Celebrate Balkan music and dance this summer at one of our week-long workshops offered in the redwood forests of Northern California and the Catskill Mountains of New York. Each week is packed with classes all day (instrument, ensemble, dance, singing) and live-music dance parties all night. Families are welcome, as well as beginners with no previous experience. Unforgettable fun for everyone. Join the circle.
The Balkan Music & Dance Workshops provide music, singing, and dance instruction with professional instructors. The workshops create a village feeling for a week each summer, and allow Balkan music and dance enthusiasts, young and old, to share ideas and experiences.
The Balkan Music & Dance Workshops offer a unique opportunity for you to join in a celebration of music, dance and traditions—folk music and dance of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosova, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey—an enjoyable learning experience in an informal and supportive atmosphere.
Each weeklong program includes:
Our greatest asset is the extraordinary talent and experience gathered in one place—our teachers. At each workshop, more than 25 qualified Balkan musicians, dance teachers, and scholars from North America and abroad provide expertise and encouragement to about 150 students. Many staff members grew up with traditional music and dance in Europe or North America, while others learned from ethnic performers here and abroad.
In addition to instruction in vocal, instrumental, and dance techniques, we offer folklore presentations, staff and student concerts, group sings, jam sessions, and incredible evening parties with live music. We emphasize traditional and contemporary folk music and dance from the Balkan countries, as well as from neighboring regions of Central Europe and the Near East.
(Note: this is only an example. Class selections vary from year to year and workshop to workshop)
Intermediate Macedonian Tambura
Advanced Bulgarian Singing
Intermediate Turkish Singing
Advanced Bulgarian Tambura
Beginning Balkan Singing
Advanced Turkish Singing
Intermediate Romani Singing
Balkan Songs with Drones
Advanced Romani Singing
Beginning Serbian Singing
Beginning Bulgarian Tambura
Macedonian Village Ensemble
Pre-Dance Party Activities
Events include culture corners, movies, group sings, and auction night
Two or three different bands nightly
Nightly gathering till the wee hours with food, drink, and opportunities for faculty and student bands to perform
How do you select the teaching staff for workshops?
Our volunteer Program Committee works year-round to plan classes and select the teaching staff for both workshops. Their goal is to provide a diverse range of instruments, singing styles, dance styles, and levels each year, taught by musicians and dancers who have well-honed teaching skills. Since we can’t offer every class we’d like to at each workshop, the Committee also tries to balance the slates from year to year.
Many of our teaching staff are also involved in playing for our evening parties, so their skills and familiarity with a diverse range of musical styles is also key in our selection.
What classes are offered?
Roughly 45 dance, singing, instrument, and ensemble classes are offered each day. Please review the East and West Coast camp pages for the specific offerings of each workshop. You will be given a schedule at camp registration with the specific times of the classes.
You will note that there are 5 class periods per day, and you can take as many classes as will fit into your schedule. You may want to allow time for a nap or a swim too.
Class schedules: There is sooo much to choose from, or, How come I can’t take every class that I want?
As you will see when you study your workshop schedule (which you will receive when you arrive at camp), there are around 45 classes held each day, during 5 class periods. We try to use smart scheduling to foresee potential conflicts, but given how many classes we offer, it is not possible to solve all of them. Bottom line—campers sometimes have to make choices, hard as that may be.
How do I know which level of class to take?
Classes are offered at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, though not all are offered each year for each type of class. Our instructors do their best to teach to the advertised level of the class. If you are not sure which level is best for you, please consult with the teacher.
If you wish to take a class in a higher level than you feel comfortable with, you can audit the class. Please be aware that the instructor may not be able to take extra time to help you catch up. Similarly, you are welcome to join a beginner class even if your skills are more advanced—just be aware that the class will be paced with beginner-level students in mind.
If you are considering taking an advanced class, please consider your skill level with Balkan styles as part of your decision-making process. Though you may have proficient general instrumental or vocal skills, you may find that you need to study at a lower level in order to learn the fundamentals of style.
How are workshop classes taught?
We give our teaching staff the freedom to choose their teaching methods and material. As such, you will find a variety of teaching styles at our workshops. Some teachers will provide sheet music, and others will focus on subtleties and nuances that can only be learned by ear. Some dance teachers provide syllabi with dance step notation, but most do not.
Many attendees choose to bring recording equipment to help them as they learn.
Ensemble classes: How do they work?
Each workshop offers a series of ensemble classes as part of its program. These groups are led by experienced musicians, and offer an opportunity for campers to play together with others and learn from a specific repertoire. Each ensemble has the opportunity to play for dancing on the final night of camp.
Instruments: Can I borrow an instrument that I want to study?
