Dancing for joy
This week I am lucky enough to be all the way across the other side of the world, studying in the Silver Lake Summer Music Program with the leading authority on music and movement development in childhood, Dr John Feierabend. This is a bit like learning how to play tennis from Serena Williams, or Paul Kelly teaching you to write songs. Learning from a world expert is incredibly exciting and I'm trying to soak up every little drop of knowledge!
And while I HAVE been working hard, I was also lucky enough to be invited to a Cream Puff Cookout in honour of Dr John Feierabend's 40th anniversary at the college.
Oh my! Have you ever seen the size of a Wisconsin cream puff?? Let's just say that napkins were required...
But the most fun of the night came when it was time to folk dance! Here I am doing the 'Grumpy March' with all the other guests (look out for me in the red dress)... So. Much. Fun.
But what's so great about folk dancing?
While the dance steps are simple, by the end of a folk dancing session, your heart will be pumping, your lungs breathing deeply and you'll most certainly have a sweat upon your brow.
Folk dancing builds intimate connections with others as you take their hand, look into their eyes and move in synch with each other. Yet it doesn't require weekly rehearsals or refined skills, as each dance is simple enough to be taught on the spot. People of all ages and sizes can participate - young children, adults, grandparents - building intergenerational bridges. And while anyone that's danced in a social setting recently knows this intuitively, there's also plenty of research to back it up!
Folk dancing is passed down from generation to generation, keeping the music and the culture of a country alive. Check out this clip of 18,000 people dancing together at the recent Latvian Song and Dance Celebration...
The celebration started in 1873 and now, every five years, dancers and musicians from Latvia’s towns and rural areas come to Riga for this incredible event.
In addition to the 18,000 folk dancers this year, there was also a choir of over 16,000 singers. What is particularly astounding is that the entire population of Latvia is less than 2 million!
Latvia's Song and Dance Celebration has significantly contributed to the national consciousness, and to maintaining the idea of an independent Latvian nation during difficult periods of their history. This has been recognised at the international level and the event is included in UNESCO's list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
It is impossible not to smile as you dance your way around a room, greeting each new partner with a sparkle in your eye. Wrong steps usually trigger giggles and laughter and you leave the dance feeling tired but happy.
Now the good news is that you don't have to travel all the way to Wisconsin to take to the dance floor... there are folk dances happening all over the world, possibly at a location right near you.
The even better news for Geelong-folk is that Bluebird is bringing folk dancing right to your doorstep with a new initiative called 'The Folk House' - free seasonal folk dancing events held throughout Geelong! The first one will be in Spring so keep your eyes open. And while we may not have 18,000 people come along to the very first event, perhaps I'll see YOU on the dance floor soon...