FolkFire September/October 1996 Issue Articles

  • Salsa: Some Like it Hot, Part II
  • Scottish Highland Dancing - Aerobic Fitness With A Cultural Twist...
  • The Ancient Art of Belly Dance
  • We Goofed...So Please Help Us!
  • Midwesterners Honored
  • Editorial Comment
  • New Zealand Folk Dance Cruise
  • Music: Not Just for Entertainment
  • Achieving Proper Balance: A Folk Cure for Winter's Ailments
  • FolkFireHome

  • Salsa: Some Like it Hot, Part II
    By Martha Edwards

    There is great music and dancing from nearly all the Latin American countries, but Cuba supplied the music and dancing that got everybody up off their chairs. Cuban dance music, like much of Latin American dance music, is an intoxicating blend of African drum music, call-and-response singing, and European march and dance music. Cuban musicians in exile after the Revolution played music with other Latin musicians, and the ensuing spicy blend of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican Republic, Colombian and Venezuelan dance music got dubbed "Salsa." In particular, the Puerto Rican community in New York made it "The Latin Dance", and so it is across much of America, including here.

    Salsa music has an underlying rhythmic pattern called son clave, which provides the structure of the music, and gives its characteristic "swing" that makes you want to move your feet and dance. The music is then built up in layers, with each percussion instrument adding its characteristic rhythm. Even the melody instruments tend to be used like drums, adding a dab of color here and there to the patterns. The result is a richly pattered musical texture in which it can be very difficult to hear the main beats of the measure. Some dancers say that the footwork pattern begins on beat "two" and others on beat "one." Since it is often difficult to hear just where "one" and "two" really are, I just let my partner pick whatever beat he wants to start on, and so long as we're responding enough to the music to stay rhythmic, I'm happy just being inside all that sound.

    There's a sort of fight that erupts from time to time over whether "real" Salsa starts the characteristic quick-quick-slow step on the first or the second beat of the measure. The dance from which Salsa is mostly derived, Mambo, always started on two. Many Latinos start the dance on two, and people trained in ballroom classes scoff at any attempt to start the step on anything but the “right” beat, that is, beat two. But the truth is, much of the street-dancing world starts the dance on one, and it works just fine.

    There are so many rhythms in Latin music, all layered on top of one another, that you can pretty much pick any beat, or any off-beat, to move to, and have a great time. Learn Salsa both ways, and then if your partner has a strong preference, you don't have to break off your friendship. (The secret is in beat two: the back beat is so cool to move to that if you do start the quick-quick-slow on beat one, the second step is generally stronger than the first.) Much Latin music has the underlying rhythmic pattern called son clave, which goes like this:
    B B B B B
    This structured rhythm provides the framework of the music, and gives it its characteristic "swing," which is what makes Latin music irresistible to dancers. In most dance music, the beginning of any measure (beat one) is marked by a note from the bass. One of the great joys and mysteries of Salsa is that the bass player more often than not leaves out the first beat. The bass usually plays on the “and” of two and on the fourth beat, like this:
    B B B B
    You can see that this is almost the clave rhythm, and if you can key into it, your life as a Salsero will be a rich and happy one.


    Scottish Highland Dancing - Aerobic Fitness With A Cultural Twist...
    by Susan Stark

    So, just what do they wear under their kilts? Why did Malcom cross the Broadswords in Mac Beth?!

    These and many other fascinating questions can be answered simply by participating in one of the most fun and exciting types of ethnic dancing. Traditional Scottish Dancing is a striking blend of aerobic strength and graceful ballet inspired movement.

    Traditionally performed by Scottish warriors, Scottish Dance has evolved over the centuries to its present form, performed in competition or exhibition by both men and women of all ages. As is true in most other forms of ethnic dance, Scottish Highland Dancing represents myths or symbols from Scottish culture. The dances are beautiful representations of a culture rich with interesting history. (Hence, the answer to the above mentioned questions). Dancers typically compete in local or national (even international competition or perform “for fun” in local exhibition. Scottish Highland Dancers always report that they have great fun whether on the road or at home - just as long as they are dancing.

