The Society of Folk Dance Historians


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Who We Are

The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH), a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational corporation founded in 1987, collects, preserves, and disseminates information about the history and practice of recreational international folk dancing (RIFD), a social movement that originated in approximately 1894 and continues to this day. This movement not only preserves and reflects American cultural history, it occasionally contains the only surviving documentation of ethnic cultures that have vanished from their countries of origin, e.g., the European Jewish, the Rom (Gypsy), the Western Armenian, the several Bosnian, the Assyrian, and the Kurdish cultures.

The two staff members of the Society of Folk Dance Historians are Ron Houston & Tatiana Nikolova-Houston. Ron researches, teaches, and writes about the history and practice of international folk dance when not working on his house and car or pursuing post-doctoral study about the Compelled Nonuse of Information (CNI). Tatiana helps Ron, especially with Bulgarian materials, when not designing landscapes or pursuing post-doctoral studies in Byzantine manuscripts and New Testament Greek.

The SFDH library and archives comprise one of the largest such collections in the world and the only such collection maintained on a daily basis by and for folk dance historians.

If you are interested in joining the Society of Folk Dance Historians, further information and an application are available online.

A brief history of the SFDH

By Ron Houston

In 1987, Roy Jameson suggested a book of folk dance descriptions, which became the acclaimed, annual Folk Dance Problem Solver series, each issue containing 60 pages of history and descriptions for about 40 dances.

About that time, Society Founders Bobbi Gillotti, Balthazar Ramos, Selwyn Ligon, and David Houston suggested collecting Texas folk dance history, and Pat Bluhm suggested a general folk dance archives to collect the papers of some notable folk dancers, then in poor health. My mom, Maude Cardwell, suggested 501(c)(3) incorporation, and the SFDH was born to collect, preserve, and disseminate information about the history and practice of international folk dancing. Dancers and former dancers contributed hundreds of cubic feet of documents, publications, sound recordings and films, costumes, and musical instruments. Additional hundreds supported the Society through membership fees, the most outrageously low in the known universe. Scores contributed extra cash or services.

Tatiana suggested the Bulgarian Seminars, and we held five, varying from really successful to wildly successful in introducing dancers to the secrets of Bulgarian folk culture.

The quarterly Report To Members grew from a 1-page annual summation of activities to its present magazine format. Comments indicate that, even with the numerous obituaries, people really appreciate having news of one another.

The annual Folk Dance Phone Book And Group Directory filled a need as did the Report, but for some reason, the directory engendered truly awful hostility from a few people. And all I ever wanted to do was to write folk dance histories!

So I can't thank enough the Members, Charter Members, Honorary Members, Benefactors, Founders, Board Members, friends, and family who stood by me and the Society during the calumnious betrayals and personal tragedies of 1989-1990 and the financial difficulties that followed. We're making it now, and if folk dance survives another generation, we will owe it to these people, people just like you, the folk dancer.

-- Ron