Berkeley Folk Dancers

Log in

Facts about Berkeley Folk Dancers

What is Berkeley Folk Dancers?
Berkeley Folk Dancers (BFD) has been active in Berkeley for over 70 years! It is a group of nearly 200 people of all ages who enjoy doing a great variety of folk dances. All kinds of people belong to BFD, from teenagers to retired people. Couples and singles are equally welcome. Lessons on four levels are held weekly; parties and special events are scheduled throughout the year.

What kinds of dances are taught? 
BFD has an international repertoire of over 200 dances. Dances are drawn from Europe, the British Isles, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, the USA and other places. The repertoire includes couple, set, circle, line, and square dances. They range from simple to complex, and can be choreographed or freestyle, fast or slow, partner or non-partner. A few new dances are introduced every year, so members experience ongoing learning challenges as well as the pleasure of doing familiar dances. To view samples of the kinds of dances we do see Photos and Videos below.

Who teaches the classes? 
One of BFD's richest resources is its qualified and enthusiastic teachers. Each year the teachers attend classes taught by master teachers at the University of the Pacific, Mendocino Folklore Camp, or the North/South Teachers Conference. They learn new dances along with techniques for sharing their knowledge. 



When and where do you dance? 

Evening Classes 7:45 to 9:45 pm

Live Oak Park Clubhouse

1301 Shattuck at Berryman

Mondays: Advanced Intermediate

Tuesdays: Beginner

Wednesdays: Advanced

Thursdays: Intermediate

Afternoon Classes Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 to 3:00 pm

Northbrae Community Church

941 The Alameda

Weekly All Request Night – All levels from 7:45 to 9:30 pm

Every Friday Night at Live Oak Park Clubhouse

1301 Shattuck at Berryman




Do you dance year round?
Except for the last two weeks in August and a few holidays, we dance year round five nights and two afternoons a week.

How do I get there?
Go to Where We Dance for interactive Google Maps to both Live Oak and Northbrae Community Church.

What door do I go in? Just exactly where is the dance room?
Enter the door on the west side of the building on Shattuck Ave between the children’s playground and the theater. Walk past the office on your right and then turn right; you’ll see the entrance to the dance room on your left.

How much does it cost and how do I join BFD?
An 8-week Beginners class is $30. A second 8-week session will follow. After attending these two sessions, dancers are offered the opportunity to join BFD. If you are not a beginner, you may join at any time. Annual dues are $160.

You can sign up online here.

What are the benefits of BFD membership?
Beyond the Beginners level, members pay $160 per year (from September to August ). They are entitled to dance any or all nights per week without additional fee except for special parties. To dance in the Beginner class, members should check with the teachers.

Classes are on four levels: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced Intermediate and Advanced, each on a different night of the week. Friday night is all-request party night, open to everyone. Besides classes and request nights, there are special parties on two weekend nights and four Fridays a year. Members receive reduced rates for special parties and special events with guest teachers or live music.

May I dance at BFD if I am not a member and not taking one of the 8-week introductory sessions?
There is a $5 nightly charge for non-members. Non-members, including out-of-towners, are welcome to drop in on any night, but should check with the teachers before coming to the Beginners night.

What kind of music do you use?
We generally use recorded music. Occasionally we have live music.

How big are the classes?
The classes usually have 20-30 people. There is plenty of room to spread out to dance and to be able to see what the teachers are demonstrating.

Do I have to have a partner?
No partner is needed; you are welcome to come by yourself. If there are extra people, the teacher will rotate partners. Dancing with different partners adds a dimension in learning.

I’m interested in exercise and fitness. Will this help me? Do you do warm-ups, stretching, cool down?
Folk Dancing is a great exercise. While we do not formally do warm ups, stretching and cool downs, individuals often do some stretching and we usually start with a good warm- up dance and end with a slower cool-down dance.

Do I have to wear any special clothing?
Most of our members dress casually. Clothing can be anything that is comfortable for you to dance in. Wear layers to remove as you warm up.

Do I have to wear a skirt or dress?
Skirts are optional. Some women wear them and some don’t. Men don’t usually wear skirts unless it’s a kilt or special outfit for a party.

Do I have to buy dancing shoes?
Your shoes will need a sole that turns easily on the floor. Your shoes do not have to be expensive. Some people use leather soles or jazz shoes. Others use duct tape on the soles. Worn tennis shoes can work. It’s a very good idea to keep a separate pair of dancing shoes that you use just for class and not elsewhere. We have a good hardwood floor that we try to protect.

What kind of floor do you dance on?
We have an excellent sprung wood dance floor, which means it has some flexibility and is easy on the knees and other joints.

Is Berkeley Folk Dancers geared toward a certain age group?
All age groups are welcome; people with a wide range of ages dance with us.

Can I bring my children?
If well behaved, they can watch, do their homework, etc. If able to dance, they can join in. (School aged children are half price). Parents and children must be aware of safety issues. We do not want large adults colliding with smaller people.

Especially about the Beginner class:

How hard is it? I’ve never danced before.
The Beginner class assumes no previous experience; everything is taught. Every dance is taught 4 sessions in a row, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t master a dance the first time it’s taught. Some people catch on quickly, but many take longer. It can be like learning a whole new language, a bit challenging at first, but lots of fun.

What if the session has already started? Can I join late?
Come the first night and pay $5 then discuss with the teacher.

Can I come and watch first before making a commitment?
Yes, you may observe first, but there is nothing quite like actually getting out there and dancing.

I’ve had some experience folk dancing. Should I go to the Beginner Class?
This would depend on how experienced you are. Our club has a different repertoire for each class and the dances that have been taught at the lower level will be danced but not taught at a higher level class. You may want to discuss this with the teachers of the class you are most interested in joining.

If I do start in Beginner Class and it turns out to be too easy for me, can I switch to another level? 
Yes, and we recommend you discuss this with the teachers of the class you wish to join.

Eight weeks is a long commitment. What if I don’t like it or just can’t seem to get the hang of it? Can I just sign up for one or two lessons?
This is not a drop-in situation. It is disruptive to a class and the teaching process when people drop in and out.

What if I don’t learn as fast as the rest of the class? Will I make a fool of myself? Can I get a tutor?
People do learn at different rates, and we were all beginners once. You are not expected to know the dances really well after a few teaching sessions. The teachers often have more experienced dancers help the newer dancers learn in class. Many dancers repeat a level several times. On Fridays we have an all request night; you may attend and request a dance to get more practice. There is nothing like practice to learn a dance well.

What if I miss a class? Can I apply that to the next session?
Our prices for the beginning classes are for the whole series of classes and are very reasonable. We are unable to give credit for any classes missed.

Who can come to the Beginner class?
To ensure that beginning dancers have the best possible learning experience, attendance to the Beginners class is limited to the following:

  • First and second year beginners
  • People returning to BFD after a significant absence
  • Members bringing in a new dancer (but only as long as the new dancer stays)
  • Members invited by the Beginner teachers to help out
  • Members who cannot dance on any other teaching night
  • All BFD teachers, Member-at-Large, and the President


BFD is a 501c(3) non-profit. We rely on membership dues and donations to pay for our dance space and to keep the club running 5 days a week. Your donations are fully tax-deductible, and help keep folk dancing alive in our community. Please consider making a donation.


Berkeley Folk Dancers is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software