The Korobushka was the first folkdance I learned. I was in fourth grade. I had an unusual teacher that year. Mr. Holabird played the bagpipes. Along with the third grade teacher, Miss Simpkins, he taught us some folkdances. We kids were sure they would get married, but they didn’t.
We learned a few more dances that year: the Troika, Miserlou, and maybe the Salty Dog Rag.
In high school, we had a folkdance unit in P.E. The teacher assigned small groups of us to learn a dance outside of class. Two of my friends and I learned Ahavat Hadassah from Dani Dassa, the owner of Cafe Dansa on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles.
By the time I got to U.C. Irvine, I was a hard core folkdancer. Hora Mamtera was my favorite dance. It was so expansive, so wildly energetic, and took up so much space.
After leaving Irvine, there was a short dead space of dance until I moved to Santa Barbara. Still a sleepy, seaside town, Santa Barbara was a folkdancer’s heaven. We danced almost every day of the week. Tuesday dances were at U.C.S.B. Wednesday we danced at Oak Park, outdoors on a wooden platform that creaked and groaned under our weight. On Fridays, the dancers took over the Plaka, a Greek cafe near the beach. In between the belly dancer and the owner’s table dance, we folkdancers provided free entertainment to the diners. I stretched out one glass of retsina from 8:00 to past midnight. It was glorious.
On Sundays, we’d recovered enough to spend the afternoon dancing on the grassy strip along the beach.
Eventually, I joined an amateur Balkan dance troupe, Zdravitsa. Here’s a version of Daichevo.
This last link above is of Aman, a professional dance troupe out of U.C.L.A. dancing a kopanitsa. To be a member of Aman was the height of accomplishment.
Today, in my golden years, I’m blessed to be able to keep on dancing, here in New Paltz, N.Y., with a group of seniors as passionate as myself.