Traditional Dances of Germany

Phoenix Club, Photo by Alex Havasi

October is famous for Oktoberfest, which is widely celebrated worldwide. America is no exception, each year, you can find areas of California where you can go and enjoy all the festive traditions, great food and special beer you can get at these special Oktoberfest events. This year our Director, Marilyn Fordney and her husband, Assistant Director and Photographer for the Fordney Foundation, Alex Havasi, attended an authentic German Oktoberfest at the Phoenix Club in Anaheim, CA. This year the Phoenix Club featured a German band from Germany playing military style German music. Although most Oktoberfests feature Polka as a favorite dance, this particular event did not. In honor of more traditional customs of Germany, I would like to share with you the more old-world dances of Germany you may not see very often.

These historic dances are used to celebrate local events like harvest time. Then there are other dances that celebrate festive occasions like weddings and changes in the season. It is interesting to note that one part of Germany might not know what dance the other part of Germany uses. Each region of Germany may have it’s own unique version of the same dance.

“Der Deutsche” (The German)

“Der Deutsche” is a traditional German dance from the mid-18th century. It is a dance in which couples dance in circles. It is a Bavarian dance (Bavaria is a federal state of Germany).   This dance was performed at the Phoenix Club and it is rare to see a regional German dance being performed in these times like this one. The main reason for that is it may look simple to spin, as these ladies do (please see the video below) but it takes a lot of work to keep from getting dizzy when doing a move like that for as long as these ladies do it. And the smooth transition back into partner work has to be done to perfection. I really like the truly bell shaped skirts when the ladies twirl and can really appreciate this beautiful and unique dance.

The Waltz

I think when we think of German dances, the Waltz comes to mind automatically. It’s interesting to note that during the beginning of the 19th century, “Der Deutsche” slowly turned into the waltz everyone knows today.  This happened by making the tune quicker and adjusting the dance steps to the faster tempo.


This dance is a dance mainly known in Bavaria, and the name can be loosely translated as something along the lines of “twice” or “double the times.” The name can be rather confusing, as it doesn’t really have much to do with the melody or rhythm of the dance. It is more likely that the name refers to the fact that a couple dances closely together which had been rather unusual up to this time. It is a very old dance, and there are at least one hundred different tunes the dance can be danced to.


This is another dance that is mainly connected to Bavaria, and often performed in traditional Bavarian costumes. During this dance, which was originally used to woo women into marrying a man, the men clap their hands, slap their thighs, and jump up in rhythm with the music. It can be a rather amusing look – and why women were impressed by it is most likely one of the questions about Germany that will never be answered.

Maypole dances

While Maypole Dances are not only known in Germany, those dances are something that happen in Germany every year. Most little villages are proud about their Maypole dances and their traditions. The dances that are used around the Maypole differ from region to region. The most common form of Maypole Dance in Germany is the Bandltanz (dance of ribbons). During that dance both men and women (as many as are needed to do this) dance around the maypole and in the process bind together the ribbons that hang from the top of the Maypole.

The Ländler

This is another dance that was popular in the 18th century. It was a dance for couples and a rather active dance at that. There was quite a bit of stamping and hopping involved. It might not have been the most graceful dance but it still requires precision and probably was a lot of fun to do.

I think these dances look like a lot of fun.  One thing for sure, Oktoberfest is a unique and fun experience and only occurs a few weeks in October.  If you’ve never been to one, now is the time to go, what are you waiting for!

Thought Of The Week:

Cling to your imperfections…they are what makes you unique!


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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website