Monday, November 24, 2014

Who Will Fill Their Shoes? The Aging of the Folk Dance Community

To live is to dance, to dance is to live.
--Charles Schulz [in Peanuts (Snoopy speaking)]

Why don't more young people go to folk dances?

That is something that has been plaguing folk dance groups in recent years. The dancers get grayer by the year.  When they die, who will fill their shoes?

According to what I've read on the Internet, and from speaking with veteran dancers, the peak years of international folk dance were during the 1960's and 1970's, when they were college students.

If this trend continues, the only place to find folk dance groups will be in retirement communities.

Part of the problem could be that the young are too busy doing other things.  Or maybe dancing with people their grandparents' age is just not for them.

Another issue was budget cuts: courses in folk dancing have been cut from school curriculums.  In my opinion, dance should be offered as a physical education class as an alternative to team sports.(See the link to my post below: "On Ethnic Dance and Exercise.")

A variety of reasons were mentioned and listed here.

There was a time, not so many years ago, when ballroom dancing was primarily an activity for seniors. Dancing With the Stars changed all that. Now people of all ages take classes and participate in ballroom dancing. 

Check out the video and you'll see what I'm talking about:  the majority of the dancers are 50+. This was taken during a live music event when attendance is higher than during regular dance nights.

This group from Canada is at a workshop taught by Yves Moreau.   Many of the participants are also seniors.

Fortunately, Balkan folk dancing has taken a foothold in communities with large ethnic populations, such as New York City and Boston. Balkan Music Night, held annually in Concord (a suburb) of Boston has a large turnout of young people. In 2010 I went to a Zlatne Uste event in New York city that had a very youthful crowd, so there is hope. These young people may well be the future of folk dancing as we know it.

And in Bulgaria, young people have taken up an interest in folk dance because of the TV show Nadigrai Me, a show which features dancers from folk dance clubs all over the country. This show has finished its fifth season. It is one of the most popular shows in Bulgaria.

In 2012, a folk dance club opened in Sofia,  Club na Horoto.  The idea behind it was to have a place for dancers to congregate any hour of the day or night. This concept might work in a city with a large Eastern European immigrant population like Boston or Toronto.

Club Na Horoto reminds me of a of those places I used to frequent years ago. I would love to see a venue like this open up in the United States. They look like they're having a great time!  From what I've read on their website, this venue is extremely popular. Right now they're taking reservations for their New Year's Eve party.

If you have been successful in attracting young dancers to your group, please post your ideas in the "comments" section.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Dance Around the World

Why Dancing Makes You Smart

On Ethnic Dance and Exercise 

A One of a Kind Club for Folk Dancers

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