I’m preparing to teach Basic Folk Dance at Southwest Frith Moot. My time slot between the other things on the schedule is a half hour, so I’ve selected two dances, Hora and Tot Ursi. Tot Ursi is a procession dance and the Hora is a round dance. Tot Ursi is so simple that I can teach it before I teach any actual dance basics, so I can teach Tot Ursi, do a short lecture teaching dance basics, and then teach the Hora. The dance basics I need to teach for the second dance include what “line of direction” means (move to the right, starting on the right foot), how to hold hands (dancing in a circle round, left hand up and the right one down,) and how to cut in.

My mom and I dance with the Ethnic Express Folk Dancers. We dance to bring people together—ourselves, most of all—and to preserve the world heritage of dance. I’m the only heathen in the dance group. Mom and I originally got into folk dance as an activity we could do together when I was in high school. Even when she can’t dance, our folk dance friends are a big part of our life.

This will be the first time I’ve taught folk dance by myself. Usually when the Ethnic Express teaches, performs, or has a dinner and dancing night at a local restaurant, one of the members of the dance group who owns one of the Folkdance Jukebox laptops brings it along and plugs it in to whatever sound system the venue has. One of the more experienced members of the group leads the instruction, and other members dance along with the students. The last time I participated in teaching folk dance, we taught local girl scouts at a school, and my mom and I just had to show up in our folkwear and dance.

This time it’s just going to be me, not the dance group, because I’m the only member of the group who is going to the heathen gathering. I don’t have one of the Jukeboxes, and if I did, there would be no sound system to plug it into at the campground. Planning ahead for this meant I had to think about how to get music where there’s no sound system and probably no electricity. One of the two dances I chose, the Hora (also called Horo,) has recorded music on tape, and I managed to locate an inexpensive retro style battery operated tape player. For the other dance, Tot Ursi, I’m bringing a drum, and written drumsong notes, and hoping I can get someone at the moot to play it for me. It is possible to drum and do this dance at the same time, and I’ve been practicing it, but it would be easier to teach if someone else was doing the drumming.

I could just choose a different dance, I suppose, but I really want to teach Tot Ursi, because one can dance it with no dance knowledge at all, because it has personal meaning for me (as I'll explain in part 3 of this post) and because it connects to holiday traditions rooted in distant pagan antiquity.

Image: sunprint Circle Dance by Erin Lale