Most Famous German Folk Dances

With roots dating back centuries, German folk dances are a unique expression of the country’s rich artistic and cultural traditions.

From the lively Schuhplattler to the graceful Walzer, German folk dances are renowned for their energy and elegance. They have been passed down through generations and are cherished by their people as a cultural heritage.

Discover the charm of Germany’s most famous folk dances and learn about their rich history and cultural significance with us.

1. Schuhplattler

Have you ever seen a dance in which male dancers dance in a circle or line, hitting the soles of their shoes, thighs and knees? This dance from Germany is called Schuhplattler, and it is one of the oldest folk dances in the world.

This typical dance comes from the alpine regions of Bavaria and Tirol. It is popular in both Germany and Austria. There are more than 150 songs on which Schuhplattler can be performed

2. Zwiefacher

Zwiefacher is a popular Bavarian Folk Dance, meaning twice or double the times, but it does not reflect the dance itself. The origin of its name remains a mystery, but some speculate that it could be due to the close dance between two partners, which was uncommon in the past. Despite the name, the dance alternates between 3/4 and 2/4 meters, making it unique.

3. Expressionist Dance

During the Weimar period in Germany, Expressionist dance emerged as a distinct style. Pioneered by Mary Wigman and her mentor Rudolf von Laban, this dance form was seen as a profound, metaphysical experience. Wigman, who performed “Dance of the Witches” and “Dance of Death,” popularized Expressionist dance in Germany and the United States.

However, due to its association with Germany, the movement was suppressed and its practitioners forced into exile by the late 1930s, when Expressionist dance was deemed anti-nationalistic.”

4. The Ländler

It is a popular peasant dance from Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. Despite its peasant origins, it was eventually embraced by the elite. This dance can be performed to instrumental music or with singing and features a three-by-four meter and close couple dance.

Initially frowned upon for its close contact, the Ländler faced opposition from the Church and authorities. Despite this, it continues to be performed in traditional German attire, including the Dirndl and Lederhosen.

5. The Waltz

Waltz is a timeless Ballroom Dance. The word Waltz is from the German verb “roll,” meaning “turn.”  Influenced by the Ländler, the Waltz faced initial condemnation but eventually became widely accepted, especially after World War II.

Slow-paced ballroom dance for couples, the Waltz has a three-by-four beat and various styles, including the English Waltz and the fast-paced Viennese Waltz. A straight posture is required to dance the Waltz, with movements limited to the legs. The couple holds hands, with the man placing his right hand on the woman’s back.

6. Maypole

El Maypole is a tree trunk decorated with colourful ribbons that serve as the centrepiece of the May Day celebration on May 1st. The Maypole dance involves participants holding onto the ribbons hanging from the tree, with women spinning in one direction and men in the opposite.

Germans gather outside, dressed in traditional attire, to dance and enjoy the local cuisine. The Maypole festival, with pagan roots, marks the start of spring.

7. Der Deutsche

The Der Deutsche dance is another famous German folk dance involving couples dancing in circles to a 3/4 or 3/8 beat. It is believed to have emerged in the mid-18th century and is considered the ancestor of the waltz.

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