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roots of Folk Dance

DANCE - African American, Tap, flatfoot, buck, hoedown, and tap dancing, square dance, clogginf, the styles of solo Southern dancing, Native American, Eastern European Folk Dance Culture, other world cultures.


Performing Arts Dance - Laban Movement Analysis




Russia's King of Folk Dance Turns 100 By MARIA DANILOVA, Associated Press Writer FJan 27, MOSCOW - He has amazed Americans with rock 'n' roll and square dance. He has infatuated the West with Russian culture at a time of deep hostility. He has won standing ovations across the globe. And he has lived to celebrate his 100th birthday.
Igor Moiseyev transformed folk dance into a legitimate genre for world choreography. As he celebrates his centennial this week, viewers, art critics and presidents alike salute him. Moiseyev, who turned 100 Jan. 21, brought traditional folk dance onto the professional stage by combining ethnic moves with classic ballet. His numbers — from the Russian peasant girl dance to the Greek Sirtaki — are hailed for promoting peace and tolerance by showing that cultures are numerous and each is unique. "He invented a new genre in world choreography — the genre of folk dance," said Yelena Shcherbakova, director of the Moiseyev Dance Company, who was a dancer for over 20 years. "He was the first man to see that folk dance — the people's art — has a lot of rich material that can be made into real theater." Born in 1906 in Kiev, now the capital of independent Ukraine, Moiseyev enrolled in a dance school at age 14 reportedly because his parents wanted to keep the street-loving adolescent busy. He showed such talent that he was soon transferred to the Bolshoi Theater choreography school and became a Bolshoi dancer in 1924. However, he was soon ousted from the classical theater for his love of daring experiments and began to choreograph and direct independent performances. After staging a series of productions for a Moscow theater studio, Moiseyev toured all 15 republics of the Soviet Union and in 1937 founded the Moiseyev Dance Company, which he heads to this day. The company's first performance was the groundbreaking "Dances of the Peoples of the USSR," a colorful performance that explored the music, culture, traditions and costumes of the numerous ethnic groups of the former Union. Other countries around the world quickly followed suit by founding their own folk dance companies, which are said to have been inspired by Moiseyev.
"He turned ethnic dance into an authentic art; he awakened folk dance, which was asleep," said Marina Timasheva, an art critic for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Moiseyev is also credited with pioneering the genre of gymnastic performance — a blend of dance and acrobatic elements — which for decades has been used in parades and celebrations in Russia and throughout the world.
Although he repeatedly refused to join the Communist Party, he was favored by Soviet leaders including dictator Joseph Stalin, and his dance company was the first to travel abroad, even before the Bolshoi dancers. "They (Soviet leaders) very quickly and very wisely understood that there is no better way of winning over the West than by introducing them to the Moiseyev dance," Timasheva said and they proved right.
Moiseyev's company caused a sensation on its first tour in the United States in 1958 with a parody on rock 'n' roll. It was Moiseyev's humorous take on what was then America's most popular dance. Doing parody was a bow to Soviet censors, who otherwise were likely to forbid the show, since the dance itself was banned as an element of bourgeois Western culture. But the American audience loved the performance. "He is the ambassador of peace," Shcherbakova said. Moiseyev could not be interviewed for this story due to poor health. Looking very frail, Moiseyev, who is rarely seen in public these days, made an appearance at a Moscow anniversary concert in his honor on Wednesday. Two aides walked Moiseyev, clad in a dark suit and wearing a black beret, to his seat and he then struggled to lift himself from the chair to salute an applauding audience. He was accompanied by his wife Irina, 80, also a former dancer. As he looked at his students' performance with his usual demanding eye, long-braided Russian girls in traditional red tunics and red shoes twirled with robust men in red-belted white robes and long black leather boots. In another number, a Korean folk dance was performed by a flirty girl luring two apparent admirers with a fan.
Moiseyev has staged a record number of over 300 different shows. Aside from folk dances of Russian provinces and ex-Soviet republics, his company also tours the world with Chinese, Jewish, Spanish and Vietnamese-themed shows and thrills local audiences with his own vision of their ethnic dance.


When Spain owned New Orleans the culture included the Flamenco. It is easy to see how tap dance came to the U.S. About Flamenco





Cajun's had the fais-do-dos on Saturday nights which were basically was a house dance.

Why the name 'contra dance'?

