Dan Zofi is committed to sharing the joy of Israeli folk dancing with the people of Fort Lauderdale, but unlike many from the region’s sizeable Jewish population, he took an unlikely route to South Florida.
Zofi, 57, moved from Israel to the Hawaiian island of Maui 13 years ago to pursue his love of windsurfing and instead founded a vibrant community of Mediterranean dance enthusiasts.
“At the time I was windsurfing, I wasn’t going to be there for a long time,” Zofi recalled. “But one thing led to another and I ended up spending half my life there.”
He met his partner, Jack Germany, 49, a trained dancer and college instructor, on the beach and soon they were dancing together through life.
Maui is a small island, home to just 150,000 residents, but he quickly recruited a small group of 30 dancers to learn circle and line dances. The group grew and became a social outlet for the members to also potluck dinner parties, cookouts on the beach and holiday celebrations.
Last December, the couple decided to relocate to Fort Lauderdale to be closer to Zofi’s parents, residents in a Miami nursing home.
While Israeli dance classes are offered in several nearby communities, there are no classes in Fort Lauderdale. He teamed up with Lee Lichtman, manager of the Fort Lauderdale Beach Community Center, to offer the same format of classes he led in Hawaii.
Circle and line dances are ideal, especially for LGBT dancers, he said, “because you don’t necessarily need a partner. Anyone can come. A man can dance with a man, a woman can dance with a woman.”
Zofi and Germany draw their repertoire from nearly 6000 folk dances developed since the earliest days of Israeli statehood more than six decades ago.
“We always start with classic, simple dances and go through each step,” Zofi explained, “so beginners can always join in.”
Some of the dances are traditional, while others are much more contemporary and lyrical. All are set to the most beautiful music the couple can find, he said. “They are also fun for spectators to watch and we always pick the most striking music.”