Arts and Culture

Gymnastics and ‘Hava Nagila’: the best of

NEW YORK (JTA) — Not all “Hava Nagila” routines are created equal. Here are five routines performed to different versions of the Jewish folk tune by notable gymnasts:

Lilia Podkopayeva (Ukraine), 1994 World Championships in Brisbane, Australia

The future 1996 Olympic champion uses “Hava Nagila” in the all around and on floor exercise. Though Podkopayeva is well known and beloved among gymnastics fans for her pristine form and ballet technique, the song doesn’t serve her as well in this routine as in other performances in which her perfectly held upright carriage and toe point work better with the music. Also, what was with the abrupt music change at the end? Podkopayeva has new music choreography for the latter half of 1994 and wins Olympic gold with a balletic routine set to “Figaro.”

Ekaterina Lobazynuk (Russia), at the team finals of the 2000 Olympics

Though Russia is disappointed with the silver medal in the team competition, this routine does not disappoint the crowd or fans, who consider it to be one of the best performances of the Games.

Gael Mackie (Canada), at the 2004 Trophee Massilia

The Canadian national champion and 2004 Olympian performs to the same cut of “Hava Nagila” as Lobaznyuk, with nearly the same dance moves. Stealing? No — the routine was given to her by Ludmila Leontyevna, Lobazynuk’s mother and coach, who immigrated to Canada with her Olympian daughter after the 2000 Games and ends up working with Mackie. (See? It’s not just the Jewish world that is exceedingly small.)

Sandra Izbasa (Romania), at the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam, the Netherlands

The 2008 Olympic champion performs to a folk music medley with “Hava Nagila” bookending the routine. Izbasa gets the best audience participation (i.e. clapping) when she dances to the sounds of the traditional Chasidic niggun.

Alexandra Raisman (United States), 2011 Cover Girl Classic

It’s the first time that Raisman performs the routine outside of the gym and training camps. Though her nerves show a bit and she steps out of bounds, the new music and routine achieve what she had hoped for — the crowd is clapping along.