A new approach to recreational folk dancing – Phase 4?


3 thoughts on “A new approach to recreational folk dancing – Phase 4?

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  1. I started folk dancing with my parents, who brought me to the family day dances that were held at Folk Dance House for children. Mary Ann Herman combined folk dancing and craft activities so that everyone was involved. The dances were specially chosen or designed to be easy for parents to learn and do along with a child. When I was finally a teen, I was admitted into the teen group, without my parents present. The dances were taught each week, until we developed a full repertoire. When I grew to an adult, I went on weekend workshops to learn dances from choreographers , who researched the dances from other countries and recorded the music to fit on records, tapes and then on CD’s. I have them all. It is overwhelming. Engineers from universities finally transferred the music to computers, so no more record boxes or tapes to carry.

    While I was in grade school,Dr.Richard Kraus was the Dean of Recreation for the NYC Board of Education we were introduced to square and folk dancing in gym class. Now it is gone from the curriculum of most schools. We were taught to appreciate dance from varied cultures. I worked 4 years ago,as a therapist in a middle school, that brought in Mexican dance teachers to teach the students and make a performance. They opened rehearsals to parents in the Latin community, Another school hosted an Asian dance performance. Folk and square dancing teaches social grace and etiquette similar to ballroom dance. Actually, my college had two folk dance clubs that had a large group, until the mid 1970’s. After school I would grab a snack and travel to Columbia University twice a week for the Israeli and International folk dance groups. Now some colleges have ballroom dance teams teams. One of my sons became pretty proficient in ballroom at Carnegie Mellon University. the younger generation does not identify with the old recorded music. Many of the dances have been re-recorded to be more up to date.

    A few months before the COVID shut down, I began teaching beginners in senior groups in Delaware. Of course the groups were small since they only met once a month. Then I began teaching weekly International and Israeli dance on Zoom. Well there were many difficulties with the technology at first but it has been working for me and other leaders.to hold us through the pandemic. We thought we were over the hump and could resume our in-person groups by now, but now the Delta Variant is keeping dancers home again.,Yet some are will in to meet in-person with masks. I try to keep up with all the new dances, but find it impossible. These recreational dances are like Latin Line routines, that have become very popular around the world. No one touches anyone. Everyone social distances from others. The dances are perfect for zoom classes since no circle or partner is needed, only a small space and 4-walls.

    In conclusion I find that folk dancing needs to be introduced to school aged children if we want to get younger people involv,ed. I was once a participant in a folk dance event in Central Park , Manhattan, that was sponsored by Pepsi Cola, to have each neighborhood playground perform a folk dance and then come together to all do the same dance or two,as a finale. In Israel the young children have annual dance festivals that are mainly interpretive choreographies, that are very different from folk dancing.The kibbutzim and colleges have large dance groups , attended by middle aged adults with a few younger people sprinkled in. In South America there are Israeli leaders teaching Israeli dance to young people who are searching for a way to socialize in a safe environment, with similar people.


  2. As a 20 year old emerging RIFD leader, I am acutely aware of these challenges. I am pioneering a folk dance group at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. I will be using many of these ideas, including varying my music and including a mix of dances for beginners and intermediate dancers. Thank you for your insights and keep the blog posts coming!


  3. I am delighted that you mentioned using alternative music. I danced with a group many years ago that did not do Tsamiko at all. When i asked for it , they humored my by putting their only recording – a ghastly, scratchy thing that no Greek would want to dance to , either. Generally, as you say, if a dance has no alternative music, then it may be just a choreography. However, there are village dances that have 2 parts and can only be done to one melody. Kalendara and Čiro, for example.

    Music, for me, is part of the problem for many people. A dance may be not that hard, but if all you know is American music, some styles can be off putting. One woman in our group told me some years ago that she really didn’t like the music to any of the dances we did, she just liked the exercise. Even on a less extreme level, I never liked Pontic Greek dances until about 12 years ago, mainly because of the music. Now I collect the music, and lover the dances. Not every group has access to better-recorded and performed versions. Also, some older groups actually prefer the old scratchy versions, just like some people have a pair of worn out old shoes they won’t part with. In that case, keep trying. I could never get Dick Crum’s Hora Boiereasca going until i finally landed on a group of 4-5 recordings that folks liked. Vlainja (or Stara Vlainja) is a great, important dance still done in east Serbia – by young folks at weddings. i can guarantee that the old folk dancer tune that was used 50 years ago is in the collection, justly unused, of nearly every folk dance group of any age. The versions they use among the Vlachs in East Serbia now, and over the last 50 years, are bright and fun. Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJk-QaeBEww&list=PLIUHMuuuACiNNPJ7FUTCJSD5teiTLEbwq&index=5

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