Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy new year!

Folk dance classes will start up again in the new year at Herman Sons Hall in Petaluma on Mondays 7-9:15 p.m., January 11-May 3 (no class March 29) and at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes on Wednesdays 7:15-8:30 p.m., January 13-February 17. Ballroom dance classes are scheduled for Wednesdays 6-7 p.m., at the Dance Palace; the first session January 13-February 17 will focus on salsa, cha cha, and rumba.

Folk dances taught this session will include a few more from Turkey (Ordu, Oropa), a couple learned from Yves Moreau at the 2009 Kolo Festival (Pravo Cepalarkso Oro, Proletni Buenek, Zensko Zapansko), some classics that it would be nice to put back into the repertoire (Bucimis, Sandansko Oro, Kokice, Hora Fetelor, Vidinsko Oro, Zensko Pousteno Oro), and a couple of my favorite Israeli dances (Eilat, Bat Teiman, She'Keshe'Navo).

The beginning of the new year is a great time to start dancing! Bring your friends and come join us. Beginners, newcomers, drop-ins, intermediate/advanced dancers are all welcome, and no partner is necessary.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

There will be two more weeks of folk dance classes in Point Reyes and Petaluma before we take a break for the holidays. We'll be reviewing the dances that have been taught throughout the fall: Agir Halay, Atabari, Bat Teiman, Bucimis, Gudi, Keje, Koritsa, Narino, Yeni Hamam, Zensko Pousteno Oro (Point Reyes): Atabari, Cicovata, Gruchkoto, Gudi, Hora de Langesti, Keje, Koritsa, Perdhika, Pravo Ceplarsko Horo, Troirou, Tsamiko Variation, Tzel Midbar, Zervothexios (Petaluma). You can view videos of many of these dances (plus a short video of some wonderful spontaneous street dancing from my trip to Turkey) by going to the Dance Videos section of the blog. The last class in Petaluma on December 14 will be our annual class party, with drinks and snacks.

Classes will start up again in the new year at Herman Sons Hall in Petaluma scheduled on Mondays 7-9:15 p.m., January 11-May 3 (no class March 29) and at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes on Wednesdays 7:15-8:30 p.m., January 13-February 17.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Kurdish people live in eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northern Syria, and northwestern Iran (where there is a region called Kurdistan). Their highly rhythmic dances are traditionally done at all festivals including birthdays, circumcisions, weddings, and religious ceremonies. Unlike other neighboring Muslim populations, the dances are generally mixed-gender. They are done in lines, in pinky hold or shoulder hold, with the dancers very close together; the knees are easy, with a regular bouncing that carries through the shoulders. Two of the dances I learned in Turkey that I have been teaching this month - Keje and Gudi - are Kurdish dances. You can click on the Kurdish Dancing/Keje link to the right (under Dance Videos) to view an absolutely wonderful video of a group of teenage girls doing a medley of Kurdish dances.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I've just returned from a two-week folk dance tour of Turkey, which included classes taught by four different Turkish dance teachers. On the border between Europe and the Middle East, Turkey's wide variety of dances reflects its ancient and complicated culture. Each region has its own particular style and rhythm. Bar dances are found in the northeastern region, performed side by side, with different versions for men and women. Horon (meaning "round dance") is typical of the Black Sea coastal area; traditionally done by men dressed in black in 7/16 rhythm, these dances feature very fast and vigorous footwork. Zeybek dances symbolize courage and heroism; done in 9/4 or 9/8 rhythm, they are from the Western Anatolia region. Halay was originally done by men at weddings, in southeastern Turkey, but has become the national dance of Turkey and is danced in many different versions and at many different occasions. Throughout the next month, I'll be teaching several dances I learned on the trip, including Atabari, Keje, Koceri, and Harmandali. The photo in this post is of a class of children learning a dance at their school; we met their teacher, and danced a Halay with them.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tsamiko is one of the national dances of Greece, done in 3/4 rhythm; the name means "dance of the Chams." The Chams were Albanians who originally landed in the coastal region of Epirus in northwestern Greece. The national anthem of Greece is in Tsamiko rhythm, making it one of the few national anthems in the world that can be danced. Many versions and variations are done throughout Greece; most are the traditional men's Tsamiko that starts stepping to the right with the right foot. If you google Tsamiko on Youtube you will see many wonderful versions ranging from highly professional dance troupes to cell phone videos of parties. The variation I am teaching, which I learned from Joe Graziosi at Balkan Camp, starts crossing over with the left foot.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The rumba originated in Cuba (where it is called bolero-son), and combines the musical traditions of Spanish canción with African rhythms and percussion. The dance became wildly popular in the 1930's, and is the slowest of five competition Latin ballroom dances. Many of the people who played Latin music in the U.S. were Jewish musicians rooted in the Klezmer tradition, including the marvelous pianist Irving Fields; from this evolved a wonderful repertoire of traditional Yiddish songs done in the SQQ rumba rhythm (including My Yiddishe Mama and Shein Vi Di Levone, songs we are dancing to in the ballroom class to learn rumba basics).

