Friday, July 31, 2015

Fall Folk Dance Class Schedule

Here's my folk dance class schedule for the fall:

  • Petaluma International Folk Dance: Mondays 7-9:15 p.m., September 14-December 14, Herman Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma - $65 for the 14 week session or $7 drop-in
  • College of Marin International Folk Dance: Wednesdays 2:10-3:30 p.m., September 9-October 21 (no class September 23), October 28-December 9 (no class November 11), Kentfield Village Square #6, College of Marin, Kentfield - $54 per 6-week session
  • Israeli Folk Dance: Thursdays 1:30-4 p.m., September 10-October 15, October 29-December 10 (no class November 27), Pilates Studio, Osher Jewish Community Center, North San Pedro Road, San Rafael - $30 per 6-week session, or $7 drop-in

Hope to see you all on the dance floor in the fall!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Dancing in Romania, Part 2

After a costumed performance during dinner at Casa Iurca de Calinesti in Sighetu-Marmatiei, the dancers were joined by teachers Cristian Florescu and Nelutu Motoc for this wonderful impromptu dance:

At the community center in Frata, which has a substantial population of Roma, wonderful dancers from the Frata traditional folk dance ensemble performed for us (including a 6-year-old dance phenom):

Monday, June 29, 2015

Dancing in Romania

I'm just back from a wonderful two-week folk dance trip in Romania organized by Sonia Dion and Cristian Florescu, with teaching by Camelia and Nelutu Motoc. The trip was centered in Cluj-Napoca, with side trips to numerous outlying villages in the region of Transylvania. I had the opportunity to see wonderful performances of Romanian folk dancing, as well as dance with locals.

In Vadu Izei in the area of Maramures:

Performances by the Traditii Student Folk Dance Ensemble:

I'll be teaching dances I learned on the trip on Monday nights in Petaluma when the fall session starts up again after Labor Day in September, as well as at a one-night workshop in Point Reyes on September 17.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Big Fun at the Petaluma Spring Folk Dance Party!

Dancing Bavno Oro:

 Staro Vino featuring 
Greg Jenkins, Annie Cilley, Andrew Cohen & Mark Jenkins

 Kent leading Triti Puti:

 The indomitable Judy McVey leading a Women's Tsamiko:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Party Time! Annual Petaluma Spring Folk Dance Party on April 18

You're all invited to our Annual Petaluma Spring Folk Dance Party on Saturday, April 18, 8-11 p.m., at Herman Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma.

This annual event is hosted by Petaluma Snap-Y Dancers, and everyone is welcome to come dance and/or just listen to the fabulous music.
The first hour will feature dancing to old and new recorded favorites, followed by a fabulous live music set with Staro Vino playing music from Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Greece. The members of Staro Vino are: Annie Cilley on violin, saxophone, and vocals; Greg Jenkins on clarinet and vocals; Mark Jenkins on percussion and vocals, and Andrew Cohen on accordion and vocals.
Come enjoy our friendly atmosphere, great mix of dances, and the wonderful wood dance floor at Herman Sons Hall. Admission is $10; refreshments and snacks will be provided.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Pleasure of Balkan Rhythms: 9/8 and 9/16

I've been spending this month teaching dances in one of my favorite rhythms: 9/8 (or 9/16, depending on the tempo). Like all the wonderful uneven tempos of the Balkans, this one just keeps you moving - quite unlike the typically even 4/4 of most Western music. 

In Bulgaria and Macedonia, these dances are most often done in a QQQS sequence. The basic move of Daichovo is a classic hop step step step, always danced in sequences of four to fit the phrasing of the music; many variations can be added on or called by the leader. Djanguritsa is also danced in sequences of four measures, but with a characteristic extra syncopated beat added at the end to make it QQQS&. Devetorka is similar to a Kopanitsa, with three-measure phrasing in a more compact form (the rhythm of Kopanitsa is 11/8).  All of these dances can be done to many different pieces of music.

The two Greek dances I've been teaching both originate from areas in modern-day Turkey that were once populated by Greeks. Yetiere is a Pontic dance from the region near the Black Sea. Tessera Matia is from Asia Minor, the western coastal area; this lovely hypnotic dance features a twist on 9/8 that is also found in many versions of Karsilamas - the rhythm is called as QSQQ. Here's a good video of this dance:

The beat goes on at Herman Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma on Mondays 7-9:15 p.m.  Come join us!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Some Thoughts on Misirlou

I'm guessing, like me, you may have learned Misirlou as a Greek dance in your elementary school P.E. class. Well, it turns out that Misirlou is not really an authentic Greek dance. In fact, it was choreographed in 1945 by a teacher at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, using steps from Sirtos Haniotikos; it was first performed at a program to honor America's allies of World War II.

The exact origin of the song is not clear, but the earliest known recording was by the Greek rebetiko musician Tetos Demetriades, who named the song Misirlou in 1928. The name means "Egyptian" in Turkish. The melody has been so popular that it has been recorded in many languages (including Yiddish, Armenian, and Arabic) and performed by musicians including the Beach Boys, Connie Francis, and surf musician Dick Dale (who was Lebanese-American). The dance also became wildly popular in both the Greek and Serbian communities in the U.S., as well as with U.S. folk dance enthusiasts. Here's a video of the dance:

I have traveled to Greece twice now to study dance and can tell you that no real Greek dancer would be seen dancing Misirlou, though you might find it in a tourist taverna in Athens. Which doesn't mean it's a terrible dance; it is in fact a lovely little dance to great music with fun variations, and it is very much within a broader folk dance tradition of choreographed dances based on traditional stylings and steps that have been introduced by popular folk dance teachers. 

There are many dances in the folk dance repertoire that come from ethnic communities in the United States. One of these is the Armenian Misirlou. There are several versions; this one  is a direct variation of the Greek-American version:

I have been teaching a different version from the Armenian community in Racine, Wisconsin that I really like. You can watch it here:
This fun Armenian Misirlou will one of several dances I will be teaching at the annual Festival of the Oaks at Live Oak Park Community Center, 1301 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley on Sunday, February 8, 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.