Hava Nagila

[Full notes] [Summary notes] [Other dances & the source code]

Alternative Names 'הבה נגילה' is the original spelling.
'Hava Nagila' is a common English transcription.
Formation Circle or open circle. V-hold
Dance Structure ((A x 2) + (B x 2) + (C x 2)) repeated throughout the music.
Music Structure 4 counts/bar. 4 bar & 2 bar (& ad lib improvisation) phrases.
Music Speed Typically 120-150 counts/min but highly variable.
Source John Wilson in an evening party session in the 2008 Eastbourne International Folkdance Festival, UK.

Disclaimer: Mistakes are quite likely in the notes and no guarantees are made as to accuracy. There may be other versions of the same dance or other dances with the same name. Music may differ, particularly in speed, introduction and duration, between performers. The division into parts, bars & counts might not be standard. These notes of the dance are freely distributable (under GPL or CC-by-sa) in so much as the note's author's contribution but the choreography and/or collection were by other people and so their copyright might apply to the dance itself. Better than using notes, go to an event where it is danced.

A very easy party dance done to the ubiquitously popular jolly Hebrew song.

Note that there is not a single standard dance to this music. It being such a popular song in both Israeli & Romany folk music that there are many dances to it. A quick WWW search showed up examples ranging from the very simple (plain Grapevines, side-behind-side-lift or the basic Israeli Hora) to it to complex stage choreographies. This one here is merely the first version I wrote down. Despite the ubiquity of the tune, I've found it rarely danced to in UK International folk dancing, possibly because there is not a standard dance (or because it is considered so common that each MC assumes others will have over-done it!). This party session was specifically of dances that SIFD (Society for International Folk Dancing) used to dance many years ago but had dropped out of popularity. Whether this choreography was one popular in SIFD many years ago or something John ad-libbed, I don't know.

My favourite recording of the tune, by the Boban Malkovich orchestra and available on their 'Live in Belgrade' album, has so enthusiastic variation that it needs one to vary the order & number of the step variations to fit so much that it is easiest to just ad lib & call out the variations.

Style: Casual lively party.


Summary: Start at the beginning of any phrase.

This will vary greatly as so many versions of the tune have been recorded and live bands also adapt it. Start at the beginning of any phrase.

Part A

Summary: Starting R foot, 3 steps in, lift. 3 steps out, lift. (Grapevine starting R across infront) x 2.

Start Facing the centre of the circle. V-hold.
1 R forwards.
2 L forwards.
3 R forwards.
4 L lift infront (can be increased into a kick).
2 Repeat bar 1 but on the opposite feet & travelling out backwards (L, R & L backwards, R lift infront).
1 R across infront.
2 L to the side.
3 R across behind.
4 L to the side (together with the previous steps in this bar it comprises a Grapevine).
4 Repeat bar 3 (Grapevine to the L starting R across infront).

Part B

Summary: Turn 360 deg cw in 3 steps, double clap. Reverse. In & out as in Part A.

Start Facing the centre of the circle. No hold.
1-3 Turn 360 deg cw on the spot in 3 steps (R, L, R).
& Clap.
4 Clap.
2 Repeat bar 1 but on the opposite feet & turning the other way (turn 360 deg acw on the spot in L, R & L steps, double clap).
3-4 As Part A bars 1-2 (R, L & R forwards, L lift infront; L, R & L backwards, R lift infront).

Part C

Summary: 4 Grapevines as in Part A.

Start Facing the centre of the circle. V-hold.
1 As Part A bar 3 (Grapevine to the L starting R across infront).
2-4 Repeat bar 1 thrice more (making it 4 Grapevines to the L in total).