Federation South logo

Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

How to Start a Folk Dance Club
By Bruce Botelho, 2009 (Updated 2023)

Bruce Botelho 1994



Folk dancers dance because they enjoy dancing and the company they meet, not in order to get bogged down in meetings and endless debates. Yet despite the aversion most of us have to "structure," folkdancing requires organization: learning the dances, buying the music, finding a place to dance, and locating teachers to name but a few tasks.

This writer's bias is that a formal structure of decision making is a systematic means of getting the job done. A structure assures that designated persons accomplish designated tasks and that all persons have some input in the decisions of the group. And that means that more folk dancing gets done in a way people want it to happen.

In the following I have set forth recommendations for folk dance organization that can be accepted or rejected in whole or in part. Ultimately, the success of a folk dance club is primarily a function of what is comfortable and workable for its members.

How to Organize

Whatever form your club takes, there are certain prerequisites to success:

Most clubs are managed by a Board of Directors selected by the membership (which may be based on attendance, dues, or some other method) at an annual meeting set forth in the club's by laws (see Appendix 1). In some cases the Board of Directors selects the officers, in others the officers are elected at the annual meeting.

The number of officers and their functions are directly related to the degree of sophistication a club reaches. A recreational folk dance club meeting twice a month may function well with three or four officers who are responsible for locating space, purchasing equipment, taking care of publicity, and finding teachers. Other clubs have officers who manage the general affairs of the club, while enlisting numerous others to perform specialized functions (e.g., artistic director, social director, vice-president for instruction, finance committee chairperson, and so forth).

In this author's view, the most important function is that performed by the recording secretary. The secretary maintains the history (and thus the sense of identity) of the club. The minutes reflect the decisions reached, the delegation of tasks, and the planning of activities. The minutes eliminate the reinvention of the wheel at each meeting.

In many respects, the first steps in getting a club organized is the chicken or the egg question. People don't organize a club unless they've danced and want to continue; people haven't been dancing unless there has been some sort of organization.

A club's organization can be accomplished through organizational meetings in which the following decisions are reached:

First meeting

Second meeting


Financial Records

Maintenance of financial records helps ensure that the folk dance club will remain solvent and instill in the membership and others confidence that the club's financial resources are being properly managed (see appendix 2).

Preparing the Budget

A budget is a plan for receiving and spending money. The budget is usually made up a year at a time, normally covering the calendar year. In developing the budget, expenses for the year must be estimated, and a plan devised for meeting those expenses (a sample folk dance club budget is set forth in Appendix 3).

Savings Account

A club should open a savings account whenever its cash on hand exceeds $50. Usually three or four members should be authorized to sign and two signatures on any transaction should be required. Bank accounts for organizations require an employer identification number, obtainable from the Internal Revenue Service (ask for Form SS 4). You do not have to employ anyone in order to get the number.


Every folk dance club requires a music player (such as a computer, a compact disc player, a record player, a cassette player, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, etc.). If the music player is variable speed, so much the better. Hilton and Newcombe manufacture very suitable record players. Marantz manufactures variable-speed tape recorders. Some clubs purchase records and record them on cassette tapes, compact disc players, or computer, usually using the alternate source rather than the records in order to protect the records from unnecessary damage. This is a particularly good practice for records that are no longer available.

Records, Tapes, and CDs

Folk dance music can be purchased from a number sources. Do a search of the Internet to find shops that sell such items.

BM Productions
9235 rue Rameau
Brossard, Québec, Canada J4X 2M6
Phone: 450-659-9271
Contacts: France Borque-Moreau
E-mail: info@bourque-moreau.com
Website: www.bourque-moreau.com/mainmenu.html

International Folk Rhythms
PO Box 1402
Northbrook, IL 60065-1402
Phone: 847-564-2880
Contact: Joan Amsterdam
E-mail: joan@folkrhythms.com
Website: www.ethnicdance.net/folkrhythms

Folk Motif
PO Box 14755
Long Beach, CA 90853-4755
Phone: 562-439-7380
Contact: Marge Gajicki
E-mail: folkmotif@aol.com

Norsk, Ltd.
770 Linden Ave.
Boulder, CO 80304-1013
Phone: 303-442-6452
Contact: Jofrid Sodal
E-mail: norsk@norsk.us
Website: norsk.us

Borrowing Equipment

Where a club has no equipment to begin with, there are usually several sources: municipal libraries, schools, parks and recreational departments, other folk dance or square dance clubs, to name a few.

