Aaron was dancing even before he was born! His parents, Maxine and Dale, met while Israeli folk dancing at UCLA's Hillel, and they brought Aaron up in the same tradition. Aaron attended his first camp, Dani Dassa's Rikud, in Simi Valley, CA, in 1988 at the age of 2 months, although he remembers very few of the dances from that particular camp. Some of Aaron's fondest childhood memories are of going with his dad while he taught rikudei am in the Los Angeles area — Tuesday nights at Cafe Danssa, Temple Akiba and Temple Adat Elohim religious schools, UJ (now known as the AJU) elder hostel, and so on. In those days, Aaron had great fun being the "remote control," running to the tape deck to play and pause the music.
In 1997, Aaron first started going to Camp Alonim, an overnight Jewish summer camp in Simi Valley, CA. Dancing was (and still is) a big part of Alonim's culture, and there, Aaron really began to expand his repertoire, learning the newest and most popular dances of the time. Aaron enjoyed dance technique competitions David Dassa would hold (for a prize worth more than gold to campers... a can of Coke!), and Melaveh Malkah performances of Debka D'ror (with face paint and tiki torches) and Joshua (in which Aaron "tore down" the walls of Jericho). Erica Goldman also contributed to Aaron's camp experience, teaching him the important lesson that you don't need to know a dance to do a dance.
Aaron did little dancing in his last two years of high school as he focused on theater, but he quickly returned to it in college. His first semester, he signed up for the Israeli Dance DeCal at UC Berkeley, and by the next semester, he was one of the instructors. In that first semester, Spring 2007, in which he co-taught with Matt Cohen, Dana Ginger, Jessie Levine, and Elana Neshkes, Aaron taught three dances: Hora Nirkoda (it would be nice if this website were in fact named after the first dance Aaron ever taught, but the real reason is more pedestrian — it was the only Israeli dance related URL available), Shabbat Menucha, and Eilat. In later years, the teaching staff became dominated by engineering majors-TDPS minors. Aaron especially enjoyed bringing Israeli dancing to his engineering society, Tau Beta Pi. (By the way, apologies to Rebecca Powell, who was forced to endure many long conversations about the best way to build a robot capable of Yemenite steps and the like.)
Around this time, Aaron also started attending a small session in Kensington, just north of Berkeley. Loui Tucker had just let go of that session, and a committee took over. Unlike most harkadot, this one has a rotating set of teachers and DJs. In Jan. 2009, Aaron was invited to teach Tizaher Mimena and Ahava Tenatzeach, and program. He was pretty much terrified of DJing for the first time, but with Eliana Bukofzer's help, managed to get through it. He is now part of the regular rotation, and he is even on the committee. After becoming more confident with his programming skills, Aaron was asked to sub for the larger South Bay sessions.
Aaron graduated from Cal and moved to San Jose to start work as a mechanical engineer. About this time, Shirley Smith moved to Los Angeles, giving her Thursday session to Karina Lambert. Karina discontinued the monthly Saturday session she had been doing, and Aaron created a new Saturday session. He connected with the local Hillel at Stanford and worked with them to start an almost-monthly dance party, which he called Nirkoda! @Stanford. Only then did Aaron truly begin to appreciate the nightmarish amount of logistics that go in to running a session — finding a venue, advertising, building a website(!), buying equipment, simultaneously making the music louder and quieter, arranging for food, and so on. Aaron likes to use it as an opportunity to play slightly different dances than the group typically does — things that perhaps have fallen out of the weekly repertoire — while ensuring that everyone has the chance to do their tried and true favorites. Nirkoda! grew in success, and after 10 months, Aaron had to find a larger floor. After moving to Congregation Etz Chayim, the session was simply called Nirkoda!
In September 2016, Aaron invited Nona Malki from Vancouver, BC, to guest teach at his first workshop, Nirkoda Mi'Nona. The odd title, literally translated "let's dance from Nona," was due to his poor Hebrew and very mild dyslexia — he meant Nirkoda Im Nona, which means, "let's dance with Nona." The workshop featured 87 attendees; dances taught by Nona, Loui Tucker, Karina Lambert, and Latishya Steele; and DJing by Aaron. The event was a hit, and Aaron used it as a jumping-off point to announce Nirkoda Ba'Kerem, a full Israeli dance camp scheduled for October 2017. Unfortunately, the venue, URJ Camp Newman, burned in the Sonoma County fires three weeks prior to the event, causing its cancellation. A year later, Aaron planned another workshop, properly titled Nirkoda Im Ohad, with guest choreographer Ohad Atia, at which he announced the reboot of Nirkoda Ba'Kerem in November 2019. This time, the camp happened at the beautiful and not-on-fire Wonder Valley Ranch and Resort in Sanger, CA, and was a smashing success.
In the mean time, Aaron also began teaching Israeli dances for the international folk dance community. He brought Holech U'va to the November 2017 Officers' Ball in Hayward, CA, and Hora to Lucy Chang's December 2017 Moveable Feet party. All of this lead up to his joining the 2018 faculty for the Stockton Folk Dance Camp, which is the longest-running folk dance camp in North America. After that, he continued to teach at the Mendocino Folklore Camp in 2019 and Laguna Festival in 2020. He looks forward to learning even more wonderful dances from around the world, as well as sharing those from Israel.
As COVID-19 hit and changed the world of folk dance, Aaron adapted by moving much of his dance efforts to an online platform. He is a regular leader at the Chicago Virtual Israeli Dance session, a markid at the Global 24-Hour Marathon, and the co-founder, along with Orly Star from Los Angeles, of the weekly Zoom-Cali session. He was even faculty at the fully virtual Stockton 2020 camp!
Aaron is still wildly enthusiastic about Israeli dance! He loves the community, the people, and of course, the dancing itself. So, come try Camp Nirkoda Ba'Kerem and the Nirkoda! Saturday session. Kadima!