Monday, December 28, 2015

Lots of great dances on the list for 2016!

Monday night dancing in Petaluma will start on January 4 and run through May 2 (no class April 18) from 7-9:15 p.m. at Herman Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma. I'm planning to teach Abdala, Kulsko Horo, Dramskoto (Bulgaria); Skudrinka (Macedonia); Malhao (Portugal); TsotsoSofka (Greece), and Passa Torrau (Italy). Cost is $65 for the 17-week session, or $7 drop-in. You can register for the session at the first class.

Israeli Folk Dancing at Osher Jewish Community Center, 200 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael will resume the first week in January on Thursdays 1:30-4 p.m. with two 6-week sessions: January 7-February 18 (no class January 21) and March 3-April 7. I'll be teaching two favorites: Or Chadash and Bati Elecha. Cost is $30 per 6-week session, or $7 drop-in. You can register and pay at the JCC front desk.

The College of Marin International Folk Dance Class is on Wednesdays 2:10-3:30 p.m. at PE#22 on the Kentfield Campus. Sessions are scheduled February 3-March 16 ($60 for the 7-week session), and March 30-May 11 (no class April 13 or 20; $45 for the 5-week session). You can register at: http://marincommunityed.com

Looking forward to dancing with you!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Da! Mozhem Rocked the House!

Fabulous music, wonderful crowd, and great dancing 
at our Annual Petaluma Holiday Folk Dance Party 
with live music by Da! Mozhem:

Happy holidays, and I hope to see you all on the dance floor when classes resume in Petaluma, at College of Marin, and at the Osher Jewish Community Center in 2016!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Party Time!

You are all invited to the Annual Petaluma Holiday Folk Dance Party
 Monday, December 14, 7-9:30 p.m.
at Herman Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma.

The evening will feature dancing to old and new recorded favorites 
plus fabulous live Balkan music by Da! Mozhem.

Da! Mozhem plays a great mix of Balkan and international music. With veterans of many well-loved groups including the People's International Silver String Macedonian Band, Westwind, the Slavonian Traveling Band, and Born to Drone, Da! Mozhem plays a lively and beautiful variety of folk dance music on tradition and modern instrument 
and sings lush multi-part harmonies. 

Admission is $10; all ages, dancers and listeners, welcome. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Romanian Hora, Israeli Hora

I’ve been teaching dances this fall in Petaluma and at the College of Marin that I learned on my summer folk dance trip to Romania. And I have just started teaching an Israeli folk dance class at the Osher Jewish Community Center in San Rafael.

The connection between these two dance cultures is fascinating and deep. For starters, both countries use the word hora. And yet – despite what you might think – the word itself does not translate literally to dance in either Romanian or Hebrew. Joc is the Romanian word for dance (it also means play – a dual translation I quite like). Machol is the modern Hebrew word for dance. If you take it back to the Bible, there are many more including karar (to dance or whirl), chagag (to move or celebrate in a circle), rakad (to dance and jump and leap), and alats (jump or dance for joy).

Here’s the Webster dictionary translation of hora: “a traditional Israeli or Romanian circle dance.”

Hora Nirkoda, Hora Bialik, Hora Chassidit, Hora Agaditi, Hora Medura – all of these are early Israeli folk dances done with simple steps, typically two or three patterns, using lots of grapevines and running steps, moving primarily to the left and then frequently moving in and out of center, in 4/4 rhythm with phrases of 4 or 8 measures. All are closed circle dances, without a leader.

Hora Mare de la Munte, Hora de Mina, Hora Lautareasca din Dolj, Hora pe Sase – all of these Romanian folk dances are done in closed circles as well, with similar styling and steps.

Romanian music also rings of klezmer – due to the Jewish musicians (along with their Romany counterparts) who traveled throughout the country providing music for parties and holidays and celebrations.

It’s a big world, and yet we are all remarkably connected through music and dance.

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.