PLEASANTON -- If you like the idea of dancing but you're scared to sample the samba and worried about the waltz, the Del Valle Folk Dancers want you to come experience the communal fun of folk dancing.

As an incentive, the group is hosting an International Dance Festival for New Dancers from 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Veterans Memorial Building at 301 Main St. in Pleasanton. The event is free and open to the public. Partners -- and dance experience -- are not required.

The Del Valle Folk Dancers have been hoofing their way through the world's many folk dances for decades, said George Pavel, who oversees the group and serves as dance instructor and music provider.

"We've been here since the '60s at least," said Pavel, who, when he's not dancing, works as an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "I love the music, and I like being able to dance to it. The people are all very nice. This is good exercise ....

"Dancing in particular is supposed to be good for the brain. (But) our members come because it gets you moving and is not strenuous."

Folk dancing became very popular in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, but that popularity eventually waned, Pavel said. Nevertheless, the California Folkdance Federation has chapters statewide in cities including Berkeley, Albany, Palo Alto and San Francisco. Other groups offer instruction throughout the South Bay and the Peninsula.


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Del Valle Folk Dancers has about 25 members who live in Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon and Tracy. Each week the group learns new dances, most of them originating in Europe, Israel and a smattering of other countries.

"There are way more dances than I know -- hundreds, if not thousands," Pavel said. "There are some nights we concentrate on one country, and I try to keep it interesting, with some slow dances, some faster, some with partners, some not. There's a variety."

Susan Steinberg, of Livermore, has been dancing with the group for four decades.

"This is old-fashioned camaraderie," she said. "I love the music from all over the world and the dance steps that are accompanied by details about the culture. We get translations on many of the lyrics, and what the traditions are in places like Croatia, Serbia, Turkey and Scandinavia. It's a fascinating look at the world, and it's like old-home week.

"Everyone knows each other, and newcomers are welcomed as if they were part of the old gang."

Mary Adamson, of Pleasanton, joined the group two years ago to renew an interest in folk dancing that began in college.

"What I like about (the group) is they're so patient and sweet," she said. "I'm not good at physical activity; I was intimidated with these steps. But they teach the dances, then a few weeks later repeat them so you can learn them. They never laugh when you get your feet wrong."

Also, Adamson said, the group offers an outlet for that age-old problem: one spouse who dances and another who doesn't.

"You don't need a partner," she explained. "It's not that type of (close) dancing. It's line dancing, circle dancing or mixer dances with couples. It's a lot more friendly environment for someone who has a spouse they love who doesn't love dancing."

The Oct. 21 event is designed with beginners in mind, although the group welcomes members of all experience levels.

"The intent of the festival is to teach dances that can be learned in one night," Pavel said. "We have about 16 dances we think we can instruct in four hours, covering a lot of countries -- slower and faster, partner and not partner. Our regular members will help instruct, and we intend to perform a few more advanced dances to show people what they might aspire to."

Club members hope the event will entice new members to turn out for the group's weekly gatherings, held from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays at the Bothwell Arts Center, 2466 Eighth St. in Livermore. Visitors are welcome and dance free the first evening. The normal evening fee is $4.

"We're hoping to attract new people, and more experienced dancers are welcome to join us, too," said Barbara Reichardt, of Dublin. "You can be a greenhorn, as green as they come. and there will be something for everyone."

For more information on the Del Valle Folk Dancers, call 925-447-8020 or visit http://bit.ly/OTatec.

International dance event
What: International Dance Festival For New Dancers
When: 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 21
Where: Veteran's Memorial Building, 301 Main St. in Pleasanton.
Cost: Free
Details: Call 925-447-8020 or visit http://bit.ly/OTatec