In both folk dance classes, we'll be reviewing Cicovata (also known as Vidinska Chichovata). I learned this dance first from Steve Kotansky, and then again this summer at Balkan Camp from Yuli Yordanuv. Yuli called the dance "the pravo of Northwest Bulgaria."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two dances we're learning in both Point Reyes and Petaluma folk dance classes pose an interesting conundrum: Gruchkoto is from Bulgaria, but moves and feels like a Greek dance while Troirou is a Greek dance with the energy, music, and swinging arms of Bulgaria. You can view a video of Troirou in the sidebar entitled "dance videos."

In the Latin ballroom dance class, we're learning basic Merengue moves. Merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic (and is danced as well in the neighboring island of Haiti). A combination of two dances, the African and the French Minuet, it originated in late 1700's. Black slaves saw the ballroom dances in the Big Houses and started mimicking them at their own festivities - but over time, they added a special upbeat provided by the drums. It is possible the name came from the confection made of sugar and egg whites due to the light and frothy character of the dance. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Merengue was very popular not only in the Dominican Republic but throughout the Caribbean and South America.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Time to dance again!

Folk dance classes start up in Point Reyes on September 9 (Wednesdays 7-9:15 p.m.) and in Petaluma on September 14 (Mondays 7-9:15 p.m.). I'll be teaching a mix of new and old dances, many of which I learned at Balkan Music and Dance Camp. Gruchkoto is a Bulgarian dance taught by Yulivan Yordanuv that is very popular all over Bulgaria right now.
Gruchkoto means "the Greek one," and the styling is a charming mixture of Greek and Bulgarian elements. Zensko Pousteno Oro is a hypnotic Macedonian dance originally introduced by Pece Atanaovski, with a typically quirky rhythm (SQQQQ or 11/8). Tzel Midbar ("shadow of the desert") is a beautiful, three-part Israeli dance choreographed by Bonnie Piya in 2005.

Ballroom classes in Point Reyes start the week of September 8, with the adult class on Tuesdays 6-7 p.m. and the teen class on Wednesdays 6-7 p.m. In the adult class, we will be focusing on Latin dances: salsa, merengue, and rhumba. In the teen class, I'll be teaching basic waltz, swing, and salsa moves.

Newcomers, and dancers of all levels are always welcome; no partner is necessary (in the ballroom class we will rotate partners so everyone gets a chance to dance).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer dancing in Petaluma will be rolling to an end on August 10; come with requests for your favorite dances in the next two weeks on Mondays 7-9:15 p.m. Classes in both Petaluma and Point Reyes will resume after Labor Day; I'll be teaching great new folk dances I learned at Balkan Music & Dance Camp.

Fall class schedule:
Petaluma Snap-Y Dancers Folk Dance Class - Mondays 7-9:15 p.m., September 14-December 14, at Herman Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma
International Folk Dance Class - Wednesdays 7-8:15 p.m., September 9-October 14 & November 4-December 9, at the Dance Palace, 503 B Street, Point Reyes
Ballroom Dance Classes at the Dance Palace - For adults, Tuesdays 6-7 p.m., September 8-October 13; For teens, Wednesdays 6-7 p.m., September 9-October 14

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I spent last week at Balkan Music and Dance Camp up in Mendocino where I had the opportunity to take dance classes with Joe Graziosi (Greek), Michael Ginsburg (Macedonian), and Yuliyan Yordanuv (Bulgarian). There was also fabulous live music for dancing every night - the photo on the right is of the Rhodope song/dance circle, with folks dancing around a whole group of gaida (Bulgarian bagpipe) players. I learned many wonderful dances - including Skudrinka and Zensko Pousteno from Macedonia, new versions of Paidusko and Tsamikos from Greece, and Gruchkoto which is currently very popular dance in Bulgaria - that I will be teaching when classes start up again in the fall. Monday night dancing continues in Petaluma through August 10; the Wednesday class in Point Reyes continues through July 22.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

In loving memory of John and Susan Hagopian, dear friends and fellow dancers.