    If you are interested in joining the fun, please call Susy Stark (771-1029). She is certified through the British Association of Teachers of Dance and has over 20 years of dancing experience. She if forming classes in the fall for beginner to professional level dancers of all ages. She will be assisted by Catherine Mac Callum, a newly certified teacher with a long history of Scottish Dancing. We hope to hear from you soon.

    The Ancient Art of Belly Dance
    by Chandara Gamal

    Danse orientale, danse du ventre, raqs sharqi, middle eastern dance - these are all names associated with the ancient art most commonly known as belly dancing.

    Contemporary middle eastern dance is popular with over 50,000 Americans, most of whom are non-Arab. Their reasons for dancing are as varied as the people themselves. Some study the dance in hopes of performing professionally in ethnic restaurants, nightclubs and on the theater stage, while others use it as a form of exercise. It is quite useful for stress reduction, and builds confidence and body awareness.

    One of the most common questions I encounter from the public is "Where did belly dancing originate?." No one can answer this question absolutely, but one thing is certain - it is the oldest dance form known to humanity. The first human activity recorded on cave walls was not of hunting or war - it was dance!

    So why did the ancient, archetypal, nomadic, prehistoric, tribal, matriarchal, cave-dwelling people dance? For whom did they dance? Gina Shephard sheds some light on this question in an article published in a paper out of Berkley (Express, May 28, 1993): "Dance originated as a holy art. Most of it was done in groups, with simple hypnotic steps used to induce altered states of consciousness. Later, religious dance evolved into folk dancing, which was more social and still mainly done in groups. This, in turn, split into two separate strands of dance: dance as a solo art form which was to be observed rather than participated in, and dancing as a courtship ritual."

    The first dances done by humans were of a ritualistic nature, imitating an event seen in nature either to provoke or prevent its occurrence. The first dances, then, were like prayers, invoking unknown forces which could not be explained. People danced for rain, for a successful hunt or harvest, and certainly for the continuation of humanity, which ancient people assumed to be the sole role of women, not knowing how babies originated. It is safe to assume that belly dancing, or some form of belly dancing, was the first dance, done either as a ritualistic celebration of the creation and delivery of a new life, or as a invocation of a blessing for the preservation of that new life.

    As people gradually gained a less superstitious approach to life, dance became more of a diversionary or celebratory function. Although dance has lost its holy aspects, the ritualistic movements of the ancients are still found in modern belly dance.

    Belly dance today is rich in ethnic traditions from many cultures including (but not limited to) Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey, India, Uzbekistan and the Greek Isles.

    Within the American genre of belly dance, the influences of these cultures are reflected in the different styles of middle eastern dance. Each of these styles are distinguishable by the music, costuming and movements.

    Middle eastern dance was first introduced in the United States at the Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as part of the Tunisian exhibit where a young woman performed a "scarf dance". This particular scarf dance is said to have originated as a flirtatious cafe dance and may have also been used in the Andalusian tradition of North Africa. In its premier performance in America, orientale dance did not inspire the controversy that followed the later dancers at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.

    The appearance of the dancers at the Egyptian exhibit at the 1893 World's Fair caused a stir of controversy from which this country has yet to fully recover and spawned a series of myths and legends about a dancer known as "Little Egypt". The sinuous undulations of Fatima and the other dancers at the exhibit was interpreted by a conservative audience as scandalous!

    Hollywood also made its contribution to the "Americanized" version of belly dance by romanticizing the "harem girl" in many movies during the 1940s and 1950s.

    Today belly dancing is used as a form of entertainment, as an educational tool to spread goodwill and cultural acceptance, and as a beautiful form of exercise and self-expression.

