Best Dance School Everyone Thinks of as a Music School

Critics' Picks

Old Town School of Folk Music

4544 N. Lincoln

909 W. Armitage
773-728-6000

oldtownschool.org

So you think you can’t dance? Think again. The dance and movement program at the Old Town School of Folk Music is one of the city’s biggest and certainly its most welcoming. At the Lincoln Square and Lincoln Park locations, the school’s 46 instructors offer everything from ballet, tap, jazz, and modern to Qigong, Hawaiian hula, bhangra, psychedelic go-go, and clogging, plus kids’ courses and free sample classes. Program director Sarah Dandelles says the classes are “beginner-friendly,” in keeping with the school’s populist mission and its expansion in the 80s from American folk to traditional forms from around the world. “That’s how dance is in the real world,” Dandelles says. “It’s everybody.” The traditional focus also often means live accompaniment: three of the four types of dance I’ve studied there have had musicians every week—and their presence is essential when music and dance respond to each other, as in flamenco and West African.

Dancing at the Old Town School goes back to its inception in 1957, though then it was mostly square dance. Over the years various courses for kids and adults were added, but there was no dance department until 2000, when Dandelles was hired. The classes are small partly because the studios are; only one, on Lincoln, has a sprung floor and is large enough for students to work across the room.

But a new OTSFM building at 4543 N. Lincoln will have three studios specially designed for dance and a multipurpose hall for classes, dance bands, and social dancing. The groundbreaking is in August and the building is slated to open in fall 2011.