(Photo courtesy of UML Folk Dance Club) The Folk Dance Club is a recreational club that learns traditional folk dances from around the world.
Nicole J. Estrada Rosario
Dance can be exciting, challenging and new, but it doesn’t have to be inaccessible. “Dancing is walking…on patterns,” said Andy Taylor-Blenis, folk dance instructor at UMass Lowell. She, along with Folk Dance Club president Sarah Bustin and other students, hosted the multicultural dance party on October 15.
The event collaborated with the Pair-Up program, a university program that pairs international transfer students with domestic students to encourage cultural awareness and new relationships. The multicultural dance night started with food, icebreakers and games before the students had a chance to learn some dances.
The dances were incredibly diverse, coming from many parts of the world. Some of the dances taught were the Oak Leaf Rag, the Master of the House, the Horan and the Idle Robin. The event included several other dances from Mexico to Ghana.
Despite the wide cultural spectrum, all dances shared an encouraging learning process. Taylor-Blenis took the time to guide the group through each dance step, allowing repetition and re-explaining when she felt it was necessary. She encouraged the group to “feel the beat”. The event was not just about learning a new dance, but also about exploring culture, history, movement and expression.
Many of the dances were done in circles or lines, which made their practice a collaborative act. Throughout the dances, participants relied on each other to follow the dance and the beat. As Taylor-Blenis explained, it involved feeling circles and lines, which hands were holding each other, and how many people were moving in a given direction. More so, it was about feeling how much people were willing to give and receive throughout the dance.
Each dance started simply as the steps were explained in the basic concepts of rhythms and movements. It only took a few practice rounds for the band to fall into a rhythm and try their hand at dancing to the music.
At first, the night began with an uncomfortable tension that normally comes with the fear of being judged. However, the awkwardness didn’t last long and the event ended in a comfortable environment, with many attendees even thanking their instructors for the experience as they departed.
There are more opportunities for students to experience something similar at the weekly Folk Dance Club meetings. The club meets every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. in Studio 2 at the Campus Recreation Center. As the club flyer says, no dancing experience is required. All are welcome to learn new dances and discover other cultures.
“Rhythms and beats – these are the things that keep [dances] together,” says Taylor-Blenis. It seems that learning these folk dances is limited to the will to find this rhythm.