    Chandara Gamal teaches belly dancing through the Winzen School of Dance in Bridgeton. For more information, please call 225-9525.

    We Goofed...So Please Help Us!
    By Mark Silverstein

    Recently we were informed of an error in a listing for a major event. FolkFire sincerely apologizes to the organization and for any inconvenience this has caused anyone who used this information for planning their future activities.

    This is reflective of the problem we here at FolkFire have in gathering accurate information for events. Our goal is to be current and informative about the activities which are important to our dance and music community. Unfortunately, we do not always get our information in time to meet our publication deadline. We feel that notifying the community of an event, and to give the information we have at our publication deadline is preferred to omitting the event listing altogether (which has its own repercussions.)

    The solution depends on you, the community. Please help us by relating the most accurate information about your future events by contacting us via the FolkLine, PRO-FOLK (776-3655 (disconnected 3/2001)) or contacting a member of the FolkFire staff as soon as you can confirm the dates and details for your event. Remember, we want to publish the correct information, but unless someone informs us, we can only give the information as we understand it.

    We will continue to contact the groups listed in FolkFire to gather information for each issue, but with the number of groups growing, it becomes increasingly difficult. So please help us to give our readers accurate and complete information about your events by giving us that information as early as possible.

    The FolkFire staff thanks you!

    Midwesterners Honored
    by Andrew Limanni

    This month, at the Seventh Annual Appalachian Music Festival, held at Clifftop, West Virginia, several folks familiar to us here in the Midwest did very well. The event is the largest strictly old-time music festival held in the United States. Here are the special folks that walked away with honors:

    In the category of Traditional Bands, Rhys Jones' band, "The Cook County Renegades" took third place. Among the band members were, of course Rhys and Fred Campau. Also in the Traditional Band category, "The Ill-Mo Boys" took fifth place.

    In the Non-Traditional Band category, a band called "Pink Void" which included Bayliss from Lawrence, Kansas won second place.

    And in the Fiddle competition, Rhys Jones tied for sixth place, only missing the finals by one place.

    These individuals deserve a hearty "Congratulations" for their efforts which helped to make the festival a special experience.

    Editorial Comment
    by Lynn DeVries

    As our regular readers are aware, we have been asking for your help in the production of FolkFire for quite some time now. We are facing the possibility of scaling back or even ceasing production of the newsletter unless we can find some more helpers. Those of us involved in its production, promotion, and development care about FolkFire and put a lot of hard work and time into each issue. Unfortunately, the few Board members and volunteers who do the work have to spend so much time that it is negatively affecting other aspects of our lives. We are burning out. Recently, two board members and a regular contributor had to bow out. Unfortunately, no one else has come forward to take up the slack.

    We are also concerned by the lack of support from the dance and music community as a whole. We produce FolkFire to serve the dance and music groups as well as the readers. We help the groups inform potential new members of their activities. We give readers a resource with which to find things to do in the St. Louis area. One would think that everyone would be enthusiastic and eager to support FolkFire.This turns out not to be the case.

    With each issue, we have to take time to call most of our listed groups, some repeatedly, to try to get their information to help them publicize their group. I know of no other publication which has to beg anyone to take free publicity with every issue. If a group were serious about the finding new members and keeping their current members informed, they would probably take a more proactive roll by at least keeping their listing information accurate with a scheduled bi-monthly phone call.

    Many readers have commented enthusiastically about the resource and entertainment value of our publication. The problem is that all too few contribute anything in return. If only one in ten of our readers thought enough of the publication to send a donation to help in the production costs, or to lend an hour on the phone, we would see that as a vote of confidence. Few of the groups we support even contribute in any material way to their own promotion. More to the point, we need people who, every couple of months, could dedicate a few hours to helping us out.

