Members of the Surrey International Folk Dancing Society. From left: Valerie Weinert

Dance group has the world at its feet

There’s some serious fun being had at the Surrey international Folk Dancing society.

If you’re looking for fun, exercise and a lively social atmosphere, get in line – or sometimes a circle.

The Surrey International Folk Dancing Society is gearing up for its new season this month, with practice dances each Thursday night from September to June in Fleetwood.

Organizer and chief dance instructor Dale Adamson is happy to see the group’s school practice hall re-open just in time for the society’s open house on Sept. 25.

The public is invited to try out dances from around the world – Russia, the Balkans, South America, Scotland, Israel, The Netherlands, Armenia, and even French Canada.

No partner or costume are required and all ages are welcome.

“There’s something for everybody,” says Adamson, who has taught folk dancing for 15 years and has memorized no less than 275 individual dances –from Brittany’s Breton Waltz, to Albania’s Cobankat, to Macedonia’s Kostursko Oro, to Norway’s Seksmansril.

“It’s in my head,” she says confidently.

Despite the seemingly impenetrable complexity of the names, Adamson says that a country’s dances often have similar base steps.

There are, of course, dances that are harder than others, but participants say they’re having too much fun to see it as exercise – which it certainly is.

“It’s more fun than aerobics,” says retiree Olga Waverick, who explains that the songs, with their different instruments, beats and rhythms, make the dances unique and easy to remember.

Apart from the weekly practices, the society regularly puts on demonstrations at schools, retirement centres or other local events.

“We’re happy to let people know we exist,” says White Rock’s Valerie Weinert.

That said, members insist they’re not a performance troupe – it’s recreational social dancing that showcases the multicultural aspect of dance. The costumes (optional) and the music are extra perks.

“The harmonies are beautiful,” says Weinert, who has taken to playing some of the songs in her car.

Lucie Matich, a regular for years, says it’s not just about learning the dance moves, but the nuances of the music, the instruments, and even the languages. How else would you learn a phrase in Bulgarian?

The dancers often remember their steps just from hearing the music and new participants have been witnessed picking up all the steps of a full dance in just a couple of weeks.

Currently fewer than one-quarter of the regulars are men. That’s okay, say the ladies, who regularly fill the “partner” roles.

Mostly, however, there are big group dances, either in lines or circles.

The members learn lots of dances from around the world – such as Galyam, Galyam from Romania, Gong Xi Ni (Happy New Year) from China, Hava Nagila from Israel and Valle Nuseve Nga Korca from Albania.

Adamson memorized the names of the dances – apart from how to dance them – when she began to transfer the society’s music from cassette tape to CD in 2000.

Given the number of options she can choose from, “it’s hard to pick a favourite,” she says.

“If you danced it every week, it wouldn’t be your favourite. There’s a new favourite every week.”

The free Surrey International Folk Dancing Society open house takes place Sept. 25 from 7-9 p.m. at Walnut Road Elementary School, 16152 82 Ave.

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