The Nashville International Folk Dance group was formed in 1948, meeting on Tuesday nights at the Belmont United Methodist Church on Acklen Ave. Las Woodard and his wife were among the earliest leaders of the group and may be considered its ostensible founders. The group danced to music on 78, 45 and Long Play phonograph records for the first few decades. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Larry and Hilda Ratner shared leadership responsibilities in the group. During that era, by popular demand, NIFD devoted a good share of its time to English and Early American country dances as well as some Northern European dances from Germany and Scandinavia--in addition to Balkan dancing. However, by the early 1970’s the Balkan, Israeli and other Eastern European dances, characteristic of the group today, had re-emerged as the predominant focus of the group. Around 1975, Hibbard and Ruby Thatcher, along with two other couples in the group, left NIFD to form a separate Friday night group called the Nashville Country Dancers, dedicated primarily to English and New England Country Dances, and later Contra-Dances (often with a live band instead of recorded music).

The international wing of the group continued to meet on Tuesdays retaining the name, the Nashville International Folk Dancers, but it was not until 1984 that an official charter was actually drawn up for the group. After the formation of the Nashville Country Dancers, a somewhat smaller international group met for years at the West End United Methodist Church led by Amy Vietze, Dixie (Fulton) Williamson and many others, occasionally participating in local dance performances, as well as a dance trip to Sweden in the fall of 1983. In September of 1984, NIFD member and Israeli dance teacher, Dr. Rucele Consigny, spearheaded an initiative to draft by-laws for the group, promote performances, and establish an annual November dance workshop called Autumn Leaves. Soon afterwards, Paul Miller initiated arrangements for the group to meet under the auspices of Nashville Metro Parks, sponsorship which it retained for several decades. The by-laws for NIFD were adapted on Feb.12, 1985, with Dixie Fulton and Rucele Consigny serving as the first President and Vice-president of the group, respectively, and Sid Tetenbaum serving as the first secretary treasurer. The first Autumn Leaves was held in November 1984 at the Centennial Arts Activity Center, with Erik Bendix as (Balkan) guest dance instructor, followed by an Autumn Leaves featuring Israeli dance teacher, Ruth Goodman the following year. NIFD became a non-profit organization on April 13, 1987.

Also notable during the early 1980’s was the 1982 formation of a dance performance group called DanceFolk, organized by long-time NIFD dance teacher Nena Couch, comprised of six senior NIFD members, including Dixie Fulton, Ginger Pyron and Bob Hemminger. After a few years, David Chrapkiewicz (Rapkievian) took over as the group's director. The group performed its dance repertoire in the Nashville area for nearly a decade. After DanceFolk disbanded in 1989, NIFD members began increasing their local performances, dancing at Summer Lights, Celebration of Cultures, the Tennessee State Museum, Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Country Music Hall of Fame, Unity Feast 55th Anniversary of United Nations, European Cultural Festival at Global Café, Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, Webb School in Bell Buckle, a street festival in Crossville, Lipscomb University’s International Square Fair and Nashville Early Music Ensemble performances, Folk Fest at Centennial Park, and VSA arts of Tennessee Greek Festival at Vol State in Gallatin. In 2009, NIFD members and local musicians formed Tantsova Grupa, a five-piece band which offers live music for international dance sessions, workshops and festivals. The sixty year tradition of International folk dancing, currently using digital recordings, and having hosted over two dozen Autumn Leaves workshops, continues to thrive in Nashville in the 21st Century. To see a list of Autumn leaves teachers since 1984, click here.

If you are interested in joining in the fun, please see our "When & where we dance" page. We are always happy to welcome new dancers. The cost is minimal and the first time is free. No partners or previous experience necessary.

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