Inventory and Maintenance of Property

MIT Player Equipment represents a large portion of the club's expenditures during the year. For that reason it is important that the treasurer or some other person have a complete and detailed inventory of all equipment owned the club (see Appendix 4). When properly used, the form shown will tell all pertinent facts about the club's property.

As each new item of equipment is purchased, enter the date of purchase, its description, serial number, storage location, and its total cost or value in the proper columns. If any equipment has been disposed of during the year, enter details under "disposition."

The club's compact discs/phonographic records/cassettes/etc. should be stored in boxes suitable for that purpose. The records should be numbered both for ease of inventory and for easy use during the recreational evening.

An index listing dances alphabetically can refer to the music by number, the side by letter (A or B), and the band or footage, thus assuring a smoother-flowing evening (see Appendix 4).

Many clubs use tapes of extremely short length (maximum 5 minutes) and record the same dance on both sides in order to shorten the search and cueing up for specific dances during a dance program. Others use computers. A source for the computer interface and database (free) is:

Do an Internet search for the NJPenguin's MITPlayer.

Website: https://njfolkdance.tripod.com/mitplayer.html

Recreational Evening

The recreational evening is the basis of the folk dance club. It is usually held in a gym or other spacious facility. A smoothly functioning recreational evening has been well planned (see Appendix 5). Persons have been designated to be responsible for the evening's events. The sound system is set up and in proper working order. The music is organized and the teachers are ready to teach. It is helpful to plan the recreational program well in advance so that from week to week there is a continuity of instruction and dances previously introduced are included in the dancing program.

The formulae for recreational folk dance are as diverse as the number of organizations. The following are two of the more popular combinations:

  1. Recreational evenings once a week, with instruction taught at the beginning of the evening or interspersed throughout.
  2. Recreational evenings once or twice a month with dance instruction given on alternate evenings.

A typical evening program begins with instruction in one to three dances of varying difficulty and usually consisting of at least one line and one couple dance. After the instruction (and review), the "programmed" portion of the evening commences

Most groups post a request board (see appendix 5), so people can request the dances they wish to dance, with columns often divided into couple and circle/line dances. Space is usually provided for participants to identify dances they wish taught at some future time. The programmer selects dances from this list (though the programmer may also rely on a per planned program that includes dances recently taught or that otherwise usually don't appear on the request list). The programmer must carefully assess the participants to assure a solid mixture of couple and circle/line dances (when the group consists largely of members of one sex, repeated hambos are not called for), beginning, intermediate, and advanced dances, fast and slow dances.

A note about new people. The first night in any new activity is intimidating.

Make people feel welcome. This can be accomplished a number of ways. Mostly by saying hello and having a moment to talk. Some clubs have an attendance list that people sign as they enter the hall. It is a quick reference to new names (a telephone call later in the week to the new dancer yields wonderful results). Such lists are helpful in developing mailing lists for special events, identifying regular participants, and determining the total number of participants, which is especially useful when applying for grants to demonstrate the extent of community interest.

Teaching a Dance Yourself

The life of a folk dance group is dependent upon the survival of the dances themselves. They have to be taught. Unfortunately, all too often this is a hit and miss process. We expect someone to dance "behind the line" and pick up the dance. While this may be in the natural order of things "ethnic" ("after all, that's the way they learn in the village"), it is discouraging for the rank beginner to simply learn by watching. Hence, one of the reasons for high turnover. The alternative: to teach.

Few of us are born teachers. Fortunately, there are some simple steps that can make teaching and learning, fun:

Institutes and Festivals

Organizing a festival or other similar activity requires a lot of advance planning and organization. The following outline is a general guideline only and should be modified to accommodate the needs and resources of each program.

