My international folk dance group is not a heathen or pagan group. In fact, I’m the only Asatruar in it. Most folk dance groups, festivals, workshops, and cruises are secular and intercultural, except for the ones specifically associated with a particular ethnic group or church / temple. Our group’s mission is to preserve the world heritage of dance. And of course, also to have fun. But my dance group isn’t just a place to do an activity; it’s also a community.

For years, mom was a much more active member of the group than me. When I did go, it was a me-and-mom activity. As I write this, mom’s ability level is currently such that she’s OK by herself for short periods of time, but doesn’t always have the energy or inclination to ride somewhere to socialize, so I sometimes end up going to the dances or dance practices by myself, and that feels a bit odd.

We don’t set out to do magic, but there is magic in dance. Of course there are some dances that were originally meant as magic, such as a rain dance. There are many dances done for specific celebrations, such as a wedding dance, that may have originally had a spiritual goal. But that’s not the kind of magic I mean. Although our dance group is not a magical working group, many of our dances do have an intent. The original intent behind a lot of the dances we do was to bind the dancers into a team. There are village dances that forge a working community out of village residents that may not be related to each other, so that the work of a farm village can be done together. There are military dances. For example, Hasapikos is explicitly designed for a four man unit to learn to follow its leader’s hand signals. There are work group dances. There’s a dance from Lake Van that teaches a fishing boat’s crew the specific motions to pull nets all together in unison.

We don’t call what we do magic, but our dances have made us more than just a club. Who was there for my mom—for me, so I could leave the house—when someone needed to be there with her all the time? The folk dancers. We are a village. The village dances made us one.

Image: a photo of people in modern dress doing Greek folk dance at night under party lighting, photo by Erin Lale