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The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)

Authenticity in International
Folk Dancing and Music

By Ron Houston

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Ron Houston


Most of the dance/music now coming from (pick your favorite foreign country) is not authentic, showing influences of other countries, other musical styles, urbanization, education, and so on. It is no longer folk! We (international folk dancers and musicians) share these influences and have the right to do the same.

Yes, but...

a) THEY (the natives) know the parameters of what is accepted and what is not accepted in their native music and dance idioms.

b) THEY grew up in the idioms and have the native accent that we can never imitate completely.

c) The fact that SOME OF THEM choose to blur the distinctions between their heritage and outside influences does not imply that we should follow the innovators blindly. That we folk dance at all implies a desire for those distinctions. We can and SHOULD choose our role models carefully.

d) Yes, all the world's music is now being homogenized into one "World Music," but if we enjoy folk dance and music now, we should feel obliged to pass the enjoyment on to future generations by preserving as many distinctions as possible.


We dance it differently in our village (just as the natives danced it differently in their different villages).

Yes, but . . .

Many folk dancers confuse "There are many RIGHT ways to do this dance" with "There are no WRONG ways to do this dance." I suggest that we stick to ways that we KNOW are right, rather than flail about and hope that we are right.


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