Recreational Folk Dancing’s Inconvenient Truth – Comments and updates


5 thoughts on “Recreational Folk Dancing’s Inconvenient Truth – Comments and updates

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  1. Thank you for your long detailed explanation about recreational folk dancing. I was introduced to folk dancing at Folk Dance House, as a young child. I thought, at that time, that the dances were actual dances done in the countries where the music originated. Today bands experiment and borrow music, so styles of music and dance are shuffled and confusing in their origins. People who decided to dedicate their lives to promoting recreational folk dancing, had to do research so they could choreograph dances to teach and sell them at camps and workshop groups. It has become a form of recreation that is non-strenuous, yet aerobic activity and healthy for mind and body. Folk dancing is appropriate for all age groups so people can enjoy the variety of styles and intensities of dances throughout their lifespan, The dance leaders just need to choose appropriate dances that suit the participants and leave them wanting more.


  2. Rating the ethnic purity of folkdaces sticks me as a ridiculous and needless complication. Why don’t we just call recreational folk dancing, “ethnically inspired dancing,” and leave it at that. We can leave the issues of ethnic purity to the sociologists!
    That said, I think most folk dancers realize that their dances have been choreographed for the pleasure of the recreational dancer. Dick Crum had a wonderful role play he would do to show how ethnic dances evolved to some of the things we do. John Semmlow


  3. Don: “I agree “Ayde More” is a great CD, it also has the music for Roberto Bagnoli’s choreography for Kerem Eyle on it.
    It’s true many choreographed ballroom dances have become folk dance standards in their home country. Serbia, for instance, as written up in my article on Ballroom Kolos. It seems all of those mentioned by you and me were created for the middle and upper classes and filtered “down”. I don’t know of any created out of country that filtered “over”, do you?
    I’m not saying dances can’t be ‘created’, I just don’t know of one ‘created’ outside of the culture (with a ‘recreational’ fixed format) that has been accepted inside, where dances commonly don’t have fixed formats. If Çobankat becomes a dance that Albanians consider their own, I’ll be happy to call it an ‘authentic’ Albanian dance.


  4. This latest reiteration of an old theme is quite nice, although a more nuanced terminology on the part of some of those you quote would be nice. Some dances whose origins were choreographies became traditional. A good example would be the Hungarian dance Golya (the stork). It is a couple dance done in Varsovienne position, and was choregraphed in the 19th century for urban Hungarians so they could feel Hungarian, but maintain their dignity. It was done to a tune resembling the Battle hymn of the Republic (there is a common source for this – I had a long discussion with Dick Crum over it). The dance became popular among the peasantry in Northeastern Hungary and among the the mountain Hungarians of the Eastern Carpathians (the instrumentation is very local and a bit jarring to hear). It is now a “real dance” for them for over 140 years, much as the Táncház crowd would like to disown it. On a less obscure front, there are all those Russian ballroom folk dances that were created in the 19th century by dancing masters with the same motives as our current teachers, yet Karapyet, Kohanochka, etc. were eventually embraced by Russians outside of classrooms and brought here. But why get so exotic; sometimes the tradition IS to create new dances – American Contra Dancing is not fake – there are certain regular figures, but it is traditional for a caller to make new arrangements. I would argue that that is the Israeli tradition now. Where I certainly found myself in total agreement is calling a choreography totally out of character for the country the music comes from as being from that country. Cultural appropriation is the term for it, as you said.
    p.s.: by the way, Brenna MacCrimmon, one of the singers on the Çobankat recording, is Canadian; I am not sure she gave permission for the dissemination of that recording. I have the Kalan label original – it is a great disc.


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