If you know Misirlou through popular culture, you may recognize it as the theme song of Pulp Fiction:
However, its true beginnings are a lot less violent.
In an article for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on May 15, 1980, Marcia Bennett wrote:
A professor of eurhythmics, the study of music through movement, Mrs. [Brunhilde] Dorsch [of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh] said she developed the misirlou dance with the help of a young pharmacy student who enrolled in her class in the mid-1940s.
The student was of Greek origin and attempted to demonstrate a folk dance called the kritikos without benefit of music.
“She told me there was no music for the original dance so I had to improvise,” Mrs. Dorsch says. The closest she could come to the tempo was an Arabian serenade called misirlou, meaning “love song.” The dance was modified by slowing the tempo and softening the motions, “and it took off,” she says.
The dance became popular with the university’s Tamburitzans who performed it around the world, including Greece. It seemed so at home on the Mediterranean peninsula that it was quickly adopted as the country’s own invention.
During a performance in 1962, guitarist Dick Dale accepted a bet from a young fan that he could not play a song on only one string of his guitar. Dale’s father and uncles were Lebanese-American musicians, and Dale remembered seeing his uncle play Misirlou on one string of the oud, a middle eastern instrument. He arranged Misirlou for one string of the guitar and increased the song’s tempo to turn it into a rock and roll piece. It was Dale’s “surf rock” version that introduced Misirlou to a wider audience in the United States. Misirlou was also recorded by the Beach Boys on the Surfing USA album, released in 1963.
I have a little bit of a connection with this story. My first three semesters of college starting in August 1970 were at Duquesne University. Music majors were required to take two years of eurhythmics to satisfy their physical education requirement. My teacher was Mrs. Dorsch, and folk dancing was part of her eurhythmics program. That was my first exposure to folk dancing.
Mrs. Dorsch was beloved for her annual Christmas party. She would instruct and call dances for us all night.
In addition to teaching at the university level, Mrs. Dorsch also taught Head Start and often commented that her preschool students were much better dancers than we were.
Mrs. Dorsch retired from Duquesne University in 1980 after 42 years of service.
I have an ulterior motive for compiling this post. I love ballet, but haven’t taken a class since the late 1970s. And I probably won’t. But I’m jealous of the strength these petite little dancers have.
I haven’t even done my folk dancing since November, because of my arthritis. The only place I can move without pain is the pool, so I’ve been in it a lot since the weather warmed up. I’ll be having hip replacement surgery next week, then six weeks of physical therapy. And eventually, I’ll be able to ease into dancing again. And I’d like to add ballet exercises to my workout rotation. So, I’m looking for YouTube videos.
And I’m generously sharing them with you.
(Some of these exercises will be forbidden for a while—risk of dislocation; so if you’ve just had hip replacement surgery, follow your doctor’s orders.)
The video below has an annoying purple rectangle blocking it. Click your cursor on its upper right corner to get rid of it.
So, do you think you’ll try some of these ballet exercise routines? Is this article helpful to you? Please click the “Like” button and share on all your social media. Thanks!
If you’ve been reading ARHtistic License, you know I’m an avid folk dancer (though I’m out of commission right now, due to arthritis—hip replacement surgery coming up soon). Besides being fun, it’s excellent exercise, especially for the brain. Folk dancing celebrates culture and beauty. It also necessarily involves one of my other loves—music.
Because it’s one of my passions, I regularly scour the internet looking for dances, dance instructions, and folk costumes. Here are some of the best resources I’ve found:
- Folk Dance Musings. Curated by Andrew Carnie, this is the #1 best resource I’ve found for dance videos and dance instructions. The alphabetical list includes hundreds of dances from countries all over the world. Carnie embeds videos and gives detailed instructions, names the music commonly used for the dance, and often gives a brief history of the choreography. He also provides links for further information.
- Folk Dance Federation of California. Lists dance events happening in California, plus instructions for many dances, and other resources.
- Folk Dance Federation of California, South. Includes an extensive bibliography on folk dancing, and complete texts of many articles.
- Phoenix International Folk Dancers. This is the group I dance with. Check it and the PIFD Facebook page if you’re in (or planning to visit) the greater Phoenix area. Come dance with us!
- YouTube, of course, is the place to look for folk dance videos. Roy Butler has posted hundreds.
- Pinterest is another source for folk dance visuals. Two places to try: my Folk Dance Costumes board and my Folk Dance Videos board.
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