Selection of a General Chairperson

The board should select a general chairperson for the festival well in advance (4 to 6 months). The chairperson is responsible for coordinating the entire festival and for selecting the chairpersons for the following areas:

Initial Planning Meeting

The following issues should be resolved at the initial meeting:

Decorations and Hospitality Committee

Publicity Committee

(See section on "publicity" for special details.)

Program Committee

Housing and Transportation Committee

Equipment and Facilities Committee

Exhibitions Committee

The Follow Through

The Media and Publicity


Many smaller newspapers have a one- to two-week deadline. Given mail service, stories should be out at least two weeks prior to any region wide event.

Newspapers are interested in folk dance events and, when given enough notice (at least a week), will interview visiting instructors, photograph dancing, etc.

Radio and TV Stations

Radio and television stations are willing to air public service announcements, usually up to three days prior to the event. One can expect especial cooperation from public network stations.

News Release Format

Articles should stress the newsiest things about the event in the first paragraph. Further details should be given in order of their importance. Photographs should be clear black and white, glossy prints, 4" x 5" or larger.

Radio announcements should be written in block letters (double spaced) so that they can be read directly on the air.

All articles and announcements should be written on 8-1/2" x 11' paper of a fairly heavy grade. They should be double spaced, preferably in pica. Write on one side of the paper only. The organization's name should be displayed on the heading as well as the name and telephone numbers of the person submitting the article ("For further information, contact: [name, telephone numbers]").


Posters should be distributed at least a week in advance of the event.


Flyers should be distributed as soon as the major details of an event are nailed down. The flyers should be distributed to all folk dance clubs in the area as well as mailed to local members.

Information in the flyers should include a description of the event, dates and place, registration, general schedule of events, information on transportation and accommodations, and what to bring.


Selection of Facilities

Arrangements for facilities should be made as soon as any particular event has been confirmed. In selecting a facility, consideration should be given to these factors:

Once a night has been agreed upon, a written confirmation of the agreement should be sent. This letter should set forth the substantive terms (e.g., time of use, fees, access, clean-up).


Selecting a Teacher

Information on "professional" teachers is available through a number of sources (be sure to Google "folk dance teachers" and "workshop dance teachers") such as The International Folk Dance Directory, The Folk Dance Phone Book and Group Directory, folk dance magazines, and contacts with other clubs. Generally speaking, one should check with a person who has first-hand knowledge of a teacher and his or her reputation before making a commitment.

Entering Into an Agreement

Once a teacher has agreed to teach, the club should confirm the details of the agreement by letter. Elements that should be included in the letter are:

Other Issues


Some clubs use a written contract. When signed by both parties, it is preferable to the confirming letter. In any case, it sets forth the rights and obligations of the parties and will avoid the misunderstandings that otherwise develop over fees and teaching schedules (see Appendix 6).

Whether to Incorporate

Incorporation has little to do creating a successful folk dance club. It is often, however, a precondition of grants from major foundations and art agencies. It may lead to discounts and exemptions from state or local sales taxes in the purchase of property and equipment. In some states, incorporation may absolutely bar liability beyond the assets of the Corporation (though incorporation does not necessarily shield members from suit based on individual negligence).

In most states, the formal requisites for incorporation are:

Application for nonprofit incorporation can be requested from the state department created to manage and supervise corporations (department of commerce, corporations).

When requesting an application also request sample articles of incorporation and bylaws (see Appendix 1). A filing fee is required.

Tax Exempt Status

Federal Exemption

An organization is not exempted from taxes merely by virtue of its non-profit corporate status. One must make a filing and receive an exemption from the Internal Revenue Service. The formal prerequisites for exemption include:

However, any organization that is not a private foundation, but organized and operated for the purposes for which tax exempt status is given, and having annual gross receipts normally of not more than $5,000, need not file Form 1023.

Specific Requirements

Organizationally, the club must be organized exclusively for educational/charitable purposes.

No part of its earnings inure to the benefit of its members.

It will not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities or participate in a political campaign for or against any political candidate.

The by laws and articles must reflect language respecting its purpose, use and disbursement of assets.

