International Folk Dance Program Debuts

By Brigitte Petras

Photo courtesy of Flood G./Flickr CC by 2.0

The Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center at Youngstown State University is integrating a new cultural-orientated aerobic program Thursday, Feb. 26. The event will bring many different traditional styles of dance from multiple countries to life.

The program — “Dance Around the World” — is welcoming all students interested in actively learning international folk dances from 4-5 p.m. at the Rec Center every third Thursday of each month during this semester. The next session is scheduled to take place on March 26 and no previous dance experience is needed. Students can expect to learn two or three different folk dances each session.

“Dance Around the World” embodies traditional dances from around the world in a communal manner. Some dances will be in a circular formation where the entire group of dancers will be connected to each other and uniformly moving. Other dances will have students switch with different partners separately, while still being within the group.

Christine Cobb — YSU professor of theater and dance, and dance instructor for “Dance Around the World” — described the appeal of folk dancing.

“Everyone works cooperatively together to make [the dancing] work,” Cobb said. “It’s about having fun — mentally, physically and emotionally — all at the same time.”

Cobb has a strong background in folk dance, having toured Europe three times while performing within a folk dance company called American Heritage Dancers during college in the 1970s.

In the past years, Cobb used to teach an international folk dance class, but cannot currently fit it into her schedule. However, in Cobb’s survey of dance class that she teaches at YSU, she exposes her students to some Indian, European, African and American folk dances. She is confident that anyone attending the Rec Center event will enjoy it.

“Students really love communal dancing and it’s a great way to meet people. They feel like they’re connected in ways we don’t normally connect,” Cobb said.

Anna Pompeo, a graduate assistant at the Wellness Center at YSU, described how the Rec Center decided to create a cultural dance program.

“Ryan McNicholas, my supervisor and the fitness and wellness programs coordinator, and I collaborated on an idea of how to incorporate international students with our Group X [drop-in] classes. We both liked the idea of using the physical and social aspects from the Nine Pillars of Wellness in a program that would also have a global/international twist,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo also explained that they tossed ideas around with Cobb in November and finalized the aerobic program in December.

“She knew what types of dances were from which parts of the world, and we had the room to house the monthly dances, so the collaboration worked wonderfully and I am so grateful that she had an interest in the idea,” Pompeo said. “I wanted to attract not just the usual workout crowd that the Rec Center normally sees.”