English country dancing gained a certain legitimacy in the 17th century. What might have happened next is described by James Hutson in his article "A Capsule Chronicle of Contradancing, Part One," from the Fall 1994 issue of Contra Corners, the newsletter of the California Dance Co-operative:

The French, who thought that they invented country dancing (as well as anything else culturally significant), and who were miffed at the notion that the English should receive credit for anything, converted the name 'country dance' to French contredans (which conveniently translates as 'opposites dance'), then turned around and claimed that the English term was a corruption of the French!

Later, the French term evolved in the young U.S.A. into "contra dance." At least this is one theory. An exchange on this very topic took place on rec.folk-dancingin 1996 and is reproduced in the article, Why Is It Called Contra Dance?


MAYPOLE / MAY DAY DANCE history and the Irish Connection

Comes from the Irish Bile Pole
Beltane marks that winter's journey has passed on and summer has begun, it is a joyous festival as it heralds the arrival of summer in her full garb. However, it is still a precarious time when the crops are still young and tender. People did everything in their power to encourage the growth of the sun and his light. Fires, celebration and ritual were an important part of the festivities to ensure the warmth of the sun's light and to promote the fecundity of the earth. On Beltane eve the Celts would build two large Bel fires lit from the nine sacred woods. The bel fire is an invocation to Bel to bring his blessings and protection to the people. The herds were ritually driven between two needle fires built on a knoll to purify, protect them and ensure their fertility before they were taken to the summer grazing lands.The Bel fire is a sacred fire with healing and purifying powers. The fires further celebrate the return of life, fruitfulness to the earth and the burning away of winter. The ashes of Beltane fires were smudged on faces and scattered in the fields. The flames were also used to bless and protect humans. Conversely, it was considered very dangerous for another to be allowed to take fire from one's home on May eve or May day because they would thereby gain power over the inhabitants. In 16th century Ireland a woman who tired to borrow a light from a neighbour was then reckoned to be a witch. In Ireland the sacred Bile tree was the centre of the clan. As the Irish tree of life, the Bile Pole represents the connection between the three worlds. Although no longer the center life, Bile pole has survived as the Beltane maypole. In some areas there are permanent maypoles, perhaps a clan recollection of the bile pole memory. In other areas a new maypole is bought from the wood on Beltane eve. The maypole dance is an important aspect of encouraging the return of fertility to the earth. The pole itself is not only phallic in symbolism but also is the connector of the three worlds. Dancing the maypole during Beltane is a magical experience as it is a conduit of energy, connecting all three worlds at a time when the gateways are most easily penetrable. As people dance around the maypole, the energy it raises is sent down into the earth bringing about her full awakening and fruitfulness.

MAYPOLE / MAY DAY DANCE ~ Michael McKernan
The 1920s and 30s collegiate Maypole/May Day practices probably developed from the efforts which began around 1900 in N.Y.C. and perhaps other large urban school systems, where elementary and high school students were taught such material as a form of both physical and social education.  One of the leaders of the movement to introduce such material was Luther Gulick.  It seems to me that he published a book called THE HEALTHFUL ART OF DANCING (or something like that) around 1911, by which time a number of educators had accepted the materials and concepts.  Elizabeth Burchenal, sometimes remembered as a founding leader in the 'International Folk Dance' movement, was perhaps in a 2nd generation of that original impulse from around 1900, and was heavily involved in promoting school (and probably) collegiate 'folk' dancing by 1920.
I expect that there were severak other educators / administrators involved in promoting this movement (and other pageantry besides May Day practices).  A close look at Gulick and Burchenal should help to identify at least some oF them.
AFAIK, this phenomenon was somewhat of a reaction to immigration, and the high level of 'foreign' students in urban public schools.  While it paid considerable attention to 'Anglo-Saxon' heritage, it also seems to have embraced a 'melting pot' concept of blending multiple traditions, especially as expressed in Burchenal's 'folk dance' work.
Distinct from these heavily-institutionalized practices, there is some evidence (such as local newspaper and diary data) of ongoing, vernacular England (and perhaps elsewhere in the USA), in the 19th century and into the early 20th.  Most instances I've seen refer to 'Maying,' 'May baskets,' or simply bunches of May flowers--which were gathered by children and left on doorsteps in their neighborhoods.
The following is an excerpt from the diary of a Woodstock VT boy (14 y.o.):
[May 1, 1850  Woodstock, VT]
> It is well known around here that all the boys and girls go up onto Mt. Tom the first May. ...
>a Maying, and I with them, but in coming back I revenged myself by leading them through Hartwell swamp.
This locally 'well known' practice is a good example of the many aspects of life which generally 'went without saying,' and thus, are somewhat difficult to find in historical records.  The adult-organized, mass pageantry practices of 50 years later may have arisen in part as a reaction to a perceived disconnect between urban/immigrant children and such
vernacular 'American'/'Anglo-Saxon' practices.  Of course, elements of ritual disorder (or the ad hoc 'revenge' mentioned by the diarist above), as well as any child-directed activities, could be edited out, or even suppressed by the adults directing the pageants.

