Tag Archives: Folk Dancing

I’d Rather Be Dancing Irish Folk Dances

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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:

I’d Rather Be Dancing English Folk Dances

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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

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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:

Creative Juice #212

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Creative Juice #212

I much prefer these uplifting, creative articles to the news these days.

I’d Rather Be Dancing Croatian Folk Dances

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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.

I’d Rather be Dancing Austrian Folk Dances

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I’d Rather be Dancing Austrian Folk Dances

 

Southeastern Germany (especially Bavaria) shares a cultural history with Austria, and some of these dances are done on either side of the border.

Amerseer is a Schuhplattler:

In the Austrian Dreisteyer, two women vie for the attention of each man:

Bauernmadl means “Farm Girl”:

There are many versions of Dirndl Mit’m Roten Miader, depending on which village you’re from:

Folk dancing is not for wimps, as you can see by this performance of Tiroler Holzhacker (Tyrolian Wood Chopper), another Schuhplattler:

Ishler Ländler:

Pinzgauer Boarischer:

Kalser Masolka:

A Muhlradl is a flour grinding wheel; the dance reflects its name:

Treffnertanz:

I’d Rather Be Dancing Scottish Folk Dances

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I’d Rather Be Dancing Scottish Folk Dances

During this time of social distancing, our Phoenix International Folk Dancers have not been meeting. Our annual Folk Dance Festival, originally scheduled for March, was postponed indefinitely. I don’t know when our weekly dance venue will reopen.

But back when we were dancing, we did a few Scottish dances. One of our favorites is Domino 5.

Another Scottish dance in our repertoire is Road to the Isles. The handhold is all-important in this dance; it’s what makes the turn simple.

The rest of these dances are not familiar to me, but they are lovely.

1314 is a significant year in Scottish history; Robert the Bruce defeated the English invaders at the Battle of Bannockburn. The dance is characterized by a long, bouncing step, beautifully executed in this video.

St. Bernard’s Waltz has some graceful turns and a foot stamp feature:

Bonnie Anne reminds me of some of the Irish dances I’ve seen (think Riverdance) due to the erect stance, hands straight down, and pointed toes.

The Brittania Two-Step is done in formations of 3-person lines, going forward and backward, and the gent in the center turns his two partners under his arms.

In Catch the Wind, the head couple does most of the dancing.

In The Dashing White Sergeant, you get to change partners within your circle.

Eightsome Reel is a bit complicated. Dancers get a chance to improvise in the centers of their circles (macarena?). I see a recurring figure-eight pattern done by four dancers.

Some of the young people dancing this Military Two-Step kick very high; when senior citizens dance it, it’s slightly less athletic.

I’d Rather be Dancing African Folk Dances

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I’d Rather be Dancing African Folk Dances

At Phoenix International Folk Dancers, we only have two African dances in our repertoire. The first is Bela Kawe, a dance that originated from West African and Caribbean culture. The dance tells a story of two women who are having a friendly competition for a man’s attention. The first part of the dance represents the women trying to get the man’s attention, while the last part represents the warding off of any bad spirits that may be standing in the woman’s way. There are many different versions of Bele Kawe. This video is the closest to the way we dance it, but in our (Phyllis Weikert’s) choreography, the handwork is different; the women flourish their skirts, and the men place their hands on their own back pockets. They all clap on the fourth beat of each of the turns.

The other dance we do is Pata Pata, from South Africa. If you are as old as I am, you may remember when Miriam Makeba introduced the song and the dance in the mid 1960s.

Pata Pata means “touch, touch.” If you watch the backup dancers, at one point they pat various parts of their bodies. The version that PIFD does is decidedly less sensuous. Our version is often taught to school children, and it looks like this:

The only problem with the way we do Bele Kawe and Pata Pata is that they are white-people versions of African dances. What do African dances look like when they are danced by real African dancers?

Watch this performance by the Ama-Zebra Folk Dance Ensemble from South Africa:

African dances for the most part are vigorous and athletic. But some are graceful. Drums figure big in African dance music. Here are ten more dances:

The Tucson Folk Dance Club does an authentic Ghanaese dance, Pondogo:

Now it’s your turn. International folk dancers out there, does your group do any African dances? Do you have any African dances on YouTube? Please share in the comments below.

I’d Rather be Dancing Swedish Folk Dances

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640px-Flag_of_Sweden.svgLovely Sweden has many beautiful folk dances. Here are just a few.

Familijevals provides lots of opportunities for flirting.

Even though the video says Norway, I think this dance is actually Swedish. Far Ja Lov might mean May I Have This Dance.

This dance has two names: Klapperstycket and Fyrtur från Luggude. It showcases many figures used in folk dancing and square dancing.

Fjäskern (Hurry Scurry) gets faster with each repetition. Also, you change partners every repetition.

Gustaf’s skål (Gustav’s toast) is named after King Gustaf III of Sweden. The dance is appropriately courtly.

Two dances are demonstrated in this video. The first, Hambo, is considered the national dance of Sweden. The second, Väva Vadmal (The Weaver’s Dance) imitates the action of a loom.

Johan På Snippen, a mixer:

Långdans från Sollerön:

Mazurka till Marilyn:

Oxdans (Bull Dance) can be danced by two men or by multiple men in pairs. There are many versions, but they all involve intimidation and “fighting.”

Västgötapolska:

I’d Rather Be Dancing Greek Folk Dances

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Opa! I love the wonderful, joyful, vibrant dances of the Greeks. And to me, Syrtaki is the quintessential Greek dance, with the traditional instrumentation and the tempo changes.

Hasapiko is a very popular Greek dance. The basic hasapiko step finds its way into many Greek dances, including the one above.

My hands-down favorite Greek folk dance is Oniero Demeno, characterized by the hasapiko step (the basic step in the video above):

Another sweet dance that features the hasapiko step is Little Miss Greece. These dancers are some of my friends from Phoenix International Folk Dancers.

There are many Greek dances called Tsamikos. This is different from the Tsamikos PIFD does, but I especially like this video because the male dancers wear the traditional Greek men’s costume.

This version of Gerakina is a little different than our group does it, but it’s a very nice student performance. The lyrics of the song tell a traditional Greek story. Gerakina is a beautiful young woman who is a sought-after potential bride. Death was jealous of her and was determined to claim her. One day Gerafina went to the well for water, but lost her balance and fell in, her bracelets jingling on the way down. She cried for help, and a young man jumped in to save her, but their lifeless bodies had to be extracted by the villagers.

Tik is danced very close.

Thiakos alternates between two different patterns with distinct meters.

There are many Greek dances called Syrtos. Here is a basic one.

Syrtos Kitrinou has a hauntingly beautiful melody. The dance consists of a basic step and two variations.