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The Most Popular Bar Mitzvah Dancer in Boston

Dave Heard makes $450 a simcha while trying to make it to Broadway

Stephanie Butnick
May 30, 2014

The best thing on the Internet today, without a doubt, is the Boston Globe’s profile of Dave Heard, a 32-year-old Broadway-aspiring dancer and personal trainer with a surprising weekend business: bar mitzvahs. The in-demand bar mitzvah entertainer (“motivator,” to be exact) spends his Saturday nights pumping up the crowd, dancing with moms, and making shy sure seventh graders have the time of their lives.

Heard has worked more than 100 bar and bat mitzvahs, where he can make up to $450 a gig. And from the glowing reviews of bar mitzvah-goers, it sounds like he’s worth every penny.

Heard has studied at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and toured internationally with “Hairspray” and “Dreamgirls.” But he’s 32 already, and he knows that if he’s going to make it to the Broadway stage, he needs to get there soon. He’d love to play Simba in “The Lion King,” or the Ugandan doctor in “The Book of Mormon.” But this Saturday night found him earning a living at an event space in Foxborough, tripping the light fantastic with the bat mitzvah girl’s mother, Robin Milstein, 50, of Needham.

“He makes every Jewish woman with four left feet feel like she can dance,” she gushed, high from their pas de deux to “Put Your Hands in the Air,” glow stick shining around her neck, her heels long ago kicked off. “Oh my God, he’s so much fun!”

The introduction of the bar mitzvah dancer, which was well underway by the time I was attending bar mitzvahs on Long Island in the early aughts, is just one piece of the trend toward big, lavish parties for 13-year-olds (after they read from the Torah in the morning, of course). Now there are the over-the-top videos, with production values rivaling those of music videos, the high-wattage stars hired to appear, and even the $10 million bat mitzvah.

Still, it’s good, steady business for Heard. Plus he’s got the routine down by now: “‘I’ll hear who has a crush on who, who plays what sports, who’s waiting for a text,’ he said. ‘I will usually key into who has the gravitational pull. I’ll buddy-buddy with them, if I can get them on my side, everyone will follow.’”

Just please be careful doing the hora, okay?

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.