Frequently Asked Questions:

Who are the Friendly FolkDancers (FFD)?

We are a group of folk-dancing Quakers who minister through dance. We travel in the ministry to strengthen the bonds within religious communities through the joy of the dance and promote intervisitation and community among peacemakers of all affiliations. Through originating under and supported significantly by Northern Yearly Meeting, the FFD is now an international Quaker group. Each tour group contains individuals from various monthly and yearly meetings, sometimes spanning the globe. "Official" members of the FFD are those who have toured with the group.

So, do I have to be Quaker to go on an FFD tour?

No, it's not unusual for a couple of tour members to be non-Quaker. Although you do not need to be Quaker, you should at least be comfortable with "Quaker ways of doing things," like our daily Meeting for Worship/Meeting for Business.

Where does the FFD tour?

Almost everywhere and anywhere. Most of our tours are in the USA, with an "overseas" tour maybe every few years. Where we go depends on invitations we receive and the leadings of FFD members. We are influenced by the help we receive in setting up an itinerary, so you can play a part by either volunteering to help coordinate logistics or by passing on connections and ideas.

What is the age range of the Friendly FolkDancers?

Dancers range in age from the teens to the seventies, though we have had even babies travel with our tour groups.

For whom does the FFD perform?

We frequently dance for Quaker Meetings, churches, schools, retirement homes and skilled nursing facilities. Occasionally, we also dance with other folk dance groups.

How long is an FFD performance?

The typical FFD program is about two hours. We generally begin with 30-45 minutes of performance. These dances are done by the tour members, exhibiting some of the richness of dances from around the world, complete with "symbolic" costume changes. The remainder of the program involves all willing members of the audience in the dancing. FFD members take turns in teaching and leading mostly simple, beginner-friendly, dances of the world. We attempt to match the dances, in terms of energy and complexity, to the needs of our audiences. We generally end with a special Peace Dance in which virtually everyone is able to participate.

How do the Friendly FolkDancers finance their tours?

The dancers each chip in a small fee to be part of a tour, and we accept donations from the groups we visit. The generosity of our hosts, including meals and housing, make it possible to keep costs very low. We also sell Friendly FolkDancer t-shirts to raise scholarship funds and some monthly and yearly meetings make annual contributions to the FFD.

How much does it cost to go on tour?

It depends on the tour. We currently ask dancers to contribute $135 (USA) for a domestic tour, or $200 for an international tour. In addition, the dancers need to get themselves to and from the starting/ending location of the tour.

Are scholarships available?

Dancers may apply for financial help from our scholarship fund through the tour coordinator(s) and some dancers have obtained financial support from their monthly and yearly meetings.

Are there additional expenses beyond my "dancer fee" that I should plan for?

Yes, though you're in control of these expenditures. Dancers generally bring some spending money for any personal expenses or special snacks and beverages they might want. The dancers also may have a site entrance fee or an occasional group restaurant meal at their own expense.

Are there other things I need to bring on tour with me?

We like each person to bring along a "Traveling Minute" (it’s a sort of Quaker letter of introduction) from our monthly or yearly meeting to the Quakers we'll be visiting. There are the personal costume pieces you'll need - your black dance shoes and another item or two. The most important equipment would be a flexible and tolerant attitude, willingness to participate in community, lots of energy and

What dances do the Friendly FolkDancers do?

We do a wide variety of dances and these vary from tour to tour. Look at Sample FFD Program for a recent example of dances we have performed. The majority of our program consists of simple (mostly) dances for everyone present, and these dances are "all over the place." Examples include Hashual from Israel, Oy Svetjot Kalina from Russia, Savila Se Bela Loza from Serbia, Tanko Bushi from Japan and Southside Shuffle (I Love A Rainy Night) from the USA.

Does one have to know how to dance to go on tour? How good a dancer does one need to be?

