MIT Folk Dance Club
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- This page is about the structure and history of the entire MITFDC. For the current Israeli session, see Mit dancing.
The MIT Folk Dance Club was one of the most significant folk dance institutions in the northeastern US from the early 1960s through October 2018.
The Club grew out of a Sunday night dance session, almost all Israeli, that was part of Harvard Hillel around 1960, held in the Radcliffe gym. Sunday night dancing at MIT was started by Arthur Saltzman.
Advanced Balkan and Eastern European
A separate Israeli-only session began in the spring of 1970, started by Mark Horenstein, Herb Lin, and Avi Yascowitz. Initially, "Israeli and Balkan used to fight over who would get Tuesday or Thursday night. As a result, both were moved around from year to year." Around 1972, Israeli stabilized on Thursday nights. This situation lasted through September 15, 1977. After a week's hiatus for Yom Kippur on the 21/22, dancing moved to Wednesday nights starting on September 28.
Many playlists of the Israeli session, dating back to June 12 1975, can be found here.
In the late '70s (at least), the Club held no-repeat international dance marathons which ran Sunday from noon to midnight. (The marathon was suspended from 7:30 to 11:00 for regular Sunday night dancing, an important distinction because dances played earlier could be replayed during those hours.)
In December 1980, Ira Vishner organized an overnight Israeli marathon on Christmas Eve, which happened to be on Wednesday. His goal was to increase participation in the 1981 Boston Israeli Dance Festival, specifically targeting Parparim. The marathon concept was popular, and for several subsequent years an Israeli marathon was held, not on Wednesday, but on a Saturday night close to Christmas Eve. In 1986, with Christmas Eve again on Wednesday, the marathon was moved permanently to Christmas Eve except when Christmas falls on Saturday.
For many years the Israeli Marathon was held from 6:00 PM until 6:00 AM, with Larry Denenberg traditionally programming the last few hours, but since about 2005 the event has ended at 4:00 AM.
Because the MIT Student Center is closed on Christmas Eve, the Israeli Marathon has taken place in several other locations, frequently Walker Gym, but occasionally Burton Dining Hall. Since about 2012 the Marathon has been located at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline.
In October 2018 the Club was derecognized by the MIT Association of Student Activities for insufficient student participation. This action was carried out despite over 500 expressions of support from current and former Club members with various MIT affiliations.
The rule in accordance with which the FDC was derecognized was the so-called "5/50" rule: a student group must have at least 5 MIT students and at least 50% MIT students. But this rule had, in fact, been amended in June of 2014, four years before the MITFDC was derecognized, to require only that at least 50% of the group's executive board must be MIT students, not 50% of the group. It is unknown why this relaxed rule never came into force; probably the action was simply forgotten. Certainly the current rulebook contains the old 5/50 rule.
The last Wednesday night session took place on October 31, in the Sala de Puerto Rico, with a large party.
The Israeli portion of the Club continued having sessions on Wednesday night at Kehillath Israel in Brookline through the end of 2018. In 2019 the Wednesday session continued at JCDS in Watertown until very early 2020, with occasional sessions at KI and at other random places in Cambridge, Arlington, and Brookline. Starting January 12, 2020, sessions were held at the Rutledge VFW on Washington Street in Brookline. The last session pre-COVID was March 11, 2020. Dancing resumed at the same location on July 7 2021, with a new name for the group: Rikud Revi'i.
References and Links
- Herb Lin's paper (pdf) on the history of the MITFDC, written ca. 1977
- "Folk Dance Club de-recognized by ASA from The Tech, Vol 138 Issue 27 (see especially the comment at the end by Alex Dehnert)
- Expressions of support in favor of the MITFDC and against derecognition
- Proposed amendment to the 5/50 rule
- Request for feedback on the proposed new rule
- Adoption of the new policy
- ASA Guide for New Groups and Group Leaders, Section II.1
Home page of the MITFDC.
Arthur Saltzman's history page, including old playlists and videos.