Communities in Focus: FolkFloor Volunteers

Long-time volunteer and Northwest Folklife Board Member Luther Black gives us some behind-the-scenes background on the folks responsible for the dance floor at the Roadhouse.

Dancers at the Roadhouse

Dancers at the Roadhouse; ©Erika Schultz/Seattle Times

Who is your community? What can audiences at the Festival expect to experience at your showcase?

We call ourselves the FolkFloor Volunteers; we are Folklife volunteers/supporters who enjoy dancing in the Roadhouse every NWFL Festival weekend and throughout the year around our region. Every year anywhere from 70 to 130 volunteers work in shifts from Wednesday evening before to Tuesday evening after the Festival weekend. We assemble, tape, clean, wax and buff the 56′ X 96′ dance floor for four days of Roadhouse dancing. Then after the Festival we carefully take it apart, paint a portion of it, and return it to storage until the next year.
Festival attendees are invited to come to the Roadhouse to see our large gray cushioned floor, and to join us dancing to the inspiring dance bands for contras, squares, swing, Cajun, blues, and more. On Thursday (all day), or Monday night after 9 PM, all can join us as we assemble and strike, respectively, the FolkFloor at this year’s NW Folklife Festival.

How long has your community been involved with Northwest Folklife? How did you first get involved?

In 1987, an original core of concerned dancers and musicians raised the money, decided on a workable design, and installed the first FolkFloor in the old Flag Pavilion West, with the encouragement of the Executive Director and Production Director of the Festival. During the next three Festivals we made a few modifications to reduce wear and correct dust problems that arose. Since then, year after year, volunteers have returned to work on the FolkFloor, encouraging all to join in the community effort to make the Roadhouse an attractive, danceable venue.

How are younger or newer folks getting involved?

Each spring, as the FolkFloor volunteers start to discuss logistical plans for the Festival, we ask everyone to invite local dancers to join in the unique effort to produce a comfortable and quality dance experience at the Roadhouse.

This spring we are reaching out through word of mouth and via social networking (e.g., Facebook) to get new faces involved with process of turning the Fisher Pavilion into the Roadhouse as we build out the Folkfloor.

Three things you’d like people to know about your community and your cultural traditions and arts:

a. The FolkFloor came directly from the grassroots: its concept, design and execution were community-driven.
b. Although several of the original volunteers no longer dance the entire weekend, they remain committed to the project and continue to devote hours of labor for the benefit of the entire community.
c. Dancing of the sort seen on the FolkFloor is a living and growing tradition. We encourage current dancers and musicians to accept an active role in furthering the historic success of the FolkFloor.

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One Comment on “Communities in Focus: FolkFloor Volunteers”

  1. Dorothea Schelch Says:

    I am an Austrian dance gypsy, and I have been dancing in Seattle most summers since 1991, when I wandered into Folklife by sheer luck. That very first experience with Folklife was also my first encounter with the Folkfloor party at the end of the festival, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Dancing in the Roadhouse is wonderful in its own right, but being part of this amazing community, and being able to contribute to it is what makes it really unique!

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