broken people, yearning for a  brighter future, for redemption, after hundreds were slain and dozens more kidnapped at the Nova Music Festival on 7th October.

It evokes that same spirit of resilience, resolve and refusal to capitulate as those survivors who sang Hatikvah after liberation, who raised the Star of David and who danced in Melbourne every year at the Buchenwald Ball.

In Israel, under the We Will Dance Again banner, young people across the country have gathered in memory of their family and friends who were slaughtered that day, honouring the spirit of the Nova revellers at the type of DJ and dance events that they themselves loved so much.

Yerushalayim Shel Zahav and Al Kol Eleh – the folk anthems of yesteryear – may speak to those of us of a certain generation but they didn’t speak to them … unless they were in the form of a techno mash-up.

And so, We Will Dance Again aims to bring people together in a way that the Nova festival goers would appreciate.

And, moreover, in a way that’s different to our traditional solidarity offerings.

We are now heading into the fifth month since 7th October. We’ve had shule services, we’ve had rallies, we’ve had speeches and prayers and communal singing.

Five months on, we don’t need to serve up the same kind of event again and again and again.

So just as we hosted the Kites for Peace gathering in late November and just as we organised the Ride To Bring Them Home in mid January, on 5th March, we invite you to come together and show your solidarity at something a little different.

Of course, the DJ scene isn’t everyone’s cup of tea so the first 90 minutes of the event will have a more family-friendly vibe appealing to all ages. The rest of the night though will see the DJs playing the kind of tracks that the Nova festival goers would have enjoyed.

And the kind of tracks that don’t feature at our traditional community events.

Which is perhaps why a certain demographic is absent from those events.

But at a time when so many are finding their Jewish identity and searching for avenues to affiliate, it would be remiss of us not to offer opportunities for engagement that might bring them into the fold.

No offence to the talking heads who regularly take to the podium at communal gatherings – I myself could be counted among them – but not everyone wants to demonstrate devotion to Israel by sitting through a series of speeches punctuated by prayers and a sombre singalong.

It appeals to some but not to all.

So if We Will Dance Again inspires a section of the community we don’t currently cater for, then we should embrace it rather than dismiss it – just as we embraced kite flying and the recent Ride To Bring Them Home.

Indeed, the Melbourne ride and rally were hailed in international coverage of the global initiative, and just this week the Israeli Photographic Festival requested one of the images from our event for their forthcoming exhibition.

In short, the dynamic personalities behind the incredibly moving gatherings we’ve been privileged to experience since 7th October are working flat out to ensure We Will Dance Again is just as meaningful.

In fact, possibly more so. For this event commemorating 150 days since 7th October can be seen as more than just an expression of solidarity with Israel. It’s also an opportunity for us as Australian Jews to stand up and say we won’t be cowed by the haters, we won’t be intimidated by the antisemites and we won’t be deterred or defeated by the doxers.

As Ren McCormack says in that seminal scene in Footloose, “Ecclesiastes assures us that there is a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh and a time to weep. A time to mourn and there is a time to dance … this is our time to dance.”

For all the atrocities our family have endured in Israel, for all the challenges we’re facing over here, in honour of the Nova victims, we will dance again.

Please join us.

The event is free but registration is essential. Visit trybooking.com/COYPS