If sunshine on a Sunday afternoon draws you to the Prescott Courthouse for a little sightseeing, and if your feet want to keep moving, you might go a few blocks southeast to Aubrey St, past Alarcon. You might be surprised to hear Greek, Balkan, Romanian or Israeli music coming from a two-story building with blue trim.
If curiosity drives you to go up the steps and peek beyond the blue door, you’ll see a group of people dancing, following precise steps, in a circle or a line. They are members of Prescott International Folk Dancers.
The group meets every week to dance to music from a great variety of cultures. Some dancers have joined recently, others have been dancing for many years. They are mostly local residents reflecting the breadth and scope of Prescott itself, having moved here from states and countries far and wide. They have something in common: they love to dance. Occasionally they welcome dancers from Tucson, Phoenix or other states.
Social folk-dance participation around the country has been dwindling for years. The most successful and dynamic groups have managed to preserve the beautiful movements of the choreography from different countries, while evolving beyond gender and ethnic stereotypes. They welcome new people, and maintain a comfortable mix of beginning and experienced dancers.
Over the long term any group needs new members to survive. New dancers sometimes choose to dance behind the line so they can watch others’ feet. A few take easily to choreographed dances, but most have to work at it a little bit, but they all agree that it’s worth the effort!
Ask a folk-dancer why they do it, and they’ll tell you how it has enriched their life and engaged them in many ways. Physically, their bodies are moving and exerting; intellectually, their minds are constantly being challenged, learning steps that range from simple to complex; socially, they develop affection and friendships with one another.
Myrna Villa recalls, “A little over ten years ago I was glancing through the community-events section of The Daily Courier and my eyes fell on a notice about a Prescott dance group meeting at a local middle school for Eastern European folk line-dancing. This brought lively memories of line-dancing at the school gym when I was a graduate student in another state, and I decided to give it a try once again. I've been dancing with the Prescott group ever since.
“The rest of my life changed in that period, but folk-dancing has remained a constant. It engages the body (lots of jumping, running, and occasional serene sliding), the mind (we have to learn the steps for all these dances) and the heart (we treat each other with kindness and respect). I am so glad I decided to give it a try then!”
Dick Weston offers some history: “Prescott International Folk Dancers came into being in 1983, when Jack and Suzie Yule began teaching folk-dancing at Yavapai College. Then, as something of a spinoff from those classes, they formed the current folk-dance group, which has been in existence ever since.”
It isn’t always easy, but the rewards are great, says Ellen Malcolm. “There is a period of effort, and for me usually some frustration, as I try to match my steps to the choreography. There comes a moment when part of the dance just begins to flow. I keep working on all the parts, and eventually the whole dance becomes a unified movement. The energy is hard to describe. Sometimes we are each in our own bubble of concentration and effort as we work on the steps and the timing. Finally there comes a moment when we are all one flow of energy, moving with the music. There is a wonderful synergy created as the group moves together.
“During the pandemic we have been able to dance safely by using a big space where we can stay several feet apart from each other. We all feel lucky to have this way of connecting by movement even when there is distance between us.”
If you enter through that blue door, you’ll find a welcoming group of people inviting you to join the line or the circle. Take a chance. Join the dance!
Prescott International Folk Dancers meets every Sunday at 2-4pm year-round at 335 E. Aubrey St. (upstairs at the Boys and Girls Club), and at the pavilion in Ken Lindley Park Wednesdays 5:30-7pm mid-May to mid-September. For more info contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 928-925-8995, or visit prescottinternationalfolkdancers.org.