Try Folk Dancing at Live Oak Park

This BFD Production Seeks Partners


Chris Duffey

Pining for some good old-fashioned family fun on a Friday night? Look no further than Berkeley’s Live Oak Park where, on the first Friday of every month, members of the Berkeley Folk Dancers, also known as BFD, host an evening of music and dance for the whole family. The new event is open to all ages, and no partner or previous dance experience is required.

Founded in 1941, BFD is one of the largest folk dance clubs in the country, with more than 150 members from across the East Bay. Most of the club’s members are old enough to remember a time when folk dancing was all the rage—so much so that, according to one member, it was even taught in East Bay public schools.

But what exactly is folk dance? According to Neil Collier, BFD’s Dance Committee chairman, folk dance is any local dance that people do for fun as a group. BFD’s repertoire includes hundreds of folk dances from every corner of the world, including Turkey, Greece, Mexico and Taiwan.

“Folk dance is about community,” says Melvin Mann, a BFD member since 1964. “Each dance tells you a little bit about the community that it comes from. It opens your mind to different cultures.” “Plus,” adds Esther, Melvin’s wife and fellow BFD member, “it’s a lot of fun.”

They’re hoping that Family Folk Dance Nights will attract new—and younger—folk dance enthusiasts; at a time when socializing often means friending someone on Facebook, they say there is something refreshingly intimate about standing in a circle and, in Esther’s words, “holding a real hand.”

BFD holds classes Monday through Thursday, also at Live Oak Park, with each night geared toward a different skill level (classes are free for BFD members and $5 for drop-ins). Note to wallflowers: If you do go, be prepared to dance. There’s no such thing as standing on the sidelines in this crowd.

Family Folkdance Night, 7:15-8:15 p.m. at Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510 527-2177, Entry is $5-$10 per family on a sliding scale.

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