Shemele (LKT)

This entry is part of the Lexicon of Klezmer Terminology (LKT). The LKT compiles a wide array of source materials that shed light on the historical and contemporary state of knowledge about klezmer music. Each entry includes a number of citations from primary and secondary sources that include or refers to the term in question. It also indicates whether musical notation or sound recordings are included in the source. By clicking on the bibliographic hyperlink at the end of each citation, you get the full reference.


“‘Khatzkele, khatzkele, play me a kazatzkele... play me a zemele’... Here appears the motive of payment and form combining with ‘zemele,’ which is... [the same as the] ‘semene’... I think the original form was Judeo-German, the ‘shemele,’ according to the expression ‘din shemen’ (to be ashamed), as Yom Tov Levinsky also proposes... Later during a mention of the ‘beroyges’ dance and reconciliation, there is a mention of the German dance’s existence from 1500 (and of many similar to it in other lands)...” Bayer 1960, p. 24

“The ‘beroyges’ and ‘shalom’ dances [are] two Jewish weddings dances that were widespread in Eastern European Jewish communities, and [formed] part of the style of primary dances that introduced the meal and welcome during typical wedding ceremonies in these countries. It is possible and accurate to define these two dances as one with two motives; the motive of the ‘beroyges’ and that of the ‘sholem’... There are even scholars who want to add and classify along with the... ‘beroyges’ dance and ‘sholem’ dance, the dances found under the names ‘semene,’ ‘shemene,’ or ‘semele,’ and ‘shemele’... When looking at these last dances, outside of sources found in [Eastern European Jewish] folk song, we have nothing about this style, no definitive portrait...

[One such example is this song of Eliokum Tzunser:] ‘Women, clap! Take pleasure that both mothers-in-law are dancing a shemele’ If a man such as Eliokum Tzunser sang a dance song like this at weddings, it is certain that it was performed during the dances under the name ‘shemele.’ And we learn another thing from these two short verses, that it was a dance of the mothers-in-law and that it appears to have been of the style that is called... ‘patsh-tants,’ [which] would be danced with hand-clapping, a style of dances that was very widespread in Jewish weddings. The scholar and musicologist Moshe Beregovski, who brings these two verses from Zunser’s song, learns from it that this was apparently a solo dance for the mothers-in-law alone, and this leads him to the additional conclusion that, at least in the 70s and 80s of the previous century, this dance was widespread in the region of Vilna...[and all of] Eastern Europe...

I have no depiction of the ‘shemele’ dance [from among all of the sources]... The dance steps and movements were generally the result of free improvisation...” Fridhaber 1972, pp. 31-33

Shemele. A kind of dance.” Harkavi 1928, p. 513

“Women, clap, you’ve got your pleasure! Both mothers-in-law are dancing a shemele.” [Vilna, Lithuania, c. 1871]. Zunser 1964, p. 202.

See Semele and Shemene.