Having some dance experience is extremely helpful, but we’ve had total beginners join us as well. Performing all of the exhibition dances is a big chore for some and can take a lot of energy and time to master. The group adjusts to the abilities of the participants, allowing dancers to dance in only those dances they feel confident in. Part of our message is that everyone can dance, and we attempt to model that by the diversity of ability and experience in the performers. In fact, our unofficial motto is, "We don’t require perfection; in fact, we don’t even allow it." That having been said, it is a whole lot easier if you do have some experience and ability.

How can one prepare to go on a Friendly FolkDancers tour?

A syllabus, a video, and a CD will be made available once you have signed up for a tour, to enable you to learn as much as possible before we assemble for the tour. Try to dance as much as much as you can prior to the tour, as a minimum of time is available in our whirlwind tour schedule. Generally, we assemble one or two days before our first performance, and we will practice energetically in that period. Some folks will be ready to perform in all the exhibition dances at that point, and other dancers will join in on additional medleys as they continue to learn and gain confidence in the course of the tour. Even experienced dancers may need to learn different versions or choreography to dances. Some beginners may be fortunate enough to have experienced FFD dancers in their area and may learn with them prior to coming

What are the accommodations for a tour like?

We rely on the kindness of strangers. Accommodations vary widely. Dancers are often housed with people from various Quaker Meetings or other volunteers. What is available varies from a guest bedroom with a private bath to mattresses on the floor of someone’s family room, with multiple people sharing a bathroom. Dancers have been housed in youth hostels and in dorms. It may be necessary for same-gender individuals to share a double or queen mattress. We generally have new hosts every day or two. Dancers frequently bring some small gift to show appreciation for the hospitality we receive. Hosts especially appreciate something personal, perhaps something you made yourself or something from your home

Just how much privacy can I expect on tour?

A very large portion of our time is spent "in community" - traveling, eating, dancing, meeting, etc. Even during a performance, it is common for all the men and women to change costumes together in a single small room. Most evenings we spend visiting with the hosts in the several households that take us in. In short, we have relatively little privacy or private time and live a full and communal life during a tour.

What do the Friendly FolkDancers do for food?

Often the hosts provide breakfast and other meals. At times the Friendly FolkDancers may purchase food for simple meals together, especially for lunch. Dinners are frequently a potluck meal

What do Friendly FolkDancers wear when dancing?

Clothes that represent or symbolize the costumes of the countries of their dances are provided by the Friendly FolkDancers. A part of the fee the dancers pay goes towards maintaining these costumes. All dancers are asked to bring a pair of black dance shoes. Men, and women who may dance men’s parts, are also asked to bring long black pants. Women are asked to bring a short-sleeved solid-color t-shirt as a part of one of the costumes.

Who is in charge and who does the work on a tour?

All the labor is provided by volunteers, and the work is shared by various members of the tour group. The dance master plans the dances and choreography; the tour coordinator works with the local people in setting up a schedule. In addition to the work that must be done ahead of time, a variety of other jobs are important to the smooth functioning of a tour, and all participants are needed to help while on tour. A few of the other jobs may include clerk, recording clerk, treasurer, costume coordinator, t-shirt sales person, equipment monitor, and driver. Some tasks are rotated daily.

How do the dancers develop and maintain a spiritual focus?

Friendly FolkDancers are asked to bring a traveling minute or letter of introduction from their home meeting. This can be an opportunity to explore with a dancer’s home meeting if the individual is truly called to go on tour at this time. Generally, daily Quaker meetings for business and worship times are planned. The dancers usually hold both an opening and a closing circle before and after each dance performance.

Do the Friendly FolkDancers visit the sights in an area while on tour?

Our primary mission is a ministry of peace. During a tour much of the time is taken up with practice, performance and community building among Friendly FolkDancers and the people we are visiting. Some Friendly FolkDancers plan time either before or after a tour to see the sights in an area. We occasionally have the opportunity to visit a few sights while on tour, but this is not predictable.

Will there be time to visit with family and friends who live in the area while on tour?

Family and friends are encouraged to come to performances, but there is often limited time to visit. It may be best to plan time either before or after a tour to visit with family and friends.