Welcome to Alexandria Folk Dancers

Looking for Fun? Exercise? Relaxation? Beautiful music? Learning about other cultures? Good company?

International folk dancing has it all!

We welcome first-timers, folk dance fanatics, and everyone in between, all ages. No dance experience necessary and no need to bring a partner. Join our friendly, diverse group on a beautiful dance floor every Thursday 7:30-9:30pm. We offer a mix of easy and advanced dances, instruction by experienced leaders, and requested dances.

Donation: $5/evening.

Time: 7:30-9:30pm every Thursday year-round (with a few exceptions)

Place: Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church, 1909 Windmill Lane, Alexandria, VA 22307 (a few miles south of Old Town, off Fort Hunt Road)

Questions? Contact Eileen Shropshire: eileenshropshire@gmail.com, (703) 772-9105

Info for First Timers:

New to Folk Dancing?

Folk dances are traditional dances from countries all over the world, sometimes from hundreds of years ago, sometimes more recent.

Folk dancing is a great way to get exercise, socialize, and move to music. No previous dance experience, partner, or costume are necessary. Many dances are danced in lines or circles; others are for pairs or individuals. In some dances, called mixers, the dancers change partners during the dance. Some of the dances (and music) are so beautiful they will take your breath away; others are exciting, exotic, fun, and on occasion goofy!

If you can walk, you can folk dance. Many folk dances are easily done, although some are quite vigorous or complex. If a particular dance seems to be too much, enjoy watching it the first time you see it. There’s no need to try to learn all the dances taught. Eventually patterns of steps become familiar. When more experienced dancers can’t remember a dance, they simply follow what a few others do.

Here at Alexandria Folk Dancers, we emphasize easy dances during the first part of the evening then go to a mix of easy and harder dances. There’s no need to commit to more than a single night of dancing at a time. Just show up in casual clothes and comfortable shoes.

We have dancers of all skill levels and all ages, so whether you’re a beginner or experienced, you’ll fit right in. Many dancers are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, and first learned folk dancing in college or graduate school. Some dancers are students right now, learning for the first time. Others with young families bring their children, who join in or play while we dance.

We hope to see you soon!

— Adapted with the kind permission of the author,
Janice Rayman, of the Pasadena Folk Dance Co-op

Ten Tips for Beginners

  1. You can’t learn to dance sitting down. Stop watching from the sidelines, and get in there and dance!
  2. In the beginning, don’t worry about styling and grace. Nearly every dancer started out clumsy and three-footed. Concentrate on learning the steps first.
  3. Buy a pocket-sized notebook and keep a list of the dances you’re learning. Identify each dance in some fashion: “fast, lots of turns,” or “slow and waltz-y.”
  4. Bring a portable recording device (or phone app) with you and record the music. Listen to the recording during the week. It doesn’t have to be high fidelity: The idea is just to become familiar with the tune. (If you decide to search for a dance on youtube.com, just remember that some groups may not be dancing it exactly the same way.)
  5. During request dancing, ask for dances you know and like or ones you want to learn. It’s okay to ask for a particular dance to be taught or reviewed.
  6. If you’re not familiar with a dance that’s being done, don’t get in the line unless you are told, “This is a good one for beginners,” or you have someone who knows the dance well guiding you. Otherwise, stand behind the line of dancers and follow the steps.
  7. Unless the person next to you is acting as your guide, do not try to follow that person. Instead, watch someone four or five dancers ahead of you in the line. Don’t try to copy someone across the circle from you (you’ll wind up mirroring them and doing everything backward!) until you’ve gotten more practiced at it.
  8. Use your head while you dance. As you learn a dance, try to identify the steps and say them to yourself (“grapevine… right Yemenite… turn left…”).
  9. In partner dances, it’s best to dance with someone who is more familiar with the dance than you are. Next best would be to dance with someone who is equally familiar. Don’t sit out just because you don’t have a partner. Stand off to one side and practice your part. Sometimes a friendly dancer will notice you and offer to be your partner.
  10. Relax. Smile. Contrary to what you might think, all eyes are not focused on you. But everyone on the floor is rooting for you, because we’ve all been where you are now. And be patient with yourself. Remember, Fred Astaire wasn’t all that great his first week—or several weeks—either!

Welcome to the international family of folk dancers!

— Adapted with the kind permission
of the author, Loui Tucker