Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dancing in Spring

Spring is here and it's popping up everywhere!
The weather of the Northern Hemisphere is enticing us to come out and play - even dance!

And what better time for a folk dance than now?

In fact around the world there are many folk dance festivals taking place. Here are a few that are happening here in the United States:

=Festival 2010 Kyklos International Folk Dancers in Portland Oregon.
= Salt Spring Island Folk Dance Festival in B.C. Canada
= Arcata International Folk Dance Festival 2010 in Bayside, California
= Israel Folkdance Festival in Boston, Mass.

Historically, folk dance require little if any professional training. A social function activity, it is linked to traditional music or music based on traditional music.

Anyone remember those western folk dance segments in physical education classes? It was the only time our all-girl class interacted with the boys. We gathered together in the multi-purpose room and dosy-dood with boys to the tune of the Walbash Cannon Ball. We all blushed as we were swung or were swinging our partners around.

I think it's interesting that those country folk dances always paired us up, girl/boy. And, as much as I hated to admit it, it was fun at the same time it was corny.

What's interesting is that no one ever told us that country dances and ballroom dances originated from folk dances. Apparently, over time the folk dances became more specific and refined.

Would it have mattered to me as a 7th grader? Probably not.

Sometimes folk dance does make it to the stage for public performance purposes. But in that case it is choreographed for specific results. I'm thinking specifically of what you might see in a musical like OKLAHOMA.

People familiar with folk dancing can often determine what country a dance is from even if they have not seen that particular dance before. Some countries' dances have features that are unique to that country, although neighboring countries sometimes have similar features. For example, the German and Austrian schuhplattling dance consists of slapping the body and shoes in a fixed pattern, a feature that few other countries' dances have.

Folk dances sometimes evolved long before current political boundaries, so that certain dances are shared by several countries. For example, some Serbian, Bulgarian, and Croatian dances share the same or similar dances, and sometimes even use the same name and music for those dances.

I've noticed a resurgence lately of ethnic folk dance groups and classes at community centers and colleges. Mostly, though, its the older crowd who takes the time to attend. The dance is easy without being heavily aerobic. And because it's non-professional it's okay to mess up every now and then.

For the young teens who must still face a section of folk dance there are the now-common Greek, Israeli or Middle Eastern dances. Or maybe something from the Slavic region that didn't require any real one-to-one contact. All the students have to do is stand in a circle holding hands; managing all the while to keep their eyes on the ground just ahead of them.

Now that's my kind of dance!


  1. You've reminded me of how much I once loved to dance. I even took belly dancing classes if you can believe that! I also attended drumming circles and would dance the night away to the South African rhythms. I've got to get back to doing that. It's great for the body and soul.

  2. What fun. I live near Portland and will have to make an effort to get to the festival.

  3. I had forgotten about the dancing classes during phys. ed. in middle school. Reflecting on it sure gave me a chuckle - all of the nervous boys and girls who wanted to die of embarassment. Thank goodness we grow up and don't think of each other as having "cooties" anymore.

    Allison Maslan

  4. Yvonne,
    Dancing really is 'good medicine' and the dance you describe here is definitely folk dance. Let me know if you get back into dance....

  5. Penny,
    If you are interested, I'd love to have you write a guest blog about the Oregon dance festival.
    Your thoughs?

  6. Allison,
    Yep, embarrassing is the operative word. I remember having crushes on a few of the boys and I remember (sadly) those boys and girls that everyone wanted to avoid because they didn't fit the "pretty" paradigm. Gawd! Am I glad those days are over!

  7. Don't remember any dancing in PE classes, but your post reminded me of when I went to 6th grade camp and we had to square dance. Haven't thought of that in years!

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Susanne. I imagine the 6th grade camp square dancing that you did was similar (only w/out the grades!).

  9. Karen,

    "country dances and ballroom dances originated from folk dances"...this is an important part of our cultural history. I grew up on old-fashioned square-dancing. My father played violin and called. One winter we cleared the furniture out of two rooms of our home to hold dances twice a month.

    I love that you're covering all aspects of folk art in all its glory and media.

    Janet Riehl

  10. Janet
    OMG! You've got to share some of your folk dance stories... especially the twice monthly dances!

  11. Dance! How much fun, especially folk dances. Here in Kentucky, clogging is a folk dance that has carried over from generation to generation. Folk dances are beautiful.

    I want to mention, too, how I enjoyed the blog talk radio program.


  12. Nancy,
    Clogging is a natural fit for the Kentucky area as Kentucky was a popular destination for people of Irish/Scottish descent who brought this vital folk dance form with them.
    I have noticed here in California that there is an increased interest in clogging; especially related to the Scottish Games which are a big hit here.
    Best, Karen

  13. My husband and I just went to a dance instruction the other night...something we have been talking about doing for years. It was a great time even though it wasn't folk dancing. I would also be interested in finding out about the Scottish games

  14. Boy, did your post bring back memories. My sixth-grade teacher did a unit on folk dances with our class for phys. ed. I remember loving learning the steps and calls, and the disappointment of being partnered with my "crush" only to discover he would be dancing more with his "corner" than with me. LOL In college, international folk dancing was one of the phys. ed. offerings, and the most enjoyable class that semester. Thanks for the memories, Karen. Glad to have met you through the blog chain. -- Donna B. Russell

  15. Donna,
    Those were the days, weren't they?
    Folk dancing really is a universal pleasure.
    Thanks for stopping by!