In the beginning of 2024 the leadership of Old Dominion Dance decided to make the goal of visiting all the local folk dance groups, to experience new types of dance, to make connections, and to just have fun dancing at events where we don’t have to do any work. This is my(Emily’s) honest review of the groups that we visited. I am listing these groups in the order that we visited them, not alphabetically. 

Scandinavian — Tues. Jan. 30th 

Meets weekly, 7pm. Does performances. Free to attend.

Scandinavian was a small group the night we visited. A mix of about six people, grandparents, grandchildren and parents. No formal teaching process. Craig was a relaxed teacher and has large knowledge of historical dance facts, which I always appreciate. Good parking, large windows from practice room to parking lot, with doors directly to the practice room. They asked us to come back.

German — Tues. Feb. 6th 

Meets weekly, 7pm. Does performances. Free to attend.

Average attendance is about fifteen people. No formal teaching process. I believe this is the largest and healthiest group that we’ve visited with the most variety in age range of attendees. I appreciate that several of their dances are very different from ours in that they use props. They record each dance to watch later for practice purposes. Orest is a good teacher who truly loves dancing. The building has good parking with direct access to the practice room.

International — Sunday Feb. 18th 

Meets weekly, 3pm-6pm. Dues are $25 per year, $1 for those who attend infrequently, free for students, high school or college.

Average attendance is about fifteen people. No formal teaching process. Teacher Catherine is experienced and calm. Most of the regular attendees are retired and I think it’s very impressive that they dance for three hours straight! They also livestream(on zoom) their afternoon of dancing. Several of the regular attendees seemed pushy and overbearing towards younger visitors. They asked us to come back. Personally, I found these dances the most repetitive, but the music the most fun, out of all we visited. Location is on the UNO campus in the large multi-purpose athletic building, and to access the dance room you must sign in at the front desk, be buzzed through the gate, and walk upstairs and all the way to the back of the building. Parking is limited. 

Scottish — Friday Feb. 23rd 

Meets weekly, 7:30pm. Free to attend.

Scottish is a very small group. The night we attended, there were three older ladies present. Shellie was obviously very knowledgeable and had been doing SCD for a long time. It’s difficult for me to comment on her teaching style without sounding petty, but she was seemingly the oldest instructor we had been with yet, and that made it more difficult to dance. They asked us to come back. Location is a dance studio in Millard, and the group has private access to the studio.

Lithuanian: Still waiting to hear back. I’ve never seen a dance group so difficult to contact.

Groups we didn’t visit:

I was sad to hear that the Italian dance group closed several years ago.

Greek: When I contacted the Greek dance group to ask if we could visit, they said they were preparing for their national competition so maybe we could visit at a later time. I gave up on them right then since that sounded way more serious than what we were looking for.

Contra: I’m still working on getting everyone to this. I used to attend somewhat regularly, but have only attended once in the last year. I feel Omaha contra has been plagued with the same issues of stagnation that face the other older groups, but I think there are also people committed to changing this. I am excited for the Good Life Galop contra workshop happening this summer of 2024. Also, I have always enjoyed the live band at Omaha contra; they are a treat. I believe Omaha Contra is currently looking for a new location. 

Further comments

Out of the groups we have visited, the International group and contra are the only ones advertised as “social” dance groups. Groups that do performances do of necessity meet weekly, and are less available to people just dropping in because dances must be memorized and costumes procured. Weekly attendance can be difficult for people to maintain unless dancing is a large and serious commitment. It was fun to visit the weekly groups, but I certainly don’t have time to commit to any of them. I do hope the OldDD leadership can do this tour of the groups annually: it’s been great to make contact with each group and get to know them a bit.

What I mean when I say groups have “No formal teaching process” is that it seemed like they will only teach the steps if they happen to have beginners present. Each group does have a leader and I feel all of them were extremely knowledgeable, but I am guessing that some of them do not have to teach beginners very often, so I feel like their expertise in that area is varied. Craig and Orest get gold stars from our group on being the most enjoyable teachers out of all, with the German group being the most likely dance we would visit again.

Judging the health of each group has been fascinating to me. From all appearances the Scandinavian and Scottish groups may be on their last legs- no pun intended. I find this sad because those older dancers carry so much knowledge with them, and I don’t want that to be lost. In general, the older dancers seem unaware of ways that they could mix with younger dancers or reach, encourage, and instruct communities of younger people in dance. It also appears that performance based groups do not gain new members through performing. Almost all the groups asked us to come back, but none of them asked us why our group has forty teenagers attend our dances every month, and none have visited one of our dances yet (except for Orest!). For the most part, these groups are so used to dancing with their older peers that they just don’t know how to dance with young people. And in some cases, they wouldn’t be able to keep up. As far as health, I would say the German dance group is in the best state out of all. I am guessing this is because they pull their members from a large society where everyone already has mutual interests, and they also have a good building at their disposal. None of the other groups have those advantages. While the German and International groups have about the same attendance rate, the German group has a more varied age range.

Speaking of buildings: Accessibility is important to me, mainly because if I ever recommend a dance group to anyone from OldDD, I err on the side of(possibly extreme) caution. For example, I don’t recommend Jitterbugs to OldDD dancers- Jitterbugs is late at night, in a not-great area of town, without much parking, and the building has a bar on the lower level. Most of our group is made up of young teens and their parents drop them off at a dance and leave. I would never want to recommend an event where the surroundings would be unsafe for our attendees. In this respect, the International group gets a low rating from me. While there is probably no great danger at the UNO campus on a Sunday afternoon, there is no direct access to their practice room, and it’s not a private location. I would only recommend their dances to individuals who I trust to be wise.

I want to end with the caveat that I have visited most of these groups only once. So I fully recognize that my perspective may not be very well informed. I would love to receive feedback on my review and you can email me at olddominiondance@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *