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Dick Oakes

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Dick Oakes 1968


Information: Dick Oakes, teacher and author of international dances.

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 Oakes is well known internationally as a folk dance instructor. He has 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 mainland 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, make him a much sought after teacher for workshops, seminars, and camps.

The sound movies and stereo slides he took in Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia are 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 has been 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 includes such groups as Betyarok (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 are numerous. Active in a leadership roll, Dick has held office in several folk dance groups as well as in the Folk Dance Federation of California, South, and was active on the Santa Barbara and San Diego State College Folk Dance Conference Committees, 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 was also 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, Cafe Danssa, Calliope's, Finjan, Gypsy Camp, Horo, The Intersection, The Museum, Plaka, Red Mill House, Scorpio's, Theo's, The Threshing Floor, Red Mill House, Veselo Selo, and Zorbas."

–by InstrucTours

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.)


In addition to a couple of hundred dances that Dick taught at clubs, workshops, seminars and conferences, he introduced Cotton-Eyed Joe (Texas Style), Niška Banja, Pandogo, Pinosavka Ples, and Politiko Syrto to folk dancers in the United States.


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.
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.
1961 – Began teaching workshops througout the United States, Hawaii, Canada and Taiwan, eventually numbering in the hundreds.
1967 – Taught first of many folk dance camps at the Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference.
1972 – Played the dumbek and tûpan for a Boulder International Folk Dancers performance.
1980 – Performed with such ensembles as AMAN, Betyárok, Dolina Cygany, Gandy Dancers, G.T.E.V. D'Isartaler, G.T.E.V. D'Oberlandler, and Viltis Dancers.
1981 – Toured Balkan countries of Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia.
1982 – Contributed article on Yugoslav dance to International Folk Dancing U.S.A. by Casey, Betty.
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.
2002 – Designed and built the Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc. website.
2010 – Designed and built the Ethnic Express Folkdancing Club website.
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 and Sonia Florescu.
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 the Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH) website.
2018 – Retired from folk dancing.

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