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.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Summer Dancing!

Summer folk dancing in Petaluma starts on June 4 and runs through August 6 - Mondays 7-9:15 p.m. at Hermann Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma.  Cost is $6 per night. No instruction during the summer, we'll just be having fun dancing to old and new favorites plus your requests!

You can drop-in any time at the Israeli folk dance class on Thursday, 1:30-4 p.m., June 7 through July 12, at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 San Pedro Road, San Rafael. We'll be dancing familiar oldies including Ma Navu, Erev Ba, and Jacob's Ladder along with  more recent favorites like Enigma, Rokdim Yechefim, and Salamati. I'll be teaching/reviewing Eilat,Yareach Limon, and Mamri'im.

I'm also teaching folk dance to kids ages 6-12 at the Dance Palace Summer Camp in Point Reyes; as I do every year. Some favorite dances from past years include Zemer Atik (Israel), La Mariposa (Bolivia), Huayno (Peru), Syp Simeon (Russia), Cupid Shuffle (U.S.), and Hoe Ana (Tahiti). It's so much fun to get kids excited about folk dancing and to connect with their amazing kid energy.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Spring Folk Dance Party!

More than 60 happy dancers congregated at Hermann Sons Hall for our Annual Spring Folk Dance Party!

We danced to an hour set of recorded music that included new favorites Pharo Malishevsko Horo, Varnensko Horo and Katerino Mome.

Staro Vino then serenaded us with a great mix of Greek, Macedonian, Serbian and Bulgarian music including Sofka, U Sest, and Eleno Mome for dancing, ending the evening with a beautiful Lesno.

Monday night dancing in Petaluma continues through May 7, then taking a break before Summer Dancing starts on June 4 through August 6.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Romani Dance Workshop with Sani Rifati

We had the great pleasure of hosting guest teacher Sani Rifati in Petaluma, doing a workshop on Romani folk dance. He taught four dances: Romano Horo,Telo Vas Horo, Surdulicko Horo, and Pharo Malishevsko Horo

Sani lives in Berlin now, but he lived for a long time in Sonoma County, where he launched the annual Herdelezi Festival - these festivals were my first joyous introduction to Romani music, food and dancing. Sani is the founder/director of Voice of Roma, as well as a wonderful dancer and dance teacher.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

So Many Dances, So Much Fun

It’s been a special pleasure to introduce and teach three new dances at Monday night dance class in Petaluma, inspired by Da! Mozhem and Kabile who played them live at our fall 2017 parties: Varnensko Horo and Katerino Mome from Bulgaria, and Niska Banja from Serbia. I’ve also been periodically introducing some favorite Israeli oldies that I teach in my Israeli class at the JCC in San Rafael as well as teaching Cestata, a great Bulgarian paidushko-style dance taught by Michael Ginsburg at the Kolo Festival and bringing Sedi Donka (a Bulgarian dance introduced by Yves Moreau). 

International folk dancing in Petaluma continues through May 7 (no class on April 16) on Mondays 7-9:30 p.m. at Hermann Sons Hall, 860 Western Avenue, Petaluma. Drop-ins, newcomers, beginners through experienced dancers, and all ages are always welcome.

For those looking for daytime classes, you can register for the International Folk Dance class at the College of Marin on Wednesdays 2:10-3:30 p.m., April 4-May 16. I’m excited to say that my February/March class is completely full with my biggest enrollment every (30 people), more than half of them are newcomers! Turns out that the college periodically chooses a few classes to offer at rock bottom prices; this 6-week session was a mere $15 (I have to admit I thought it was a typo when they sent the class description to me for confirmation before publication; the usual cost is $59). It’s a one-shot deal, but I’m excited to have this opportunity to introduce so many new folks to the fun and pleasure of folk dancing, and I hope they’ll keep coming. 

You can also join the Israeli folk dance class on Thursdays 1:30-4 p.m., February 22-March 29 at the Osher Jewish Community Center, 200 San Pedro Road, San Rafael (drop-ins are always welcome at this class; for the college classes you need to register for the full session in advance).

And mark your calendars now for the Annual Petaluma Spring Folk Dance Party on Saturday, April 21, 7:30-10:30 p.m. at Hermann Sons Hall, featuring live music by Staro Vino.