Tants nign (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.


Nign.” Beregovski/Goldin 1987, #36-37. (Musical notation included). 

“A tune used mostly for dancing. It seems that the Hebrew term is actually a translation of the earlier Yiddish terms tants nign or a tenzl. Other terms for dance tunes are hopke, dreidl, or redele (all used by Polish Hasidim), freilakhs and kadachke (used in various dynasties). Dance tunes have defined musical characteristics: duple meter, fast tempi (metronome 120-168), fixed forms: bisectional (AB), trisectional (ABC), and the ABCB form (Mazor-Hadju 1974). Dance tunes are performed mainly at weddings and rejoicing festivals such as Simha Torah and Lag B’Omer, and tish gatherend with a dance tune. These tunes may be sung during the sabath and festival services to texts such as Lo tevoshi (from Lekha dodi) and the Kaddish titkabel.” Mazor and Seroussi 1990/91, pp. 133-34. (Musical notation and recording references included). 

“The dance-song is a collective folk-expression which derived from the need to sing for the dance and to dance for the song. The social dances that have no accompanying song emerged in the modern era. The dance-song was preserved by the Jewish masses a long time after the social dances had spread... Also it has been proven that to the new dances like the polka, the mazurka, the polonaise, the quadrille, [and] the waltz words were sung which went with the rhythms.” Stutschewsky 1959, pp. 166-67, n. 55

“Dance niggunim. These are usually much simpler than the previous ones. A valuable attempt to classify these niggunim has been carried out in Mazor-Hadju-Bayer. For our purpose it is important to note that according to Vinaver, the Hassidim themselves would distinguish two levels of dance tunes; namely hopkalach and tentzalach. Tunes of the first kind are very simple. They would sometimes contain just one musical phrase with syncopated or bouncy rhythm and that phrase would be repeated endlessly. Vinaver apparently did not hold such tunes in great esteem, and one may find disparaging hints about them in his writings. Tunes of the second kind are more sophisticated, usually consisting of a few sections built together as a small musical piece of art. Most of the dance niggunim in this volume are of the second kind (e.g. no. 79).” Vinaver 1985, pp. 191-92.

“Tentsl (-ekh) dance, jig.” Weinreich 1977, p. 596.

See Hopke. For an extensive analysis of this vocal dance genre, see also Mazor 1974, pp. 136-265.


For more information on this concept see Tants nign.