The best of gymnastics and ‘Hava Nagila,’ a video retrospective


As I note in this recent article, 17-year-old American Jewish gymnast Alexandra Raisman is joining the growing list of competitors who have hoped to ride Hava Nagila to an Olympic medal.

Here’s Raisman at the Cover Girl Classic earlier this year, the first time Raisman performed this routine outside of the gym and training camps. Though her nerves show a bit and she stepped out of bounds, the new music and routine achieved what she had hoped for — the crowd is certainly clapping along.

Here are four other routines performed to different versions of Jewish folk tune by notable gymnasts: [[READMORE]]

Lilia Podkopayeva (UKR) 1994 World Championships in Brisbane, Australia
The future 1996 Olympic champion in the all around and on floor exercise uses Hava Nagila. Though Podkopayeva was well-known and beloved among gymnastics fans for her pristine form and ballet technique, it doesn’t serve her as well in this routine as in other performances where her perfectly held upright carriage and toe point worked better with the music.  Also, what was with the abrupt music change at the end? Podkopayeva got new music choreography for the latter half of 1994 and won the Olympics with a balletic routine set to "Figaro."

Ekaterina Lobazynuk (RUS) during the team finals at the 2000 Olympics
Though Russia was disappointed with the silver medal in the team competition, this routine did not disappoint the crowd or fans, who consider it to be one of the best performances of the Games.

Gael Mackie (CAN) at the 2004 Trophee Massilia
The Canadian national champion and 2004 Olympian performed to the same cut of “Hava Nagila” as did Lobaznyuk with nearly the same dance moves, but don’t accuse her of stealing. The routine was given to her by Ludmila Leontyevna, Lobazynuk’s mother and coach who emigrated to Canada with her Olympian daughter after the 2000 Games and ended up working with Mackie. (See? It’s not just the Jewish world that is exceedingly small.)

Sandra Izbasa (ROM) 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. The parts of the routine that get the most audience participation (i.e. clapping) are the sections where Izbasa danced to the sounds of the traditional Chasidic nigun.

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