Learn where the Snake Charmer Song came from.
The song was introduced to the collective consciousness of the American public a century ago by Sol Bloom, a show business promoter who later became a U.S. Congressman. Bloom was the entertainment director of the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, which was celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World. One of its attractions, called A Street In Cairo, included snake charmers, camel rides, the infamous dancers that later spawned the legend of Little Egypt, and other exciting things to entertain turn-of-the-century fair-goers. In his prestigious role, he made more money than the President of the United States--$1,000 a week.
It was the performances by the dancers at the this fair that brought the "hoochy koochy" dance which is Irish into the North America entertainment world.

Citations from 1893-95 [snip cites from 1893-95 for "koota-koota", "kuta-kuta", "kutcha-kutcha"]
Mostly referring to the belly-dancers who performed at Chicago's 1893 Columbian Exposition in the "Streets of Cairo" exhibit on the Midway Plaisance.  The dancers apparently traveled the country on the vaudeville circuit, or at least spawned imitators who promoters claimed had performed in Chicago.  The most common spelling variant is "kouta-kouta":

  • National Police Gazette, Dec 16, 1893, p. 6
    Crowds gathered in cornerns and gazed tremulously at visions of limbs flashing in difficult dances like streaks of lightning. The Koota-Koota dance, adorned with east-side variations, was realistic.
  • Boston Globe, Dec 31, 1893, p. 19 (advt.)
    Why, I've got a stage show for you this week that will fairly make you throw up your hands. There ain't a piece of dead wood in it from start to finish, and to cap the climax I've reengaged Mme. Carre and her famous troupe of Kouta-Kouta dancers for one more week. ...
    This Kouta-Kouta dance is the greatest card that has ever been offered the public. ...
    It created a furor in Chicago, was the talk of the town in New York, and it caused a heap of excitement when it was first introduced at the Howard, and you know it. ...
    Come early, and stay as long as you please, but don't miss the Kouta-Kouta dancers at the old Howard Athenaeum tomorrow....
    Olio: The Kouta-Kouta Dancers.
    The four original and only Kouta-Kouta dancers who created the sensational furor on the Midway Plaisance, and whose fame has spread from one end of the continent to the other.
  • Boston Globe, Jan 2, 1894, p. 3
    The Kouta-Kouta dancers made their usual hit, being encored several times.
  • Los Angeles Times, Jan 18, 1894, p. 2
    By a unanimous vote of the Alderman at a special meeting today, the notorious "Mussell," or "Kouta Kouta" dance, alleged to have been performed by dancers from the Midway Plaisance, World's Fair, has been officially declared immoral and banished from Boston.
  • Washington Post, Apr 22, 1894, p. 14
    Another feature will be the appearance of another installment of the Midway dancers in the persons of Hadji Sheriff, Viobela, Zara, and Montezo, in the Kouta-Kouta, the national dance of their country. They are said to be the same dancers who created such a sensation in Cairo street at the World's Fair.
  • Washington Post, Jan 13, 1895, p. 4
    Kinetoscope Pictures.
    It is Omene in the nearest approach to the kouta kouta dance that has been seen in this city.
  • Washington Post, Aug 27, 1895, p. 2
    Later in the evening she appeared as Princess Kouta-Kouta and gave a dance which was wild and hilarious.
  • When belly-dancers performed in a reconstruction of Chicago's Midway in Atlanta in 1895, "coochee-coochee" and "coutah-coutah" were used in the press interchangeably:
  • Atlanta Constitution, Oct 23, 1895, p. 7
    Have you heard Cora Routt sing of the simple country maiden who "had never seen the coochee-coochee dance?" The boys around town are all whistling away on that delicious oriental-American tune which is so suggestive of the Midway, and Cora certainly sings it with great feeling.
  • Atlanta Constitution, Oct 24, 1895, p. 2
    AGAINST THE COUTAH-COUTAH.; Manufacturers Say It Detracts from Their Exhibits at Fairs.
    A resolution was adopted which cited that windmills, threshing machines and vehicles stood no earthly chance whatever by the side of the seductive coutah-coutah dance and a vigorous campaign will at once be begun to wipe out this innovation.
  • Los Angeles Times, Oct 26, 1895, p. 1
    The committee visited the Midway, ate the "hot-hots" of Egyptian commerce, drank of the seductive liquid refreshments purveyed by the Turks, witnessed the "coochee coochee" dance, and pronounced it a good thing.
  • Atlanta Constitution, Oct 26, 1895, p. 7
    ON WITH THE DANCE; But It Is Move On, the Georgia Legislators Say. THEY HAVE BEEN ON THE MID The Coutah-Coutah Is Too Much Like a Tamole for Their Taste--A Day in the Legislature.
    "There is no record of any law compelling a lady or gentleman to visit the 'coochee dance,'" said he.
  • Atlanta Constitution, Nov 4, 1895, p. 4
    He explained that while he was in sympathy with the legislative bill prohibiting the coochee-coochee dance, being a fair-mind man, he could not condemn the dance without seeing whether it was naughty or not.

