Folk dances are traditional dances from countries all over the world, usually modified by modern choreographers so that they can be enjoyed as a form of recreational dance in the USA and elsewhere. For your first 3 minute folk dance lesson, click here to learn the Yemenite step, used frequently in many folk dances. Click here to see a video about what folk dancing is all about. Folk dancing is a great way to get exercise, socialize, and move to music. No previous dance experience, partner, or costume are necessary. Some of the dances are so beautiful that they will take your breath away, while others are exciting, exotic, and even on occasion, a little silly.
At the beginning of our Dance List/Videos page we have a selection of dances that are on the simpler end of the scale and can help you get a start.
Many folk dances are easily done, but a few are quite vigorous. If a particular dance seems to be too much, you can just join those sitting and watching. There is no need to try to learn all the dances taught. When they can’t remember, most dancers follow what a few others do. Most dances are danced in lines or circles, but we also have many that are for individuals, couples, or sets of couples. In some dances (called mixers) you change partners during the dance.
Another issue in folk dancing is styling, or how authentic you want to be in sticking to the original choreography of the dances. Some dancers are purists while others add personal interpretations to folk dances. Our group welcomes both types of dancers. Click here to see a video about styling.
Our friendly group usually teaches the same dances for the first four Fridays of each month. The best night to try folk dancing, if you are new to it, is the first Friday of the month. That way you will get three more opportunities that month to learn the dance. Arriving on other Fridays (except on a fifth Friday) will also work. There is no need to commit to a series of lessons. Just show up in casual clothes and comfortable shoes. No partner is needed and your second visit is free. If a month has a fifth Friday, there will be a folk dance party and no teaching, so this would not be a good night to come if you want folk dance lessons. See our “Directions & More” page to find how to get to us.
All ages are welcome. Most of our members are in their 40s, 50s and 60s, although we have some younger and older ones too. We have dancers of all skill levels, so whether you are a new dancer or experienced, you would be most welcome.
Still not sure whether folk dancing is for you? On our “Welcome” page, you can see slideshows of our dance group and hear some of our music.
Tips for New Dancers (from Loui Tucker)
You cannot learn to dance sitting down. Stop watching from the sidelines and get in there and dance!
In the beginning, don’t worry about styling and grace. Nearly every dancer started out clumsy and three- footed. Concentrate on learning the steps first.
Buy a pocket-sized notebook and keep a list of the dances your are learning. Identify each dance in some fashion: “fast, lots of turns,” or “slow and waltzy”.
Bring a portable recording device with you to class and record the music. Listen to the recording during the week. It doesn’t have to be high-fidelity: the idea is just to become familiar with the music.
During the request dancing, ask for dances you know and like, or ones you want to learn.
If you are not familiar with a dance that’s being done, don’t get in the line unless you have a ‘guide’ (a friend who knows the dance well). Otherwise, stand behind the line of dancers and follow the steps.
If the person next to you is not your guide, do not try to follow that person. Instead, watch a dancer four or five dancers down the line, to the left or right. Don’t try to copy anyone across the circle from you until you’ve gotten more practiced at it.
Use your head while you dance. As you learn a dance, try to identify the steps and say them to yourself (“grapevine… right Yemenite… turn left…”).
On partner dances, it is best to dance with someone who is more familiar with the dance than you are. Next best would be to dance with someone who is equally familiar. Don’t sit out just because you don’t have a partner. Stand off to one side and copy your part. (Sometimes a friendly dancer will notice you and offer to be your partner.)
Relax. Smile. Contrary to what you may think, all eyes are not focused on you. Everyone on the floor is rooting for you because they have all been where you are.
Be Patient. Fred Astaire wasn’t all that great his first week either!
Welcome to the folk dance family!
Tips gratefully reprinted with permission.
Below are a few testimonials from people who dance regularly at our group, the Pasadena Folk Dance Co-op
I was moved the first time I visited the Co-op, even though I didn’t know anyone there. It is a great place to enjoy folk music, dance, and get a good workout with a lot of friendly people. For most dances, you don’t need to specifically dance with somebody. It is like a group project. Everybody is doing her/his part and cooperating to accomplish the folk dance. This is a great way to build up your confidence. You will delightfully become part of it. The music is so beautiful; it touches the bottom of your heart and unconsciously moves your feet and you begin to dance. Friendly people teach you to dance, help you step by step into the music world. I adopted this group right away at the first visit.
~ Judy T.
I have always loved dancing. I joined folk dancing in my late twenties to meet new people and have fun learning new dances. I met my husband to be there and we still have fun dancing together after 30 years.
~ Cheryl C.
Not only do I just love to folk dance, but a friend told me recently that she read folk dancing is the best exercise you can do because it completely engages your mind and body – how about that – imagine loving to exercise!
~ Camille D.
P. S. Some really fun and interesting people are out there dancing too.
I loved folk dancing when I was a teen and now feel so grateful to have rediscovered this wonderful activity.
~ Valerie D.
I felt awkward and timid when I began, but I’m very happy I continued. Everyone was helpful and friendly, and now folk dancing on Friday is my reward for getting through a difficult week. Regardless of how tired I am, it energizes and delights me. I met my wife folk dancing, and we have been dancing together ever since. (If someone would pay me one million dollars to do this every Friday evening, that would be even better!)
~ Marc R.
To move to music is to experience it in a whole new way.
~ Idrias C.
I have ballroom danced all my life, it seems, but only discovered folk dancing in the last few years. It is so much fun and you don’t need a partner – I am sorry I didn’t try it sooner. It seems there is a perfect folk dance for every mood: simple and soothing, achingly lovely, exciting, challenging — the range is immense… and the people are friendly and welcoming. I love it!
~ Camille C.
Folk dance recharges me on so many levels! It is my favorite way to exercise, socialize, and enjoy music!
~ Kay M.
I love the way that engaging viscerally with other cultures through music and dance helps me feel connected to all humanity with love and joy.
~ Valerie D.
I heard the exotic music on a radio station and just had to seek this exciting sound and a chance to move to it. Folk dance has brought me such joy over time.
~ Sylvia S.
I just got my yearly medical check up with good results, at least for my age. She asked me what physical activity I did and I asked, “Does folk dancing count as exercise?” She said, “Well, according to your charts, your blood pressure, cholesterol level, bone density, heart rate, etc…. keep dancing!”
~ Marie M.
The music was hauntingly beautiful, the steps a little challenging, but doing them to the music felt wonderful. I was swept away. It changed my life and that’s why I made this website.
~ Jan R.
My interest in folk dance was sparked when I saw the movie “Zorba the Greek” but it wasn’t until years later that I had the good fortune to come across a recreational folk dance group. How delightful to find that the folk dancers were welcoming and that a teaching session preceded the dances so that I was able to join in the very first night. The music was fascinating and folk dancing was a joyful experience. I was hooked.
~ Therese M