Tag Archives: Folk Dancing

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.

I’d Rather Be Dancing Armenian Folk Dances

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Armenia_(orthographic_projection).svg

Armenia is located in western Asia. It is bordered on the west by Turkey, on the North by Georgia, on the east by Azerbaijan, and on the south by Iran. It was the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion in the late third century. One hundred years ago, during World War I, Armenians living in their ancestral lands were exterminated in the Armenian Genocide.

Armenia has a rich musical and dance heritage. My very favorite Armenian dance is Sirun Aghchik, which is also known by the English translation of the name, Sweet Girl. This wonderful video includes instruction by Tom Bozigian. Pinkies are joined.

My second favorite Armenian dance is Armenian Miserlou, Racine version. I found these notes by Michael Kuharski on Folk Dance Musings:

This dance was developed by Tondee Akgoulian and her family in the 1960’s in Racine, Wisconsin. The Akgoulian family band played for Armenian weddings, parties, picnics, and other events in southeastern Wisconsin for a number of years. This dance was apparently developed for the dance group which sometimes performed with the band. The dance is a mixture of steps found in other Armenian dances done at that time. This description represents the version of the dance currently done in the international folkdance community of Madison, Wisconsin.

My third favorite Armenian dance is Yar Ko Parag. The music is so haunting.

My fourth favorite Armenian dance is Ooska Gookas (also spelled Uske Gugas).

Those are the only Armenian dances I know personally. Luckily, I found lots of videos of other Armenian Dances on Folk Dance Musings.

Very graceful: Aghcheekneroo Par.

Beautiful Armenian costumes in this video: Beejo.

A simple dance, Eench Eenamaee.

A couple dance, Eloo Yar:

Guhnega. This is an old video, and the dancers’ heads are cut off for much of it (but you only need to see their feet, don’t you).

Haire Mamougeh. This is a wedding dance. The two lines represent the two in-law families.

I’d Rather Be Dancing Roma Folk Dances

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The Roma people are bands of nomads who originated in India but have migrated world-wide. It is estimated there are 5 million Roma today, but it’s hard to verify, since they are by definition itinerant and aren’t generally counted in censuses. They are sometimes known as gypsies, a term that is disliked for its pejorative connotations.

The Roma people are accomplished musicians and dancers. The composer Franz Liszt was deeply influenced by the Roma music he heard. And folk dancers cherish the dances in Roma style.

Mahala Mori Shej, performed at the Phoenix International Folk Festival in 2018:

Chaj Zibede:

Chef is a Roma dance from Romania:

Chikulata Chickita is a Greek Roma dance:

Cine Are Noroc Are is a Roma dance from Romania with an interesting toe-heel figure:

Dana is another Roma dance from Romania. Listen for the call of the loon in the beginning of the music:

E Shukar Romnji is a Roma dance from Hungary:

Mori Shej is another Roma dance from Hungary:

Opa Cupa is a Roma dance from Serbia:

Phiravelman Kalyi Phuv is a Roma dance from Macedonia:

Sherianqe (to the song Ketri Ketri) is a Roma dance from Albania:

I’d Rather Be Dancing French Folk Dances

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At Phoenix International Folk Dancers we recently had a guest teacher, the remarkable Karen Faust, who taught us this French Folk Dance (so much fun!). Branle Gai Alsacien:

Which made me wonder, what other French dances do I know?

An Dro Retourne:

Le Laridé. I remember this music, but I don’t think I ever actually learned the steps. Apparently, there are several versions of this dance, and it’s done to several different pieces of music.

Bannielou Lambaol is often taught to children because it is quite simple:

Branle Normand. I suspect this might have been filmed at a Dutch Orff Shulwerk class. I’m basing this guess solely on the fact that the instructor is keeping time with a tone block, a typical elementary general music class instrument.

I am not sure if Bourée å deux temps is the name of the dance or of the band which is playing:

This video shows beautiful performances of several French folk dances, but I don’t know the names of any of them:

The last three dances are actually French Canadian, but I’m including them with the French dances.

Les Salut is another dance commonly taught to children.

Le Brandy:

La Bastringue:

I’d Rather Be Dancing German Folk Dances

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I’d Rather Be Dancing German Folk Dances

My heritage is German. My father grew up in Bavaria. My mother was from Silesia, which after World War II became part of Poland. My parents met in Berchtesgaden, married in 1951, emigrated to the United States in 1952, and I was born that November. I’ve always had a special love for the land of my ancestors, full of beauty and culture. Germany has many beautiful and whimsical folk dances.

First up is one the Phoenix International Folk Dancers do, D’hammerschmiedsg’selln, which means “the blacksmith.” It’s also taught to schoolchildren.

Kreuz König. Watch the groups in the back—the girls go airborne!

Mein Mann ist gefahren ins Heu (Man in the Hay):

Marklander:

Nickeltanz:

A Ländler is a dance popular in Austria, Bavaria, and the German-speaking part of Switzerland. This is the Niederbayrischer Ländler (meaning that it comes from lower Bavaria):

One of the more well-known Ländlers in the United States would be the one that Maria danced with Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. You can see the some of the same styling as in the previous video, with the hand-clapping and the turns and the positions of the arms:

Sauerländer Quadrille #5:

Rheinländer:

Reit im Winkl is named for the town in Bavaria where the dance originated. It is a Schuhplattler, in which the men do a lot of stamping and slapping of thighs, knees, and shoes:

Schuhplatten is so much fun that Conan O’Brien went all the way to Germany to learn how:

“First the work, then the fun.” Yes, every German and German-American kid has heard that.