Learning to Folk Dance
International Folk Dancers, Lawrence, Kansas
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Here are some ideas about how to enhance the process of learning international folk dancing.
- Come early, come often. Research shows that what really counts is muscle memory doing the same movements over and over again. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.
- Pick five to ten dances that you really like (the ones where you say to yourself as it ends: "I liked this dance!") Go over to the program book and see what dance it was, or ask someone. Keep a list. Request "your" dances often (programmers LIKE requests). Get the music play it in the car. When you can dance your dances while talking to a friend in the line, you've got it! it's time to pick the next ten dances.
- Tune into the steps. Identify and work on some basic figures: grapevine, step-hop, 1-2-3, pas-de-bas, lift-step, etc. Once you can recognize and do this dance "language," you can master any dance fairly quickly because you can recognize the sequences.
- Line strategies for intermediate to advanced dances: Once a dance has started (while you're hanging back to see if you know it) join in the middle. The first three or four spots in a dance line are where the "hotshots" will congregate to do extra variations. If you need to concentrate on steps or are unsure of the dance, the middle section is good. The end is okay, but you may feel "dragged" (and may, without meaning to, drag the line).
NEVER HESITATE TO GET IN THE LINE the longest journey begins with a single step-hop. BUT be aware that on more complicated dances, the dance is more fun for everyone if you're able to move in the line of direction! One way to work on steps is to dance behind the line. Another is to pick a dance you really, really want to learn, and ask that it be taught.
- Oh yes, and don't forget . . . Come early, come often!
Courtesy of International Folk Dance in Lawrence, KS.