    I really hate the idea that FolkFire may be destined for extinction, but without more involvement by the groups and readers being served, that may come to pass. I welcome your comments and hope that some of you will find it in your hearts to step forward and contribute, at least in some small way, to the production of FolkFire.
    You can e-mail me at

    New Zealand Folk Dance Cruise
    by Mel Mann

    At this writing, there are 20 dancers from all over the US and Canada already signed up for the February 1st eleven day trip around New Zealand’s North and South Islands. There is still a great deal of space left and at some bargain prices. For the past twelve years I have made a hobby of organizing and escorting folk dance cruises all over the world, and have put together a wonderful experience "down under"” The beginning price for the cruise is $1,995.00 and there are very low priced add-on round trip airfares from most major cities. (West Coast of US, about $495.00, Toronto and US East coast $895.00) One can select a tour extension or for an extra fee to extend their stay for independent travel. The whole package includes the flight, all transfers, a two night stay in a deluxe Auckland hotel and the flight from Auckland to Christchurch where the cruise begins.

    Transport yourself from North America's winter to a comfortable New Zealand summer, just a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles. The lush green and wooded countryside of New Zealand is only exceeded by the beauty of the fjords, cliffs, volcanoes and resplendent wild life. The Marco Polo is a stately, warm and comfortable ship. It sports the largest wooden dance floor of any cruise ship. All cabins have two lower beds, a telephone, television and a luxurious bathroom. There is a large swimming pool, three whirlpools and an abundance of public areas, a well equipped health club, meeting room and helipad. (Yes, helicopter excursions in Milford Sound take off from the top deck of your ship!) There is a well-stocked, comfortable library. There are two bands and a string quartet as well as a lecturer to help us learn about New Zealand on board. Among the highlights of the ship’s entertainment will be a Maori dance show as well as an evening’s entertainment by the Filipino crew.

    Auckland is a beautiful city squeezed between two harbors and a volcanic mountain that blends modern amenities and a Polynesian history and tradition. We’ll spend two nights in an Auckland English-like city that even has the Avon River meandering through its center. The many private and public gardens, floral displays, weeping willow trees and charming bridges all justify the name, "The Garden City."

    Dunedin, our first port, is a city rich in history and tradition. The Scottish character of its founders still pervades this enchanting harbor city. Like much of New Zealand, the landscape in the Dunedin area features a volcanic landscape. You can enjoy a visit to the tower of Larnach or the ancient English oaks of Glenfalloch Gardens.

    Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sound landscape created by glacier action remind me of the Scandinavian Fjord land. The majestic beauty of these works of nature will be only one of the highlights of this remarkable trip. Everyone will enjoy the green covered mountains, sheer-faced rock walls, and numerous waterfalls in these 14,000 year old fjords.

    The picturesque inlets dotting the Marbourough Sound and the pretty town of Picton consume one of the most exciting days of this cruise. In the late 1700s, Captain James Cook found a haven in this rich Maori fishing grounds. The last remaining sailing vessel of the British East India company, the Edwin Fox, now under restoration, is moored here at Dunbar Wharf.

    Napier, nestled in a region of fertile vineyards, orchards and sheep farms, is a city that suffered a severe 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake. The downtown was completely rebuilt under a strict, controlled art deco style. Wood carving adorns most Maori buildings and is taught in the Maori Arts and Crafts institute we'll visit.

    While there, I spent an evening dancing with folk dancers in Christchurch and it is hoped that joint dance events can be arranged with folk dancers in Auckland during our stay. Dancing on this cruise will once again be led by the skill of folk dance leader, Sandy Starkman from the Toronto area. Sandy is a highly respected dance teacher with extensive experience teaching at Maine and Kentucky camps as well as institutes and workshops throughout Canada and the US. This will be the fifth time Sandy’s smiles and talents have led the folk dancing on the Dance on the Water cruises.

    I can arrange for cabin mates for people wanting to share a cabin, and there are also singles available.