Susan passed away on June 30. John passed away on May 19.
Susan's memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, July 18, 10 a.m., at the Parent-Sorenson Mortuary, 850 Keokuk Street, Petaluma.

We will be dancing in Susan's memory in Petaluma this Monday, July 6, 7-9:15 p.m.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

In Point Reyes, we are reviewing and dancing Hassapiko (sometimes spelled hasapiko). Hassapiko is a Greek and Thracian dance done in short lines with shoulder hold. The word means "butcher" and the dance originated among members of the Arvanites Butcher's Guild in Constantinople during Byzantine times. The slow version of the dance is in 4/4; the faster version (also known as hassaposerpico or hasaposerviko) is in 2/4 and displays Balkan influences. When the fast and slow versions are combined, it is called sirtaki. This is the dance that many people are familiar with as "Zorba's dance" from the movie Zorba the Greek, with the wonderful music by Mikis Theodorakis.

In Petaluma, it's summer dancing time - no regular teaching, though now and then I will quickly talk through a dance. We'll just be dancing throughout the evening, to old and new favorites. So come with your request list ; we'll try anything, and we always have a good time. Folks are welcome to drop-in anytime during the summer on Mondays 7-9:15 p.m. through August 10.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

New dance class sessions start this week:
Summer Dancing in Petaluma, Mondays 7-9:15 p.m.
Ballroom Dance in Point Reyes, Tuesdays 7:15-8:15 p.m.
International Folk Dance in Point Reyes, Wednesdays 7-8:15 p.m.
Newcomers are always welcome!

Please note that the first Monday in Petaluma will be dedicated to the memory of our dear friend and fellow dancer John Hagopian who passed away last month. Bring photographs and stories to share.

The wonderful San Francisco Free Festival is happening this Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14, at the Presidio Middle School in San Francisco. I will be teaching a Balkan dance class at 2 p.m. on Saturday, and there will be many other dance (and music) classes to choose from throughout the weekend. For a full schedule, 
go to:

Sunday, May 31, 2009

New summer class sessions will be starting next week!
Summer Dancing in Petaluma at Herman Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue will be on Mondays 7-9:15 p.m., June 8-August 10. Note that our first session on June 8 will in memory of our dear friend and fellow dancer John Hagopian.
International Folk Dance Classes at the Dance Palace will be on Wednesdays 7-8:15 p.m., June 10-July 22 (no class on July 1). I'll be teaching beginning dances from 7-7:30  p.m., and intermediate/advanced dances from 7:30-8:15 p.m.
Ballroom Dance Class at the Dance Palace will be on Tuesdays 7:15-8:15 p.m. (note new time for the summer), June 9-July 14 (no class June 30). We'll be focusing on salsa, swing, and waltz, going over the basic steps and learning some cool new moves.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It is with great sadness that I report that John Hagopian died suddenly from a stroke on May 19. John was a stalwart member and leader of Snap-Y Dancers in Petaluma. He danced for years with Carol Hirsh; when I took over teaching the Monday night class, he and his wife Susan gamely volunteered to help out with setup, cleanup, taking money, and general administration. John came just about every Monday, and was there from start to finish. He was a wonderful dancer, and often led some of our favorite dances. Our first evening of summer dancing in Petaluma on June 8 will be dedicated to his memory.

For those of you who like to ballroom dance, don't miss the Tea Dance at the Dance Palace this Saturday, May 30, 4- 7 p.m. There will be wonderful live music by the 20-piece Albany Big Band, elegant refreshments, and - as always - the wonderful dance floor and atmosphere.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I'm focusing on Israeli dances this session in Point Reyes. Adama V'shamayim is a modern Israeli dance, choreographed in 2008 by Gadi Bitton. Kuma Echa is an "old-style" Israeli dance, choreographed in the 1950's by Rivka Shturman. The old-style dances have simpler, more straightforward footwork and patterns; most of them are done in a closed circle, holding hands. Modern dances are extremely complex, with lots of turns and changes of direction; hands are rarely held, and the music can range from Country Western to Arabic to Israeli pop music. Unlike folk dances in the Balkans, all Israeli dances are choreographed; there are a multitude of choreographers and many of the dances can be viewed on Youtube.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Foxtrot takes its name from its inventor, vaudeville actor Harry Fox. Originally danced to ragtime, it was the most popular social dance in the U.S. through the 1940's. The wonderful husband and wife duo, Irene and Vernon Castle, featured and popularized the dance in their routines. When rock and roll took over in the 1950's, record companies initially labeled the music as foxtrots, notably Bill Haley and the Comets singing "Rock Around the Clock." Like Swing, the Foxtrot rhythm is SSQQ (slow slow quick quick), but with different foot work. I'm teaching Foxtrot in my Tuesday night ballroom dance class, getting everyone ready to dance to the Albany Big Band at the Dance Palace on May 30.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Monday, May 4, 7-9:15 p.m., Petaluma Snap-Y Dancers will celebrate the end of the session with dancing (of course!), drinks, and snacks. Summer dancing will start on June 8 and continue through August 10.

