Monday, April 8, 2019

Staro Vino Rocked the House!

We partied in Petaluma on April 6, dancing to old and new recorded favorites followed by fabulous live Balkan music by Staro Vino!

Peter Bonos on Trumpet, Greg Jenkins on clarinet, Andrew Cohen on accordion, and Mark Jenkins on percussion

Eve O'Rouke leading a Thracian Racenica:

Steve Ayala leading a Pravo:

Monday night folk dancing continues through May 6 (no class April 29), then starts up again for summer dancing June 3-August 5. Come dance with us!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Going Greek this Month

This month in Petaluma I'm focusing on teaching Greek dances that illustrate the breadth of different styles and rhythms from four regions in the small country of Greece:

  • Chaniotikos is a lively and fun Cretan syrto that I learned when I was at a dance seminar on the island of Ikaria, from a teacher from Crete who was very specific about styling.
  • Zagorisios is a wonderful dance in 9/8 rhythm (QQQS) from Epirus.
  • Sofka is danced in Greek Macedonia, in northern Greece.
  • Dipat (sometimes spelled Dhipat) is a beautiful, hypnotic Pontic dance in 9/8 rhythm (QQQS), danced very close together in a closed circle.
  • I learned the last three dances when I was at a dance seminar in the town of Prespa, in Greek Macedonia. 

And just to mix it up, next month I'll be teaching two Israeli folk dance favorites: Darkenu (Gadi Bitton, 2002) and Liya (Moshe Eskayo, 2007).

Come dance! You can drop-in any time for International Folk Dance on Mondays 7-9:15 p.m. at Hermann Sons Hall,m 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma or Israeli Folk Dance on Thursdays 1:30-4 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, 200 N, San Pedro Road, San Rafael. Beginners and newcomers are always welcome.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Start the New Year Dancing!

You've partied and indulged and eaten holiday treats - now's the perfect time to plan your dancing routine for 2019. Dancing is great fun, great exercise, and great community. Here's my schedule for classes in the new year:

  • International Folk Dancing in Petaluma: Mondays, 7-9:15 p.m., January 7-May 6 (no class April 22) at Hermann Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma; $85 for the 17-week session, or $7 drop-in.
  • International Folk Dance Class at College of Marin: Wednesdays 2:10-3:30 p.m., February 6-March 6 & April 3-May 8, at PE#60, Kentfield Campus, College of Marin; $68 per 6-week session; register in advance at 415-484-9305 or
  • Israeli Folk Dance Class: Thursdays, 1:30-4 p.m., January 3-February 14 (no class January 24), February 21-March 28, & April 4-May 16 (no class May 9) at the 2nd floor Pilates Studio, Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael; $30 members, $40 non-members per session or $8/$10 drop-in
Newcomers, beginning to advanced are always welcome; no partner is necessary. Please feel free to contact me at if you have questions.

I hope to see you on the dance floor in 2019!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bulgarika Ensemble Rocks the House!

It’s party time in Petaluma! Bulgarika Ensemble played for our dancing pleasure on October 22. Musicians Donka Koleva, Nicolai Koleva, Stoyan Kostov, and Michael Ginsburg regaled us with fabulous music including a beautiful version of Zapevela Sojka Ptica featuring Michael on trumpet and a wild Shopkska Racenica that started out deceptively slowly and then pushed our dancing limits.  

All photos by George Wiltshire

Coming up next month on Monday, December 10, 7-9:30 p.m., we’re very pleased to host Peter Bonos and Friends, a 5-member band including musicians from Staro Vino and Fanfare Zambaleta, at our Annual Holiday Folk Dance Party. Come dance with us at Hermann Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Party Season in Petaluma

You're invited to two fabulous folk dance parties at Hermann Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma!

  • Special Folk Dance Party with the four master musicians of Bulgarika Ensemble on Monday, October 22, 7-9:30 p.m.
  • Annual Petaluma Holiday Folk Dance Party with live music by Peter Bonos and Friends on Monday, December 10, 7-9:30 p.m.
Everyone is welcome to come dance and/or just listen to the fabulous music. Admission is $12, and includes refreshments.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Fall 2018 Folk Dancing!

