What do syrto, lesnoto and hambo have in common? And what about hora, clogging and prvo? Well, if you speak the language of the Greeks, Macedonians, Scandinavians, Israelis, Americans or Bulgarians, you'll readily recognize these as folk dances.
The art has been around as long as people have moved their bodies to the beat of a country's culture. In Southern California, folk-dancing devotees are part of a vast network that includes both cafes and specialized groups (usually run by nonprofit organizations).
What keeps the dancers joining the circle or getting on the line? For Athan Karras, who ran Intersection folk-dance cafe for 20 years, it's "the celebration of life."
Trudy Israel, who danced with the Aman Folk Ensemble, says:"You're connected with the traditions of other cultures."
And to Edy Greenblatt, a young dancer and teacher, it's a "joyous experience that's as vital as breathing."
To keep Southlanders informed as to what goes on in this world of ethnic dance, Folk Dance Scene magazine has a calendar of events and gives information on tours, conferences and workshops as well as festivals and other dance locations. For information, call (213) 306-7898.
If you're looking for a place to learn and practice the art of your ancestors--or someone else's--here's a sampling of 10 cafes or other locations that offer folk dancing. Be sure to dress comfortably and check the schedule ahead of time.
Cafe Danssa--11533 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, (213) 478-7866. Open six nights a week, closed Mondays. Although this dance cafe opened back in 1966, it is among the youngest in spirit. You can take a lesson first, then step to the melodies of Balkan, Israeli or Greek music. A phone call will give you the schedule for the week. Classes start at 7:30 p.m., dancing at 9:30 p.m. In between you can refresh yourself with beer, wine, coffee, soft drinks, tea. The age group is varied. Admission $4.50; lesson 50 cents.
Folk Dance Cafe--2927 Meade Ave., San Diego, (619) 281-5656. Open Wednesday-Monday, 7:30 to 11 p.m. or midnight. Classes for beginners on Mondays and intermediate and advanced classes on Wednesdays. Minimal instruction on other nights, but none on Saturdays. Closed Tuesdays. Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are international nights, Thursdays and Sundays are for Israeli dancing (with instruction), Fridays for Greek. The cafe is cozy, friendly; everyone is welcomed in the kolo (line) dancing. Every month, special workshops are held featuring teachers from the country of the dance. Fruit juices, soft drinks, ethnic foods are available. Regular admission $3.50; on class nights (Mondays and Wednesdays), $3.75.
Gypsy Camp--3265 Motor Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 558-0746. Hours: Thursday-Saturday, 8:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Greek dancing on Thursday nights, international on Fridays and Saturdays. Expect a good age mix, from 20s on up. The proprietor, Julie Nelson, worked at Intersection for 15 years and inherited the record collection from Athan Karras. Admission is $4; if you take the class, $5.
The Plaka Greek Restaurant--235 W. Montecito St., Santa Barbara, (805) 965-9622. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 7 p.m., closed Mondays. Yes, you can come here just to folk dance. Saturday is the big night. Among the dances are Greek, Yugoslavian, Romanian. A special nightly attraction is a feat performed by the proprietor, George: He picks up two tables with his teeth. He claims he's the only one around who's doing this these days. Admission just for dancing is $1.50; to see the show (George plus a bellydancer) and dance, $3.
Veselo Selo Folk Art Center--719 N. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, (213) 692-5320, (714) 635-7356. Open Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays. The high, beamed ceiling, tables in back for talking and snacking and the quaint atmosphere all enhance the dancing and sociability. Age group is 30-60. Beginners class in September on Thursdays; Tuesday classes for intermediates is 7:30-10:30 p.m. One Friday a month is Greek night (the next is Sept. 5). Saturdays are international nights with a lesson 8-9 p.m. and dancing until midnight. Admission is $3 except on Saturdays when it is $4. Soft drinks, coffee available. Special holiday parties.