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).