When you start learning and teaching folk dancing, it feels like there is simultaneously a TON of info and also a whole bunch of stuff that isn’t quite clear. You have instructions, but they seem a little like a new language. You have videos, but until you feel some of it, or try it with students, it’s hard to get just right. And while there is a bunch of information out there, it isn’t all created equal. So let’s folk dance and get to some of the important info.

Abbreviate This!

We’re teachers. We should be accustomed to all the abbreviations, but that doesn’t make them less frustrating when you are trying to read something and it looks like gibberish because you don’t know all the letters. Here are some of the common abbreviations you’ll see in folk dance instructions.

  • FWD – Forward
  • BWD – Backward
  • CCW – Counterclockwise
  • CW – Clockwise
  • RH – Right hand
  • LH – Left hand
  • #x – the number indicates the number of times to repeat
  • TOG – Together
  • RF – Right foot
  • LF – Left foot
  • OPP – Opposite
  • NEDM – New England Dance Masters – this isn’t a dance step but you see it a ton and it took me an embarrassing amount of time to figure out this one…..

Web Resources

  • Folk Dance Musings – a comprehensive blog with dances from all over the world.
  • Library of Dance – a website with several dances from all over the world.
  • Country Dance and Song Society – Resources, events, and more.
  • Folk Dance Footnotes – multicultural dances and informative blog articles
  • The YouTube – I gotta say it like this because sometimes I think we forget how amazing YT can be. There are a lot of dance resources, including specific ethnic and cultural groups, who have their own channels with instructions, music, and more.


I’d start here. Some of the web resources are AMAZING, but if you’ve never folk danced before, or are still new to it, they could be a LOT overwhelming. Note – a few of these resources are older and may have a song or two that are no longer being used because of their origins. As always, research songs before you do them with your students!

  • Join Up Hands: Dances for School and Community Groups by Sue Hulsether – THIS ONE. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Sue present in person, and brought her to the Michigan Music Conference as our pre-conference headliner. If you are buying one resource, buy this one. Not only does she have years of experience teaching students to dance (this is all she does!), but she is extremely accessible. The way she teaches dances makes a lot more sense to the less experienced dancer, and she writes dance instructions in a way that doesn’t need an extra guide to deconstruct. She actually explains how some of these moves are done which is great since that doesn’t always happen and teachers are usually stuck trying to figure out what it means/how it looks/how to do it. Get Sue’s book here: https://www.suehulsether.com. Also available at West Music.
  • New England Dance Masters – These are a great next resource. There are a series of books with really great common dances for classrooms. There are about a half dozen books. My favorite to start with is Chimes of Dunkirk since a lot of the dances in there are very common and accessible for students. Get their books from their website (MP3 options too!) here: https://dancingmasters.com/shop/. Also available at West Music.
  • Teaching Movement and Dance: A Sequential Approach to Rhythmic Movement – “The Weikart book”. This book by Phyllis Weikart is a HUGE book. It has hundreds of dances from everywhere and written from easiest to more difficult. But if you have never danced before it can be extremely overwhelming. Find it here: https://www.westmusic.com/teaching-movement-and-dance-825653
  • Rhythmically Moving CDs – A set to accompany the Weikart book. Find them here: https://www.westmusic.com/rhythmically-moving-9-disc-set-850842
  • Sanna Longden – Sanna has resources for multicultural folk dances. You can find them all here: https://sannafolkstyle.com/2015/09/06/page-2/.. They are also available at West Music.
  • Handy Play Party Book – an inexpensive, itty bitty book with lots of fun! Get it here at West Music. https://www.westmusic.com/handy-play-party-book-820892
  • Go to local workshops! Lot’s of Kodaly and Orff workshops will include dancing!

Folk Dance Formation Posters

With younger students, Right and Left can be a really difficult roadblock to dancing. Or having them conceptualize some of these formations. These posters are a GAME. CHANGER. Snag them on TpT (multiple styles available) or printed for you in my Etsy store.

I hope this helps you get a start. Make sure you check in next week for one more info-filled post about folk dancing!

Melissa Stouffer-1

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