Category Archives: Dance

African-American Dancers


There have been many great African-American dancers; I am just scratching the surface here, just mentioning the ones who most captured my attention.

Throughout my childhood, Sammy Davis, Jr. was frequently on television. As a member of the Rat Pack, he was a frequent guest on variety shows, specials, and late night talk shows.

Alvin Ailey was one of the most famous choreographers of modern dance. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and its school express the African-American experience through dance. Here is vintage footage of one of his pieces.

Gregory and Maurice Hines grew up performing tap dance routines together in night clubs. Then they danced together in Broadway musicals, and eventually in movies such as The Cotton Club and Eubie. A generation of children remember them from appearances on Sesame Street. When Gregory passed away in 2003, Maurice continued to perform. Here he talks about their partnership:

Nobody danced like Michael Jackson (though everybody tried). I could have done without the crotch-grabbing, but I admire his precision of movement. And the magic of the moonwalk. And can anyone forget “Thriller”?

Misty Copeland has the distinction of being the first African-American principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater. The video that follows is a clip from a documentary about her life.

Monday Morning Wisdom #297


I’d Rather Be Dancing Irish Folk Dances

I’d Rather Be Dancing Irish Folk Dances

If you’d told me last March that we wouldn’t be getting together to dance for more than ten months, I would probably have dug myself a hole and thrown myself into it. Here’s hoping, no, praying that a combination of masks, social distancing, and vaccination will help stop the spread of Covid-19 so we can begin to gather again soon. I’m forgetting every dance I used to know.

The Irish have some of the most beautiful folk dances. One that I love is actually a Texas line dance based on some Irish moves. Our Phoenix International Folk Dancers use an adaptation choreographed by Sue Steiger of the Prescott (AZ) International Folk Dancers. You’ll see that around the 1:45 mark the dancers join hands in a circle to dance the final patterns. (We were bored with keeping it a line dance all the way through.) We made this video last year as we were preparing for our annual Folk Dance Festival, which, sadly, didn’t happen, because, Covid. Sorry for the poor quality of the music—I didn’t realize I was holding my hand over the camera’s microphone while filming. Live and learn. Pot O’ Gold:

This is a beautiful performance by dancers who really know Irish dancing. See how erect they keep their bodies, and how their hands are mostly straight down. Sweets of May:

I’m used to doing Haste to the Wedding like this:

But I’m intrigued with this version of Haste to the Wedding danced by the Riverdance folks:

When I taught elementary general music, we had an Irish music unit in fifth (I think) grade, and I taught the kids this dance, Bridge of Athlone:

Those are all the Irish dances I personally know. But there are many more. Here’s An Rince Mor:

And here, the same music is used for Walls of Limerick. (Any jig or reel will do for most Irish dances):

Stack of Barley:

Haymaker’s Jig:

The Irish Washerwoman:

And who doesn’t love Irish step dancing—no music required:

Creative Juice #221

Creative Juice #221

Only one more week till Christmas.

I’d Rather Be Dancing English Folk Dances


England has many beautiful dances that date from as far back as medieval times. I was fortunate to be able to find videos of lovely performances, many by dancers in costume, on Andrew Carnie’s dance blog, Folk Dance Musings, a wonderful resource for international folk dancers which also contains detailed instructions for hundreds of dances.

Black Nag:

Haste to the Wedding. There are many versions of this dance throughout the British Isles. This one is English/American:

Hole in the Wall:

Wood Duck:

Sellinger’s Round:

Picking Up Sticks. Lots of intricate changing of positions in this one:

Margaret’s Waltz is in waltz time, but isn’t like an Austrian waltz:

St. Bernard’s Waltz came to England by way of Scotland. It is a more typical waltz, done in the round:

Dorset Reel. I don’t know why anyone would dance in the snow. I found another video where they did this dance on a beach, and I can’t think that would be any easier. And, apparently, it is customary to wear jingle bells while dancing this:

Cumberland Square Eight:

I’d Rather Be Dancing Danish Folk Dances


Today we go to Denmark in Scandinavia for our folk dances.

This Danish dance is one that is commonly used in the primary school classroom. My students loved it—lots of laughing. You’ll see why. Seven Jumps:

Bitte Mand i Knibe (Little Man in a Fix) has some interesting configurations:

Familie Sekstur (Family Circle) is a courtly dance that includes a grand right and left:

Masquerade starts out sedately, but the meter keeps changing, and soon there’s lively foot stomping:

Hornfiffen (Hornpipe) is a sailor’s dance:

In Sønderhoning, couples alternate between a promenade and a turning figure:

Totur is another mixer that uses the grand right and left. You also get to yell “Hey!”

I’m not sure if Jyllinge is the name of this dance or the place the video was filmed, but here is a nice student performance:

OctPoWriMo Day 17


Today’s prompt is dancing under the stars.

Dancing with the dog
the dog wants out
and I dance around the pool
weighed down with an extra 10 pounds
the result of staying at home
it used to be I’d dance for three hours every Tuesday night
now we don’t gather
so I’m limited to a few minutes under the stars
and music only I can hear
I sway right and left
touch heel and toe
one foot crosses over the other
and my fingers snap in rhythm
slowly I make my way around the pool
then slip into the backdoor
the dog prancing in behind me


I’d Rather Be Dancing Latin Dances


Back in the 1970s, I lived and taught in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, which had a large Puerto Rican community. Salsa dancing was all the rage. One of the teachers in our district taught a salsa class in the adult continuing education program, so of course I had to learn.

If you’d like to learn the basic salsa moves, watch this:

A few years ago, I used to do the Zumba classes at the gym, and a lot of the moves were taken from the merengue, a dance from the Dominican Republic.

Here’s how to do the basic merengue step:

Cumbia originated in Colombia with the African slaves during the Spanish colonialization. Watch the machetes.

Our Phoenix International Folk Dancers do a version called cumbia semana, choreographed by the American Ira Weisburd (well, we’re not doing it now, because we haven’t resumed gathering yet):

Paso doble actually came from France, but it is inspired by the bullfighters of Spain and Portugal, with maybe a touch of flamenco. Generally, it’s only seen in dance competitions.

Here’s more explanation about paso doble:

The tango from Argentina is characterized by leg extensions and can include intertwining of legs and deep dips. I’m showing you a G-rated version:

Without a doubt, Latin dances are among the most sensuous in the world.

Creative Juice #211

Creative Juice #211

Lots of interesting stuff, and a bit of beauty, too.

I’d Rather Be Dancing Croatian Folk Dances


I am embarrassed to admit that I needed to look up Croatia to find out where it is. It lies along the eastern edge of the Adriatic Sea; Italy lies on the western bank. People my age might remember Yugoslavia; Croatia was part of the former Yugoslavia.

The only Croatian dance I know is Moja Diridika:

I take it back. I also know Prosijala Sjajna Mjesecina, but I didn’t know the name and I didn’t know it’s Croatian. Such a calm dance:

Zeno is a lovely, easy dance with two sequences that alternate:

Vesela Je Sokadija allows you to do some foot stomping:

Sukacko Kolo is generally done in a circle; in this video, some couples are also dancing:

Rokoko Kolo was danced by Croatians who lived in Serbia. Andrew Carnie says they wore boots with spurs which made a satisfying rhythmic accompaniment (no spurs in the video, though; rats!):

Opsaj Diri. This appears to be an old video. I like that the ladies are singing as they dance:

Nabrala Je. This is an especially nice performance:

Licko Kolo is a “silent” dance, called that because no musical instruments play. The leader, however, sings the first few words of the song as a solo, and then the others join in 2-part harmony. In between repetitions of the song, the dance continues for four beats in silence. (There are many different versions of this dance, done to different tunes):

Kwadrilja is based on the Quadrille, borrowed from the French, who occupied the Dalmatian area of Croatia in the early 1800s. (You might want to go fullscreen for this video; click on the broken square in the lower right hand corner of the frame):

Do you agree that Croatia has a lovely and varied dance culture? I’d love to learn more Croatian dances.