Go to the following website to see about tax-exempt status:

Your club should request the following documents:

These documents may also be obtained by calling the Internal Revenue Service from anywhere within the United States at (800) 829-l040.

State and Local Exemption

Most states recognize the federal determination. Local tax exemptions tend to be more restrictive. Inquiries should be directed to the municipal attorney's or clerk's office.

Grants and Fundraising

Whether applying for a grant or requesting a contribution, it is important that the solicitation set forth the following information:

Grants are generally available from state and local arts agencies for events or projects. It is important to submit applications early since budget and grant cycles often run 12 to 18 months ahead of the award.

Corporate and foundation support may be solicited by letter. Corporations tend to restrict contributions to organizations in which their employees are involved.

Lists of foundations in your state are usually available from the state attorney general's office (charitable organizations section). Most public libraries have reference volumes on charitable foundations within the United States.

The Larger Folk Dance World

Local Organizations

Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.
      Website: www.socalfolkdance.org

Folk Dance Federation of California, Inc.
      Website: www.folkdance.com

Northwest Folk Dancers, Inc. (NFDI)
      Website: www.nwfolkdancers.org/

National Organizations

National Folk Organization (NFO)
      Website: www.nfo-usa.org

Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
      Website: www.sfdh.us/

Folk Dance Camps

Folk dance camps are an opportunity for avid folk dancers to learn a wide variety of dances in a pleasant setting over a weekend or during the course of a week. The major camps are shown on the website of the Folk Dance Federation of California, South above, and events in the country are shown in the publications listed below.

Important Publications

Folk Dance Scene
Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.
      E-mail: editor@folkdancescene.org

Let's Dance!
Folk Dance Federation of California, Inc.
      E-mail: editor@letsdancemag.net

Northwest Folkdancer
Northwest Folk Dancers, Inc.
      E-mail: nwfolkdancers@gmail.com


Appendix 1 – Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation



The name of this Corporation shall be _____________________.


Section 1. This Club is organized exclusively for educational purposes within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Section 2. In particular, the Club wishes to encourage the study and advancement of folk dancing and its related arts, to bring recreational dancing, instruction, and performances to the public.


Section 1. Membership in the Club is open to any person who shares in the desire to promote folk dancing and who pays a Membership fee of $__________. The Board of Directors may establish additional levels of Membership. Membership in the Club is not, however, a prerequisite to participation in any of its activities except with respect to voting at meetings of the Corporation. Individual Membership runs for one year immediately after payment of annual dues.

Section 2. The annual meeting of the Membership shall be held in March at a time and place set by the Board of Directors and shall be for the purpose of electing Directors, receiving reports of officers and committees, and for any other business that may arise.

Section 3. Other meetings of the Membership shall be held from time to time as set by the Board of Directors.

Section 4. All meetings of the Membership shall be announced at least one week before the date of the meeting in a manner (including posters, website, e-mail, or mail) reasonably calculated to give notice to members.

Section 5. A quorum shall be five members present at any scheduled meeting.


Section 1. The membership of the Club shall elect sevel members who shall constitute the Board of Directors, each of whom shall serve for a term of one year. Directors may succeed themselves for more than one term. Vacancies occurring on the Board of Directors may be filled by a vote of a majority of the remaining Directors.

Section 2. The Board of Directors shall have general supervision of the affairs of the Club, shall meet periodically to conduct business of the Club, and shall make recommendations to the Membership as appropriate. It shall meet periodically at the call of the President. However, action of the Board of Directors also may be taken by e-mail, so long as no Director objects to its use.

Section 3. The officers of the Club shall be a President, Vice President, Secretary-Historian, and Treasurer, each of whom shall be elected by and from the Board of Directors for a term of one year. Officers may succeed themselves for more than one term. The officers shall perform the duties normally ascribed to their positions.

Section 4. The membership or the Board of Directors may establish committees from time to time to carry out the work of the Club. The President shall be responsible for appointment of members to all committees.


Section 1. No part of the income of the Club shall inure to the benefit of, or be distributable to its members, officers, or other private persons except that the Club shall be authorized to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered.