In Point Reyes, the Wednesday night beginning folk dance class is learning basic dances from Bulgaria (Pravo), Greece (Syrto), Macedonia (Les Noto), and Serbia (Setnja). The ongoing class is learning Adama V'Shamayim, a lively Israeli dance whose title means "Earth and Sky." We're also working on numerous Daichovo variations; Daichovo Oro is a Northern Bulgarian dance in 9/8 (QQQS) rhythm. This session, I've also brought back Adje Jano, a wonderful familiar dance from Serbia but with great new modern music, as well as Skopos ti Augis, a lovely dance from Patmos in Greece that is traditionally danced by women at dawn greeting their fishermen husbands as they return home from fishing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

New class sessions start in Point Reyes this week, including a new beginning folk dance class on Wednesdays 6-7 p.m. I'll be teaching basic steps, rhythms, patterns, and dances from around the world that will get you started dancing. The ongoing/intermediate class will resume on Wednesdays 7-8:15 p.m. with a great variety of fun, lively, and challenging dances including Adama V'Shamayim (which I learned when I was in Jerusalem) and Dvasti Tristi (a lovely Bulgarian dance taught at the 2008 Kolo Festival by Jaap Leegwater).

Monday night classes in Petaluma continue through May 4; we'll be reviewing the lively Israeli dance Salamati, and ending the session on May 4 with our usual class party and celebration. Summer dancing will start on June 8 and continue through August 10.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ruth Gundelfinger's 80th birthday will be celebrated with a big party (and dancing, of course!) this Saturday from 4:30 p.m. on at Cafe Shalom, 1399 3rd Street, San Francisco. Ruth has taught Israeli folk dancing in the Bay Area since 1960. She started Cafe Shalom in 1969 and has taught on Thursday mornings at the JCC in San Rafael since 1996. She is one of the loveliest and most graceful dancers I have ever seen, and knows more Israeli dances than anyone I know. I hope you'll join me this Saturday, April 25, in honoring Ruth.

In Petaluma, we'll continue to learn the great Israeli dance Salamati as well as a new Rumanian dance, Hora Lui Serban. Classes in Point Reyes will start up again next Wednesday, April 29; beginning class 6-7 p.m., intermediate class 7-8:15 p.m.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Verna Druzhina returns to Herman Sons Hall at 860 Western Avenue in Petaluma on Saturday, April 18, playing their great blend of Bulgarian and Macedonian dance music. This is Petaluma Snap-Y Dancers annual folk dance party; drinks and snacks will be provided by the group. There will be dancing to recorded favorites, old and new, from 8-9:15 p.m., and then live music until 11 p.m. The members of Verna Druzhina are: Dena Bjornlie on gadulka and vocals, Karen Guggenheim on gajda, Mark Jenkins on percussion and vocals, and Jim Oakden on tambura and accordion. Hope to see you all on the dance floor!

 I'm just back from Jerusalem, where I took an Israeli dance class with teacher Maly Cohen. Chaya Glasser, who used to take classes with Ruth Gundelfinger, helped me find my way to the class. I learned several great new dances that I'll be teaching within the next month, including one that is danced to a Passover song (Song of the Sea).

Classes in Petaluma continue on Mondays nights 7-9:15 p.m. New class sessions will be starting at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes the last week in April: ongoing folk dance class Wednesdays 7-8:15 p.m., ballroom dance (salsa, swing, waltz) Tuesdays 6-7 p.m., and a new folk dance class for beginners Wednesdays 6-7 p.m. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Don't miss Brazz Menazeri at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes on Friday, March 28, 8 p.m. Brass Menazeri is the Bay Area's premier Balkan brass band, specializing in the high energy music of Serbian Rom bands as well as the Greek and Macedonian border region. They combine new sensibilities, innovative arrangements, and original compositions with traditional Balkan repertoire - and the music will definitely get you up and dancing! I'll be offering a basic dance lesson at 7:30 p.m. (cocek, les noto, tsamikos). For tickets and directions, you can click on the link to the Dance Palace on this blog.