    For more information, contact Mel Mann, c/o Berkeley Travel Company, 1301 California St., Berkeley, CA 94703, 510-526-4033, fax 510-524-9906 or e-mail

    Music: Not Just for Entertainment
    By Kathi Anton

    Have you ever watched little children react to music? They calm down more quickly, as if to listen, move in time with the music and twirl around and around until they're dizzy. Music is very natural to them. It is as if music is in their bones, as the saying goes. Strange as it may seem, this phrase is quite correct.

    Ancient philosophers such as Pythagoras, who developed the doctrine of the "Music of the Spheres", Johannes Kepler, Robert Fludd, and most ancient religions take music (i.e. sound: "the word") all the way to the creation itself. For the more scientific minded, let this sound be the "Big Bang."

    As for myself, I like the philosophers' view. The philosophers and mystics say that everything that exists, from molecule to man, from plant to the planets, is the result of the rhythmic vibrational energy of sound.

    Every sound emanates a certain color and takes on a different form. In return, this form gives forth a sound. This sound is its keynote. Therefore, every cell in our body has its own keynote that harmonizes with the keynotes of every other cell, creating a "chord" with the keynote of the body. The harmonizing sum total of all these notes, from man to the solar system, makes up what is known as the "Music of the Spheres."

    Perfect health is enjoyed when there is complete harmony between the keynote of our body and the keynote of the archetype, the form or blueprint by which the body was originally formed.

    Negative thinking and negative emotions, especially fear and anger, bring discord into this otherwise harmonious function of our body and the archetypal keynote, resulting in dis-ease (physical or mental.)

    The therapeutic value of music has been recognized throughout the ages. You'll find this in ancient manuscripts of the Chinese, Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, and Hindus. They understood and used the sciences of music, physics and psychology to heal the mind and the body.

    Today music therapists are continuing this work. For those of us who are not trained in music therapy, but would like to use music as an aid to our general well being, the book The Healing Energies of Music by Hal A. Lingerman is a good source and guide in achieving this goal.

    Kathi Anton is the current Deputy Master of the St. Louis Rosicrucian Lodge, a group whose purpose is to study and investigate metaphysics and natural laws. For more information about their activities, call 963-1442.

    Achieving Proper Balance: A Folk Cure for Winter's Ailments
    By Jane Friedmann

    Here in Minnesota, where winter lasts for half the year, spring fever is a serious illness. There's no brand of aspirin that will take care of months of frozen nostril hairs, ice-caked windshields and stubborn "car pies" barnacled to the back of wheel wells. This year, facing temperatures dipping to -30 degrees, the St. Paul Winter Carnival's Grand Day parade was postponed out of fear that the band members' lips would freeze to their instruments. When winter settled in around the middle of fall this year, I was determined to laugh my way pridefully through the season's challenges. I threw myself furiously into dancing, finding my way to three or four dances a week. But like taking a running plunge into a lake, where resistance eventually forces limbs to slog to a halt, so did winter's monotony clutch and tug at me.

    January found me waist-high in cabin fever. It was then that I found myself at a particular dance, picking up the standard literature. A neon-green flyer caught my eye and changed forever my opinion of those who scurry south every winter, tails between their legs. George Marshall, caller and musician with Wild Asparagus, a Massachusetts band over whom Twin Cities dancers go berserk, was offering a week-long dance vacation on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Could this be the salvation my sanity was searching for? I quickly began to rationalize over what would be my first ever sissy winter getaway. This was not really one of those lay-around-like-a-jellyfish vacations. This was exercise. Social networking. Personal growth. This was the sharing of complex recreation opportunities with like-mind folk dancers.

    Yup. This was going to be a lot of hard work.

    Suddenly, as though I was standing at the cavernous nozzle of a galaxy-sized Kirby vacuum cleaner, my feet left the ground and I began a high-speed, headlong journey to the Tropics.

    Stepping off the plane in San Juan, I felt a wall of warmth and humidity ripple through my body. Ah. All was right with the world.