Section 2. Subject to the provisions of Article V, Section 3, below, upon the dissolution of the Club the board shall dispose of all the assets of the Club exclusively to such organization or organizations organized and operated exclusively for those purposes that qualify the organization or organizations as exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Section 3. Upon the dissolution of the Club, the disposition of net proceeds from charitable gaming conducted under AS 05.15 must go to a charitable organization as defined at AS 05.15.690 or another qualified organization that is authorized to conduct an activity under AS 05.15.


The rules contained in the current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order shall govern the Club.


Notwithstanding any other provision of these articles, the Club shall not carry on any activities not permitted to be carried on by an association exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.



We, the undersigned natural persons of the age of nineteen years or more, acting as incorporators of a Corporation, adopt the following Articles of Incorporation for the Corporation:


The name of the Corporation is ______________________.


The period of duration is perpetual.


Section 1. The Club is organized exclusively for educational purposes within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code.

Section 2. In particular, the Club wishes to encourage the study and advancement of folk dancing and its related arts, and to bring recreational dancing, instruction, and performances to the public.


The internal affairs of the Corporation shall be regulated by a Board of Directors consisting of seven Directors who are selected by the Membership at its annual meeting and whose duties are those provided in the bylaws of the Corporation. A President, Vice President, Secretary-Historian, and Treasurer are elected from among the Directors.

Appendix 2 – Income and Expenditures Form

The illustration has the income and expenditures form (the actual form has been lost to time). Each item is broken down according to budget categories, under the breakdown opposite the income and expenditures form:

Enter the date (Column 1), source of income and expenditures (Column 2), and the amount (Columns 3 or 4), as illustrated.

Where a check is used to pay a bill, enter the check number after the source of expenditure in Column 2.

The details of income and expenditures (Column 2) should be backed up with a file of itemized bills, receipts, or vouchers. Determine the balance after each entry so that you will know the folk dance Club's financial standing at all times. The entry is made in Column 5.

At the end of the month, enter the total income and expenditures on Line 17. Balance at the end of the month will be the last entry made in Column 5. This figure will also be the balance brought forward on Line 1 of the following month. Draw a horizontal and diagonal line under the last entry of the month, as illustrated. These lines should be there to remind you that the month's business has been completed and no additional entries are to be made. Total income and expenditures should be checked periodically against the Club's budget.

The total income entered in Column 3 should be subdivided in Columns 6 to 9 as illustrated. Total expenditures entered in Column 4 should be subdivided in Columns 10 to 16. At the end of the month, totals for each column are entered on Line 17. These figures should be checked regularly against the total budget allotments in the annual budget.


Appendix 3 – Budget Plan Breakdown

Income Ependitures

Appendix 4 – Inventory

Date Purchased
or Received
of Item
Cost or

Appendix 5 – Teacher's Form

Week #: _____     Day: ________________________     Date:     _____________________________
Teachers Work NumberHome NumberDanceCountry
Programmers Work Number Home Number Dance Country

Appendix 6 – Programmer's Form

Dances to be Taught
at a Future Date

The programmer puts together the program from the requester list (crossing off the dance by the requester) and crossing off the program once they have been danced.

Appendix 7 – Suggested Contract Form





agree to the following:

1. ______________________ agrees to teach folkdancing for ____ hours and provide an additional guided review of selected dances during the evening program.

2. The date is ______________.

It will be necessary to begin instruction by ___________, and to be present until the last dance is reviewed at the festival dance.

3. _______________________ agrees to pay ______________ transportation and provide room and board during the stay in
_________________________________ for the period from the evening before the festival to the day after the festival.

4. _______________________ agrees to undertake no other public instruction assignments in the area during this particular trip unless said instruction
is sponsored by a group or club which enters into a contract with __________________ (host club) to share transportation and other expenses.

5. _____________ agrees to provide ________________ with a syllabus no later than _____________.

6. _______________________ agrees to receive transportation cost and fee at the time of the festival.

SIGNED ___________________________    DATE __________
(Club President)

SIGNED ___________________________    DATE __________

© 2009 by Bruce Botelho, All Rights Reserved.
Used with permission of the author.