International Folk Dancing
International folk dance is a genre of dance wherein selected folk dances from multiple ethnic groups are done by the same dancers, typically as part of one event. The dances are typically considered the products of national or cultural traditions rather than part of an international tradition.
It is done for various purposes, typically for preservation, recreation, or performance. Groups that dance for different purposes tend to do dances differently, and to select different dances. Recreational dancers select and tend to alter the dances (often unintentionally) according to their own tastes. Performers typically prefer dramatic, flamboyant, or athletic dances, and they often tend to dance with stylized techniques and exaggerated movements. Some dancers of both types are often concerned with the preservation of a dance for its cultural value.
Some recreational international folk dance groups also perform dances not strictly considered folk dances. These are dances which are choreographed, or are aristocratic in nature. Choreographed modern Israeli folk dancing is often incorporated into international folk dance repertoire. As are Balkan, Greek, Russian, and other circle and line dance styles from countries around the world. You'll even see some dances where American music is melded into the repertoire of dances done at a given dance.
International folk dance developed in the immigrant communities of the United States of America during the first half of the 20th century. Traditional dances such as branles, the polka, et al., have been done internationally for hundreds of years; however, the creation of international folk dance as such is often attributed to Vytautas Beliajus, a Lithuanian-American who studied, taught, and performed dances from various ethnic traditions in the 1930s. Other prominent teachers and promoters of international folk dance in its first few decades included Michael Herman and Mary Ann Herman, Jane Farwell, and Dick Crum.
Disagreements exist within the recreational folk dance community. Perhaps the greatest of these is how dances should be performed. Dancers generally believe (if one has an opinion at all), that either 1) dancers should strive to perform the dances traditionally, as they were performed in the "old country", or 2) that folk dancing should be allowed to evolve, and that America represents another "village" where dances can take on different aspects.