    The wait for the tiny plane to take me to St. Croix was a couple hours longer than promised. It mattered not. It was 80 degrees . . . and work seemed so very far away.

    The last waltz of the night was lingering on the light breeze when I finished the logistics of checking in. I followed the dancers to the outdoor pool, where a buffet of fruit, cheese, breads and tropical sweets was waiting. Famished from the long trip, I ignored civility and partook with enthusiasm.

    The trip was well coordinated. Participation was limited to 150. Most attending were from the East Coast, with a smattering of involvement from elsewhere around the country. The choice of resort was good. Colony Cove near Christiansted was modern, with each apartment-like unit having a complete kitchen and a large balcony, most with views of the ocean.

    The days were our own, to do with as we pleased. On one of the first mornings, vendors came to facilitate our snorkeling, scuba-diving, hiking and mountain biking excursions. Evenings were structured with a 6:00 dinner at poolside, followed by an 8:00 dance. A typical dance split the music between Wild Asparagus and Molsky, Stephanini and Smith, an old time band pooled from Virginia and Pennsylvania. Kathy Anderson, from Ohio, and George Marshall shared the calling duties.

    I glided through the days and nights with hyperclarity in every fiber of my being. I felt. I heard. I saw. I swayed. Every passing minute massaged my senses and healed my soul. The sultry, mysterious sound of Wild Asparagus pulsed and reverberated through the night air. Molsky, Stephanini and Smith was a perfect compliment to the New England style band, energizing the group with its spirited, meaty melodies.

    The dancers were accomplished, sending a synchronized shock wave through the floor as they balanced. Swings were fast and furious. Often, walk-throughs led seamlessly into dancing, leaving the dancers unaware of when the first ended and the second started. Calling was skilled, tapering off gently and early.

    What made each dance extraordinary was the portable pavilion constructed by George Marshall. The suspended floor consisted of pieces of routed four-by-eight wood panels latched together from below and resting upon rubber blocks. An immense navy-blue canopy adorned with large white stars was supported by four posts lined up lengthwise down the center of the floor. Lights splayed from the posts and were strung along the outer edge of the canopy, all lending the atmosphere a festival feeling. At one end of the pavillion, a raised stage accommodated the bands. Four contra lines fit easily under the canopy.

    We were treated every day to some sort of island culture. One evening, we supped to the sound of steel drum music and watched a man perform a dance called Mocko Jumbie. It is one adapted from African spiritual ritual and is done on very tall stilts by performers wearing colorful outfits and elaborate masks. At other times we listened to local women reading their poetry and viewed a midnight, beachside slide show of the coral reef by a naturalist who talked about his love affair with sponges.

    A highlight for me was the snorkeling. I sailed on a catamaran with 30 other dancers to nearby Buck Island, a U.S. national park. The reef flanking the island is a national monument and therefore inviolate.

    I journeyed on a relatively calm day and saw an excellent display of sea life. The large Stoplight Parrotfish, blue, green and lavender with accents of pink and yellow nibbled on the algae attached to the coral and by doing so create sand for the beaches.

    A school of Blue Tang shimmered closely by, each haloed in electric-blue.

    The water just off the resort's beach held its own beauty, too. A wide variety of multi-colored fish congregated around a different sort of shelter: tires. Clusters of truck tires were sunk as the embryos of a new coral reef. Coral are constantly looking for solid surfaces on which to cling. The tires already hosted some coral and will eventually be completely enveloped.

    Sadly, the fun ended much too early. It was at the end of the trip that I realized I had put forth very little effort into making it a vacation of hard work. It had been far to easy to relax. Winter, in its cruelty, was still there as I had left it. I just received a postcard heralding the 3rd Annual Tropical Dance Vacation in St. Croix next February 4-11. My rationalizations for taking a sissy winter vacation have already begun to be made.

    And I'm finding them to be no work at all.


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