Folk Dance Etiquette
By Lou Pechi
After attending the last Macedonian New Year's Party in Whittier a few weeks ago, I realized that I should talk a bit about our behavior outside of our small folkdance community.
For years, I have been going almost regularly to some of the Macedonian picnics and the Macedonian New Year's Eve parties. Since the Macedonian Orthodox Church follows the Gregorian calendar, they celebrate the New Year approximately two weeks after ours.
Besides the Greek, Serbian, and Armenian festivals, there are not many real authentic ethnic events in the Southern California area. I think that this one definitely passes the muster. This is a rare event where you can really immerse yourself in the local culture and witness some of the authentic village dancing.
Their hospitality shown is genuine and they greatly appreciate our respect for their culture and dances
In the past, these events were attended mostly by the members of the church, with only a few of us adventurous "folk-dancers" joining in. While the music consisted of many tunes that we knew, the dance steps were slightly different form the choreographed ones we have been doing. It was a lot of fun trying to follow their syncopated steps and rhythms. Every leader injected a bit of his or her own style into the dance and everyone followed, adjusting to the slight variations.
As the popularity and the word spread, more and more "folk-dancers" discovered this event, so that at the last event that I attended, the number of "us" was much larger than the number of "them." For these events, the Macedonians typically dress in their best clothes, with men in suits and ties and women in dressy dresses. I observed, on the other hand, that a few of us showed up in torn jeans, sweatshirts, and sneakers.
I also noticed, to my dismay, that some of us were trying to show them the "correct" steps. Even when a member of the church was leading the line, one of our "hot-shots" rudely stepped in front of the line in an attempt to show them how to do the dance "correctly." One or two people from the folk dance crowd even got in the middle to do their own thing.
Inexcusable! How sad!
When you think about it, what we dance are second hand dances, observed and brought to our community by our teachers who in turn saw them as dances in the various villages.
We are missing a great opportunity to learn and see the original dances, without the need to spend an inordinate amount of money to travel to the various countries. There so much we can learn from them.
Probably more important is that we are guests in their house and as such should behave accordingly and respect their customs and traditions. Let us be a bit more sensitive. Maybe they will invite us again.
As appearing in "Dancing with Two Left Feet (32)," Folk Dance Scene.
Used with permission of the author.