Lots of opportunities to folk dance this fall:

Petaluma Folk Dancing on Mondays 7-9:15 p.m. at Hermann Sons Hall, 860 Webster, Petaluma will start up on September 10 through December 10. I'll be teaching some fun new dances including Repasseado, a Portuguese dance from the Bal Folk dance scene in Europe; Kukuneshte, a Bulgarian dance I learned from Petr Ileuv this summer; and Zimuska, a lovely Russian dance choreographed by Hennie Kings. The evening always starts with a special beginner lesson at 7 p.m., followed by an intermediate/advanced lesson, and then dancing to requests. The dances are fun, great exercise, and danced to a wonderful assortment of world music. 

My College of Marin International Folk Dance class at the Kentfield campus will have two fall sessions on Wednesdays 2:10-3:30 p.m.: August 19 to October 10 (no class September 19) and October 24 to December 5 (no class November 21). For this class, you need to register in advance at or by calling 415-495-9305.

Israeli Folk Dancing on Thursdays, 1:30-4 p.m., at the Osher Jewish Community Center, 200 N. San Pedro Road, will have two fall sessions: September 6-October 11 and October 18-November 29 (no class November 21). I'll be teaching Mamri'im, Al Gemali, Lev Patuach, and lots more. You don't have to be a JCC member (or Jewish) to attend the class. The first hour I'll teach easy beginning/intermediate dances, followed by an intermediate/advanced lesson, and then dancing to requests. You can come just for the first hour or stay for the whole class.

All the classes are a great way to get started, return to, or just keep on folk dancing in a friendly, energetic, and welcoming environment. Everyone is welcome - all ages, newcomers, beginners to advanced dancers, and no partner is necessary.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Teaching Folk Dance to Kids

I’ve been teaching folk dance to kids ages 6-12 at my local summer camp for the past ten years. It’s exhilarating, challenging, exhausting, and fun. This is not school, where academic discipline rules; nor is it an afterschool enrichment activity that the child and parent have specifically chosen. Every kid in camp – whether they think they’re going to like or not - folk dances with me.

Over the years, I have developed a repertoire of the dances that click with kids – and some very useful techniques.

Here’s a quick list of dances that kids love:
  • Singin’ in the Rain: This one is an easy, fun starter – the music tells you what to do, and you can lead it from the front. I also like it because it allows kids to be goofy (something particularly good for self-conscious pre-adolescents).
  • Syp Simeon (Russia): I call this the Russian hand jive dance, and I always end with it. It’s done sitting down, with hand gestures, starting slow and getting faster and faster. It's a great one for teaching kids it’s okay to make mistakes. 
  • Zemer Atik (Israel): My kids call this the Egyptian dance because of the camel hand hold, and it’s always a favorite.
  • Huayno Peruano (Peru): The steps are simple – just easy jogging on the beat – but the group has to stay together, with hands on each other’s shoulders, and the leader (could be you, or various kids) can make zig zag and spiral patterns.
  • Zimbole (South Africa): This one has the kids walking, clapping and stamping, and the pattern ends with them raising their arms up and yelling “hey!”
  • La Mariposa (Bolivia): This is a sweet circle dance with claps and stamps, and they get to wiggle their fingers like butterflies.
  • A La Vibora de la Mar (Mexico): One pair of kids makes an arch, then all the pairs duck under one by one, and they keep going until the music stops.
  • Chicken Dance (Germany): Yep – this dance is actually originally from Germany. Kids love it, and I use the part where they swing partners as a way to encourage inclusiveness, making sure nobody gets left out.
  • Macarena (Spain): This 4-wall line dance is good for spatial awareness. 
  • Chilili (Bolivia): The older kids just love this one, as it moves back and forth with claps and snaps.
  • Cupid Shuffle (U.S.): This is 4-wall urban soul line dance, with very hip urban music and a fairly simple pattern.
  • Hoe Ana (Tahiti): Also known as the Canoe Dance, this has kids sitting in lines as if in canoes, and making arm gestures that tell a story.

And here are some basic tips:
  • Have lots of dances ready to teach
  • Choose dances with lively music that kids will enjoy.
  • Be ready to change on a dime if something isn't working.
  • Feel free to simplify dances so they’ll work – I’ve done this with La Bastringue (Canada), Kulsko Horo (Bulgaria), and with a basic Irish Ceili Dance.
  • All kids love dances with claps, stamps, and kicks.
  • Give them choices – let them request their favorites.
  • Mix up folk dancing with freeze dancing to a wide variety of world music – ask them to suggest music from countries they’re interested in or their families came from.
  • Try to mix up the boys and the girls, and separate the wild ones.
  • Bring a map, and show them where the dances come from.

My favorite thing? When the kids run into the room, take off their shoes and socks, and immediately shout out the dances they want to do. And, of course, the smiles on their faces.