Stanford International Folk Dancers


Prof. Miriam Lidster (1918-1996) taught dance at Stanford University, where she conducted yearly International Folk Dance Seminars, directed the Stanford International Dancers performance ensemble, and supported the Stanford Folk Dance Club. As an associate professor in 1942 she taught dance as part of Elementary Education. Students from various walks of life participated in her classes, which as time went on included more and more folk dancing. Many Stanford men, associated with athletics, including football players, were required to take Elementary Education. According to Miriam, she enjoyed every minute of it and said some of the men became very good folk dancers.

Stanford Folk Dancers' summer evenings in the 1960

Stanford Folk Dancers’ summer evenings in the 1960s (Stanford Daily, July 27, 1960)

Prof. Miriam Lidster felt that a major contribution to international folk dancing, resulting from her participation at Stockton Folk Dance Camp, was bringing and sponsoring outstanding folk dance leaders and instructors to Stanford University. This enabled Stanford students as well as the Bay Area public the opportunity to know and gain knowledge of folk dances from many countries.

The year 1942 saw the beginning of what was called the Stanford International Folk Dancers. They performed exhibition dances for Stanford and the community and later made their first tour in 1950 and began giving a Tuesday evening series free to the public in the Memorial Auditorium. By 1964, the Dancers were awarding annual scholarships to the Stockton Folk Dance Camp. For the next decade, folk dancing continued to become more popular on campus. Auditions were held occasionally for singers and musicians as well as dancers to perform in Stanford’s International Folk Dance Ensemble.

The “Golden Age” of international ethnic dance at Stanford came to an end in 1975. The Stanford masters degree emphasis in folk dance also saw its demise for lack of a campus advocate.

Stanford International Folk Dancers was active on the Stanford campus until the early 1990s. Many members remember their introduction to folk dancing with the Stanford International Folk Dancers to free lessons inside the Women’s Gym dance studio, the Bowman Alumni House, then later outside before the Memorial Church or on the Tressider Deck, and in the International House at Stanford. Declining student involvement and support for dance clubs at Stanford lead the group to decide to move to a new venue off campus. Stanford Folk Dancers tried the Mountain View Sports Pavilion in Mountain View for a year then moved to Flex-It Studio in Mountain View. When the Flex-It property was torn down for housing development in 2010 Stanford Folk Dancers moved to the First Baptist Church Event Hall in Palo Alto. Since Summer 2017 Stanford Folk Dancers have been meeting either at Menlo Park Bethany Lutheran or Palo Alto All Saints Episcopal Church.

Who’s Who: Miriam Lidster
Miriam Lidster