David LaChapelle's documentary about the "krumping" dance style (LaChapelle directed a short called "Krumped" that played at Sundance last year).
* krumping, n.
2004 _NY Times_ 21 Jan. (Arts) 1 (Nexis) His quick, excitable mode of speaking is similar to krumping, the whip-quick dancing of his subjects that includes bits of hip-hop and pantomime martial-arts movement. ... "I got to be there before krumping became a Burger King commercial, before it started getting used in videos," he said. "You can see krumping in the OutKast video, where the kids are dancing and breaking into it while wearing tuxedos."
2004 _MTV News_ 23 Apr. (online) We've gotten a potent dosage of clown dancing or krumping, as it's called in videos such as Missy Elliott's "I'm Really Hot" and the Black Eyed Peas "Hey Mama." ... The dance form eventually evolved into what he calls krumping. "Krumping is when you're dancing and your body is doing a lot of different moves," Tommy explained.
2004 _Independent_ (London) 27 Apr. 14 (Nexis) Another artist who will be arriving next week is Tommy the Clown, one of the stars of the current underground movement in Los Angeles, "krumping", which is taking over inner-city neighbourhoods.
2004 _Plain Dealer_ (Cleveland) 1 Jul. F1 (Nexis) Johnson sees krumping as a creative, "happy" way for teens to express themselves. There are no set moves to krumping, which is done at a hyperfast speed and mixes herky-jerky break-dance and martial-arts-style moves with spasmodic booty shaking. "It's freestyle; we go with the flow," says Johnson, who coined the term krumping.
2004 _LA Times_ 21 Aug. E1 (Nexis) The allure of krumpin', a furiously energetic street dance unique to South Los Angeles, is its no-holds-barred physicality, its encouragement of improvisation and its unexpected and imaginative use of theatrical face paint. ... With Tommy's encouragement, Dragon and some of the troupe's best dancers, including 'Lil C, split off to form a group of their own, incorporating elements of break-dancing, karate and pantomime, as well as an undercurrent of very grown-up aggression. They named their new style krumpin'.
* krump, v.
2004 _Independent_ (London) 27 Apr. 14 (Nexis) Some of Tommy's dancers were krumping in Christina Aguilera's video for "Dirty".
2004 _LA Times_ 21 Aug. E1 (Nexis) Daisy is 14 years old, with red tennis shoes, pigtails and a broad, sweet face that, when she's krumpin', becomes suddenly lean and cat-like, beautiful in the fierce manner of Egyptian queens. "It all comes out when I'm krumpin'," she says. "Everything that frustrates me and hurts me, it all comes out. I'm angry when I'm krumpin', but when I'm done, it's all good. When I'm done, I'm calm." ... "We're all of the same tree, but we're different branches," says a 19-year-old clowner named Rocco. "If we're krumpin', it's more aggressive. If we're clownin', it's more happy and go-lucky. There's a style for every mood."
* krumping, attrib.
2004 _MTV News_ 23 Apr. (online) The krumping era just may be upon us. "The clowning and the krumping dance movement, it is a very positive thing because it really does keep kids off the streets," krumping originator Thomas Johnson, a.k.a. Tommy the Clown, explained in Los Angeles recently.
2004 _Plain Dealer_ (Cleveland) 1 Jul. F1 (Nexis) Johnson, who recently completed a krumping workshop in England, is hoping to take his show on the road. He wants to set up krumping classes in other cities and is in talks for a TV program.
2004 _LA Times_ 21 Aug. E1 (Nexis) Once you've watched Daisy in a krumpin' competition, this catharsis comes as no surprise. ... As more and more clownin' and krumpin' groups began to form through the late '90s, Tommy sensed a hunger for some healthy competition between the crews. ... As Miss Prissy says this, a round of cheers marks the end of Daisy's second krumpin' session of the day.
* krumped, ppl. adj.
2004 _NY Times_ 21 Jan. (Arts) 1 (Nexis) "Apparently the word krumped goes back a long ways, from the black church," Mr. LaChappelle said. "When you're krumped, you're feeling it. It's about being brave and doing something with grace."
