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Dancing made accessible by the Folk Dance Club’s Multicultural Dance Night

(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
Connector Staff

Dancing can be exciting, challenging and new, but it does not have to be inaccessible. “Dancing is about walking…about patterns,” said Andy Taylor-Blenis, a folk dance instructor at UMass Lowell. She, along with Folk Dance Club President, Sarah Bustin, and other students, hosted the Multicultural Dance Night on Oct. 15.

 

The event collaborated with the Pair-Up Program, a program at the university that pairs up international transfer students with domestic students to encourage cultural awareness and new connections. The Multicultural Dance night began with food, icebreakers and games before students got the chance to learn some dances.

 

The dances were incredibly diverse, originating from many parts of the world. Some of the dances taught were the Oak Leaf Rag, Maître de la Maison, Horan and Idle Robin. The event included several more dances from Mexico to Ghana.

 

Despite the wide cultural range, all dances shared an encouraging learning process. Taylor-Blenis took the time to walk the group through every dance step, allowing for repetition and re-explaining when she thought it was needed. She encouraged the group to “feel the rhythm.” The event was not just about learning a new dance, but also exploring culture, history, movement and expression.

 

Many of the dances were done in circles or lines which made the practice of them a collaborative act. Throughout the dances, participants relied on one another to follow the dance and rhythm. As explained by Taylor-Blenis, it was a matter of feeling the circles and lines, the hands that were being held and how much people were moving in any given direction. Even more, it was about sensing how much people were willing to give and take throughout the dance.

 

Each dance began simply as the steps were explained in basic concepts of beats and movements. It only took a few rounds of practice for the group to fall into a rhythm and try the dance with music.

 

At first, the night started with awkward tension that normally comes with the fear of being judged. However, the awkwardness did not last long, and the event ended with a comfortable environment with many of the participants even thanking their instructors for the experience as they left.

 

There are more opportunities for students experience something similar at the Folk Dance Club’s weekly meetings. The club meets every Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Studio 2 at the Campus Recreation Center. As the club’s flyer says, no dance experience is required. All are welcome to learn new dances and experience other cultures.

 

“Rhythms and beats — these are the things that keep [dances] together,” says Taylor-Blenis. It seems that learning these folk dances is merely about the willingness to find that rhythm.

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