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Dick Oakes

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Dick Oakes 1968


Information: Dick Oakes, teacher and author.

Richard "Dick" Oakes folk danced a few times in 1955 in his small hometown of Richland, Washington, but it wasn't until several years later, while in the United States Navy stationed in San Diego, California, that he really got hooked. He danced in San Diego with the Cabrillo Folk Dancers and the San Diego Folkdancers, and did his first performing there with Dolina Cigany and Vyts Beliajus' Viltis Dancers. In 1960, he received a Folk Dance Federation of California, South, scholarship to the Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference. Later that year, he was asked to teach a Federation Workshop in Long Beach. That was the beginning of his folk dance teaching career.

Dick was well known internationally as a folk dance instructor. He taught in over 100 cities in the United States and Canada and taught Balkan dances to hundreds of Chinese folk dancers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Kowloon China.

Dick's unique teaching style, humorous presentation, ability to accurately convey not only the steps but, more importantly, the style of many varied nationalities, and feeling for the learning process, made him a much sought after teacher for workshops, seminars, and camps.

The sound movies and stereo slides he took in Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia were an entertaining source of folkloric research material–especially those of the Koprivštica Festival during Bulgaria's 1300th anniversary and Romania's Tismana Festival in 1981.

As one of this country's fine folk dance performers, Dick was seen on television in California, Colorado, and Oklahoma – at times directing his own groups for these shows. He appeared as a Greek dancer in the Hollywood film for television "Star Maker." He was a performer with the famed AMAN Folk Ensemble, dancing in Croatian, Bulgarian, and Romanian suites. His list of performing credits included such groups as Betyárok (Hungarian), Boulder Folk Ensemble (Macedonian), Dolina Cygany (Polish, Russian, and Serbian), Gandy Dancers (Hungarian, Ukrainian, and Scandinavian), Gitmek (Turkish), GTV D'Oberlandlers (Bavarian Schuhplattlers), Village Dancers (Persian), Viltis Dancers (Lithuanian), and Westwind International Folk Ensemble (American).

His other activities and accomplishments were numerous. Active in a leadership roll, Dick held office in several folk dance groups as well as in the Folk Dance Federation of California, South, and was active on the staffs of the Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference, San Diego State University Folk Dance Conference, the Beginner Class Committee, the Beginner Festival Committee, the Costume Committee, and the Research and Standardization Committee of the Federation. Dick was the first co-editor of the Folk Dance Scene, Southern California's folk dance news magazine. Dick also was a staff artist for the Viltis Folklore Magazine. He wrote the chapter on Yugoslav folk dancing in the book from Doubleday, International Folk Dancing U.S.A., compiled by Casey, Betty. Dick organized several folk dance functions and was co-director of the successful Holiday Camp folk dance conference in the mountains of Southern California. In addition, Dick served on judging committees on Greek folk dance for the Western Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church of America. He also was elected to the position of Membership Chairman of the Colorado Folk Arts Council, serving with Vyts Beliajus.

Dick taught at many folk dance centers in both northern and southern California, including Ashkenaz, Café AMAN, Cafe Ămi, Cafe Danssa, Calliope's, Finjan, Gypsy Camp, Horo, The Intersection, The Museum, Plaka, Red Mill House, Scorpio's, Theo's, The Threshing Floor, Veselo Selo, and Zorbas.

Traveling with his wife, Carol (née Meyer), Dick also taught folk dances on one of Rae Tauber's OPA! Folklore Tours through Bulgaria (during it's 1,300th anniversary celebration), Romania, and Yugoslavia, and on one of Mel Mann's Dance on the Water cruises to Alaska.

Dick and Carol moved from Southern California to Colorado's front range in the mid-1990s. Carol died of cancer in 2013.


Contributor, International Folk Dancing U.S.A., Casey, Betty. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982. (A useful collection of reprinted folk dance instructions and backgrounds about teachers and ethnic groups culled by the teachers themselves, with significant editorial misjudgment in the areas of authenticity and primary source. Illustrated, primarily with posed photos and stage publicity photos.)

Dick also created hundreds of dance descriptions, transferred from his website to that of the Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc., and many articles, some of which are on this website.


1939 – Born.
1949 – First introduction to a "folk" dance (Pop! Goes the Weasel), Physical Education Class, Richland, Washington.
1955 – First attempt at international folk dancing, Richland, Washington.
1957 – First serious folk dancing, San Diego, California.
1958 – Performed with Vyts Beliajus's Viltis Dancers and John Hancock's Dolina Cygany.
1960 – First of several folk dance scholarships received to the Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference.
1960 – First of hundreds of workshops taught in the United States, Canada, and the Orient.
1964 – Taught at the opening of The Intersection, the first of many folk dance coffeehouses in Southern California.
1965 – First editor of Folk Dance Scene, Southern California's folk dance magazine.
1967 – Taught first of many folk dance camps at the Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference.
1969 – Contributor to the UCLA Museum of Ethnic Arts Gallery Showing of "The Balkans, Costume and Folk Art."
1971 – Taught the "Summer Dance Camp" in Seattle, Washington with friend and camp director Sonny Newman.
1972 – Put on the first "Floating Kolo Party" with friend Tink Wilson in Boulder, Colorado.
1972 – Elected to the position of Membership Chairman of the Colorado Folk Arts Council, serving with Vyts Beliajus.
1972 – Played the dumbek and tûpan for a Boulder International Folk Dancers performance.
1973 – Taught at the Lighted Lantern Folk Dance Camp, substituting for Vyts Beliajus (and taught each subsequent camp till it closed).
1976 – First of two teaching tours of the United States sponsored by InstrucTours.
1980 – Performed with such ensembles as AMAN Folk Ensemble, Betyárok, Gandy Dancers, G.T.E.V. D'Isartaler, and Westwind.
1981 – Toured Balkan countries of Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia on Rae Tauber's Opa! Folklore Tour to the Balkans.
1982 – Contributed article on Yugoslav dance to the book International Folk Dancing U.S.A. by Betty Casey.
1983 – Founded the International Folk Dance Club (now Empire Grange International Folk Dancing) in Fort Collins, Colorado.
1985 – Founded the Simi Valley Folk Dancers in Simi Valley, California.
1986 – Member of the first advisory committee of the National Fok Organization U.S.A.
1987 – Elected President of the Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.
1988 – Elected to the Advisory Board of the California Traditional Music Society (CTMS).
1988 – Taught on a Mel Mann's Dance on the Water cruise.
1990 – Served on several judging committees for the Greek Orthodox Youth Folk Dance Festival.
2000 – Designed and built his personal PhantomRanch.net website, featuring folk dance articles, artwork, dance descriptions, resources, and more.
2002 – Designed and built a website for the Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.
2010 – Designed and built a website for the Ethnic Express Folkdancing Club of Las Vegas.
2014 – Taught the "Dances for All Ages" workshop at Stockton Folk Dance Camp.
2014 – Received the National Fok Organization U.S.A. "Preserving Our Heritage Award" for a lifetime of achievement in folk dance and folk arts.
2014 – Received the San Antonio Folk Dance Festival "National Dance Award" in recognition of 'contributions to folk dancing'.
2015 – Taught the North-South Teachers' Seminar in northern California with Cristian Florescu and Sonia Dion.
2017 – Received a "Service Award" in appreciation of 'decades of dedication and service' to the Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.
2018 – Designed and built a website for the Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH).
2019 – Retired from teaching folk dance.



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