2004 _NY Arts_ Mar./Apr. (online) When a person is said to be "Krumped" they are dancing the most intense form of a dance called "Clowning". ... "[I]f you're in that zone, if you're being brave, you're not intellectualizing and you're just flowing, youre doing your thing and just creating then you're 'Krumped'. That's why you're probably going to be hearing this term, it's going to become part of the vernacular."
2004 _Financial Times_ 1 May 12 (Nexis) Most of the moves are practised and rehearsed, but when a dancer is "krumped" (completely engrossed), he or she will perform moves that are purely improvisational.
2004 _Dance_ Jul. (online) "Getting krumped" is the state in which a dancer feeds off the energy of the audience, the other participants, the music, and his or her own adrenaline until the movement grows theatrical, inventive, and sometimes cathartic.
* krump, n.
2004 _LA Times_ 21 Aug. E1 (Nexis) As 'Lil C puts it, grinning: "The dance floor is our canvas, and krump is our 'Mona Lisa.'"
* krump, attrib.
2004 _NY Arts_ Mar./Apr. (online) You go to the Krump sessions and there's not one other person there taking pictures. ... I looked at Krump Dancing as a valid art form.
2004 _Independent_ (London) 27 Apr. 14 (Nexis) Tommy and the Hip Hop Clowns' krump dancing and hip-hop clowning demonstrations over the weekend are set to shake up the normally measured conservatism of Sadler's Wells. "It will be explosive," promises Tommy, the Clown who is bringing over 11 krump practitioners.
* krump, adj. (= "krumped")
2004 _Independent_ (London) 27 Apr. 14 (Nexis) "I started saying "He's getting krump" when a dancer was getting really busy with the dance moves," he says about his hyper version of clown dancing (a blend of hip-hop dancing and traditional party clowning) "but it is more athletic, more adult."
2004 _LA Times_ 21 Aug. E1 (Nexis) "You can't be krump unless you're pure, unless you truly believe in yourself." ... "You have to be born krump, you have to be in a krump state of mind."
* krumpness, n.
2004 _NY Arts_ Mar./Apr. (online) The thing about "Krumpness" this term that they use is it is not just for the dancers; it's not just Krump dancing. They say this in the film - "Krumpness", can be applied to your everyday life.
2004 _Dance_ Jul. (online) As Dragon, a dancer featured in Krumped, describes it, "Krumpness is an abstraction of your inner being."
2004 _LA Times_ 21 Aug. E1 (Nexis) "Krumpness," explains Miss Prissy, a whip-thin 23-year-old and one of the original female krumpers, "is an attitude. You can see my story when I dance. Theres a lot going on down here in South Central thats hard. There are homes being disrupted by violence, and a lot of people do drugs to deal with that, or they drink. Instead of doing that, we dance." ... "It's a real tribal movement," she says quietly. "It's hip-hop in its raw form; it's the meat before it's on the grill. That's what krumpness is, and that's how we give it to you, every time. ... Krumpness changes every day, and I think that's what's going to make it stick around."
* krumper, n.
2004 _Financial Times_ 1 May 12 (Nexis) By then, he had renamed his group Tommy and the Hip Hop Clowns. Now they're called Tommy the Clown and the Hip Hop Krumpers.
2004 _Plain Dealer_ (Cleveland) 1 Jul. F1 (Nexis) Not only do krumpers frenetically dance like clowns, they look like them, too.
2004 _Dance_ Jul. (online) The krumpers are young and work hard.
2004 _LA Times_ 21 Aug. E1 (Nexis) She and several similarly adorned krumpers have gathered in the parking lot... Interspersed among the krumpers is another group of dancers, the clowners, so named for theircolorful carnival gear -- baggy patchwork pants, faces decorated with bright mosaics of circus greasepaint. Where the krumpers are tribal in their choice of makeup, the clowners have opted for a look reminiscent of turn-of-the-century vaudeville.
* krumpy, adj.
2004 _Independent_ 27 Apr. 14 (Nexis) "It all kicked off when we started to get all krumpy at weekends," explains Tommy the Clown, who has been up all night at a party.





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