Betlers-tants (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 refer to the term in question. It also indicates whether musical notation or sound recordings are included in the source. To view the full reference, click on the bibliographic hyperlink at the end of each citation.


“During the wedding festivities, which lasted seven days, guests and neighbors took part in the dancing and even beggars of the town had the right to dance with the bride.” EncyJud 1971, p. 1265

“After the meal the poor people started to dance, in order to entertain the bride and groom. Afterwards, they divided up alms, each according to his needs.” [Staro-Konstantin, Ukraine, 1820s-30s]. Fridkin 1925, p. 41

Betlerl. Beggar’s tune.” Harkavi 1928, p. 127

“Afterwards the groom was led with the klezmers into the street to the kale-badekn, following which the groom and the klezmers into the bet-midrash and up to the khupe, and from the khupe the whole crowd went with the klezmers to the bride’s house. There the beggars arrived with their dance and people celebrated until daybreak... the dance with the beggars was done [again] Saturday night.” [Ukraine, 1850s]. Kotik 1913-14, p. 286

“The Bettlertanz (beggar’s dance), at weddings, became a community custom. The mendicants of the village (and there were many due to the impoverished economic situation of most Jews at this time) were invited to feast; in return for, or rather, in addition to that honor, they were given the floor or market-place for dancing, and could dance with the bride.” Lapson 1943, p. 458

“Well-to-do families arranged a feast for the paupers of the community a day or two before the wedding... After the meal, the bride and groom danced with the poor folk, and distributed coins among them.” [late nineteenth century]. Schauss 1950, p. 185.  

“‘The beggars dance.’ The local beggars at the wedding were received as ‘guests-of-honor’ and they would arrange special tables for them. A special dance would be prepared especially in their honor, in the style of the ‘freylekhs’, that they would play for their dance.” Stutschewsky 1959, p. 175. (Musical notation included).