Wednesday, March 25, will be the last Point Reyes folk dance class in the current session. Next session will start on April 29. Classes in Petaluma continue as always on Monday evenings 7-9:15 p.m. during this time, but note that there will be no class on April 6. I'll be off dancing in Israel during the first two weeks of April, and hope to come back with a new dance or two when I return to class on April 13.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In Petaluma, we'll continue to learn Gjusevska Rucenica in preparation for dancing it at the March 28 Balkan Party in San Rafael. The name means "little handerkerchief dance from Gjusevo." Yves Moreau learned the dance in Bulgaria, and introduced it to the U.S. in the late 1960's. The village of Gjusevo is in a high mountain region near the Yugoslav border, within the Sop ethnographic region. The rhythm is 7/16 (quick-quick-slow), and the styling is firm, sharp, and upright.

In the Point Reyes class, we'll be finishing up the last two classes of this session by reviewing and dancing Esmer (from Turkey), plus two lovely one-pattern dances from Greece: Mavramatia and Zagarisios. Mavramatia means "dark eyes", and is from Grecian Thrace - an interesting contrast to Targovskata.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

This week we'll be learning a new Turkish dance called Esmer, and continuing to dance and review Talima, a Bulgarian dance from the Dobruzha region. Video and music for both dances can be found at the Dunav website; there's a link to this wonderful folk dance site below.

Coming up this weekend: Marilyn Smith's folk dance party on Friday, March 13, 8 p.m. at the Santa Rosa Veteran's Building. The evening will feature live music by Turlu. This ensemble features musicians from other well-known world music ensembles including Kitka, Anoush, Westwind, and Trarnce Mission. Turlu means "mixture" or "melange in Turkish. The group includes percussionist Nuri Bal, violinist/vocalist Leslie Bonnett, accordionist Hudi Brenman, clarinetist Michael Matthews, and Shea Comfort on clarinet, duduk, kaval, laouto, and shvi.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

This week we'll be going to Turkey to learn a new dance called Damat Halayi, which was another favorite from the Festival of the Oaks. If you'd like to take a look at the dance, go to YouTube where there are numerous versions ranging from schoolkids dancing to a costumed performance to what looks like a drunken version recorded on cell phone at a party.

For those of you who like to swing dance, be sure to make it to the Western Saloon on Highway One in downtown Point Reyes on Friday, May 6, 9 p.m., to hear (and dance to) the Eldon Leonard Band - the group features Bolinas local Tom Williard on drums.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

News and Updates:

Several weeks ago, I taught a fun family workshop for parents and kids from the Greenwood School in Mill Valley. Here's a photo of the group dancing Ersko Kolo. I'm available to teach folk dance workshops for all ages for school and community groups, as well as for weddings and parties.

Famed Macedonian singer-dancer Dragi Spasovski and Balkan band the Mehanatones will present and evening of traditional Macedonian song and dance this Saturday, February 28, at Ashkenaz in Berkeley - dance lesson at 8 p.m., music at 9 p.m.

This week's class instruction will feature Gori Mare, a Serbian-American dance I learned from Lee Otterholt at the Festival of the Oaks. I'm also busily watching, taking notes, and learning from the Yves Moreau dance DVD archive (over 100 dances!) and hope to re-introduce some of these dances throughout the next few months.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Class Update

New class sessions start this week! 
Newcomers, beginners, and teenagers are always welcome.
  • Ballroom class will focus on: swing, salsa, waltz.
  • Folk dances currently being taught include: Talima, Kuma Echa, Vlasko, Targovskata, Shir Al Etz, Maricensko Horo, Kokice, Sitno Krajdunasko Horo, Harmonica

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Current Class Schedule with Instructor Carol Friedman:

International Folk Dance Classes

Mondays 7–9:15 p.m., January 12–May 4
Petaluma Snap-Dancers 
$50 for the series, or $5 drop-in
At Herman Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma

Wednesdays 7–8:15 p.m., February 18–March 25; April 29–June 3
$50 per 6-week series, or $9 drop-in
At the Dance Palace, 503 B Street, Point Reyes

Ballroom Dance Classes

For adults - Tuesdays 6–7 p.m., February 17–March 17;  April 28–May 26
$50 per 5-week series
For  teens - Wednesdays 6–7 p.m., February 18–March 11
$35 per 4-week series
At the Dance Palace, 503 B Street, Point Reyes