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Ryan & Brennish Thomson

Updated Feb 2, 2024

Heritage Dance Festival 1999

Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, USA

by Ryan Thomson

The annual Heritage Dance Festival takes place in a suburb outside of Philadelphia. This year was the 14th, and was filled with over 100 participatory dance workshops and demonstrations. It included ethnic food venders, booths of dance and traditional books and recordings, and included opportunities for "sit-in" musicians in the SPUDS band (Summit Pickup Dance Society) which is a large contra dance orchestra which welcomes newcomers and anyone interested in playing.


After I became acquainted with the layout, I was invited to sit in on fiddle with several other bands also, including an International dance, English country dance, and Klezmer and Irish sessions. The weekend was primarily organized for dancers rather than visiting musicians however, and so I took the opportunity to attend several excellent instructional workshops in Irish Step dancing, Irish set dancing, Appalachian clogging, Lindy Hop, and West Coast swing.


Dancing ran Friday night from 8 pm to around 11 pm in two separate dance areas. On both Saturday and Sunday there were events happening simultaneously in 7 different locations, so it was impossible to take in everything. Besides the dance events there were a few other activities including puppet making for kids, a juggling workshop, instrument making, and music workshops in fiddling, bodhran, singing, hurdy gurdy, and accordion.


Dance styles represented at the festival included: contra, cajun, swing, zydeco, Japanese, Scandinavian, Greek, squares, Tahitian, Hawaiian, Morris, minuets, Irish, Romanian, Bulgarian, country western, Israeli, family dances, and more.


I ended up making a number of new friends, learned some great dance steps, and enjoyed playing my fiddle for dancers. In all, a great weekend. The Heritage Dance Association is a membership organization. The members elect the officers and decide the association's activities. For more information look for the association on Facebook.

Written by Ryan Thomson 1999

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