Luke spouse crafts folk dancing book

[from the “Thunderbolt,” Luke Air Force Base News, Glendale, AZ. Aug. 19, 2011]

by Stephen Delgado
Thunderbolt staff

8/19/2011 – LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz.

Many people dream about writing a book about their passion and that the book will be published.

That dream came true for Erica  Nielsen, wife of Capt. Nicholas Okamura, 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron  operations officer. Her book, Folk Dancing, was published last month and is  available online and through major book vendors.

Folk Dancing takes the  reader on a journey through the evolution of social dancing in the United  States, with emphasis on the 20th century folk dance movement.

“The book is a reference book that is organized chronologically and by the dance form,” Nielsen said. “I wrote the book for dancers and nondancers. I hope that it gets  adopted by college dance history classrooms because it would be an excellent  supplementary book for dance courses, which often focus on theatrical dance  forms such as ballet, modern dance and jazz dance.”

Nielsen developed her  passion for dancing and writing as a child. She spent the 1990s studying ballet,  tap dance, jazz dance and other dance forms in Burlington, Wis. She continued to  take dance classes at Macalester College, St. Paul, Minn., and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies with a concentration in  cultural anthropology. She furthered her education by earning a Master of Fine  Arts degree in dance from Arizona State University.

Studying any type of  dance can shed light on larger social, cultural and political issues, according  to Nielsen, who identifies herself as a dance anthropologist or dance ethnologist.

Dance is inseparable from culture and provides a unique lens into history.

“I learned so much about history by writing this  book,” Nielsen stated. “Many of the rural American dance forms for groups of  couples, generally known as square dance, evolved from the popular European  court dances of the 17th and 18th centuries. Dances for couples, such as waltzes  and polkas, where male and female partners dance with each other and hold each  other in a close embrace, came about in the 19th century. The sudden popularity  of these dance forms relates to the French Revolution, after which the French  court was no longer considered the cultural authority of Europe and European peasant dances came into fashion.”

The 19th century brought about a plethora of problems and challenges.

“In the 19th century, cities were growing rapidly and people faced new problems, such as unsanitary and gang-ridden streets, and physical disorders related to sedentary lifestyles and repetitive factory work,” Nielsen said. “Educators and social reformers particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom believed that manners, morals and movement were interrelated. There was a growth in physical training at this time.

“Educators thought that girls should have a less rigorous form of exercise than boys. In the early 20th century, schoolteachers began to teach gymnastics dancing and folk dancing mainly to girls.”

Eventually, folk dancing was adopted as a recreational activity for the masses, leading to folk dance clubs across the nation. Folk dance clubs spread to other countries after World War II with the help of USOs. Recreational folk dancing was very popular in the 1960s and 1970s and still exists today.

Folk Dancing wasn’t written overnight. In 2008 to 2009, Nielsen traveled across the United States to attend dance events and interview dance leaders and long-time dancers.

“The book took three years to research and write, and most of the writing happened while my husband was deployed in Afghanistan,” Nielsen said.

For more information on book signings, meeting Nielsen in person or reading her blog, go to


August 20, 2011. Uncategorized.

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