We operate an instrument loan program for traditional instruments (for example, tambura, tamburica, oud, kaval, gajda, tupan, doumbek, frame drum, and zurla). Please indicate your need to borrow on your registration form. It’s also worth asking in your local community, as we can’t guarantee finding you a loaner instrument.
For common Western instruments, e.g. violin, clarinet, accordion, please plan to bring one with you from home. If you don’t own one, you may investigate borrowing or renting one for the week.
Evening parties: How do they work?
Parties are scheduled in the dance hall each night from 9 p.m. until midnight or later. Performers are designated in advance by the Program Committee. There are usually two sets per night. Also, a snack is served during the later part of the evening.
Dancing: I don’t know these dances. How can I participate?
Our parties are a great place to learn. Start with dances that look simple, but be aware that sometimes a dance may become faster and more complex by the end. There’s no shame in bowing out of the line if you need to. Asking someone to guide you through a dance is also a great way to learn. Some people find it easier to follow along behind the line for a bit, and some find it simpler just to jump in and let the rhythm of the line help guide their feet.
Most of our dances are done in long circling or spiraling lines that move to the right. The person on the far right of the line is the leader. Dancers look to the leader to establish the basic pattern and style of the dance. Sometimes the leader will embellish her or his steps more than other dancers. It is usually best to join the line at the far left end.
Kafana: What is it?
The kafana is an informal café that runs late into the night. With a blend of camper and staff bands, there is lots of diversity in what you will hear. Much of the music is for dancing, though some is for listening. A wide variety of beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are for sale at the kafana. Mendocino serves evening snack adjacent to the kafana. At Iroquois Springs, a variety of delicious Balkan appetizers and grilled items are for sale.
Playing: I want to perform! How can I get on the schedule?
The music for evening parties in the dance hall features the camp staff—those individuals whom we have hired to teach and perform at camp. They make their own decisions in choosing their ensembles, which can include other staff musicians as well as campers. The kafana offers opportunities for ANYONE, campers and staff alike, to perform. Contact the kafana coordinator early in the week to get on the schedule.
Student concert: How does it work?
Each class will present a 2-minute demonstration of the music that they have learned during the week. The concert is held on the final afternoon of camp. This is a low-pressure, supportive event, and beginners are encouraged to participate.
Ensemble night: Who plays?
Each of the official student ensembles (those that are part of the official class schedule) will have a 20-minute dance set during the last evening party of camp.
Kids’ programs: What do kids do at camp?
We actively encourage children of all ages to come to our workshops, and we seek their participation in our program in a multitude of ways. Children are invited to participate in all regular activities along with adult campers, such as classes, evening parties, and kafana. They are also welcome to set up special kids-only events throughout the week. At Mendocino, one room is reserved for kids only from 9 to midnight every night.
In addition, several multi-age programs for children are offered at each workshop. These programs generally feature a combination of musical activities, arts and crafts, and performance rehearsals. Children usually perform at the student concert and ensemble night on the last day of camp.
For more on what to expect bringing or sending kids to camp see the Kids at Camp page.
Recording: Is it allowed?
Recording of evening party performances is allowed for personal use only and not for distribution including uploading to YouTube or other public venues. We ask that you record in a manner that does not interfere with your fellow participants. If you would like to record in your classes, please get permission from your instructor before you do so. It’s also good etiquette to check with folks you record if you hope to share your recordings publicly online.
Teachers may provide recordings of the materials that they will cover at camp. Some bring copies to give or sell (for a minimal fee) to their students. We also give teachers the option of uploading their class materials onto a special password-accessed webpage that we make available to registered campers before and for a short time after camp.
Languages: Do all teachers speak English?
Some of our instructors are more comfortable teaching in their native language. In these cases, an interpreter is partnered with the teacher, so that all classes are essentially taught in English.
Who is in charge?
Each workshop is coordinated by a Site Manager, who is responsible for handling the day-to-day details of camp life. For more on our Site Managers, visit our staff page.
What are the camp facilities like?
Our beloved Mendocino Woodlands site is a National Historic Landmark located in the redwoods of Jackson State Forest. The camp is rustic and hilly, with uneven dirt trails and some stairs. Getting around the site can be difficult for people with joint problems. Accordion players have been spotted using luggage carts to haul their instruments up the hills.
Mendo can be cold, both at night and during the day, and the temperature varies widely, from as low as 40° F at night, to the occasional high of 70° F during the day.
The Iroquois Springs camp is conveniently located in the Catskills region of eastern New York State. During most of the summer it is a camp for kids. Once the children’s summer camp season is over, the EEFC and other groups use the facility. The site and its buildings are well maintained, and most of the buildings that we use are near one another. The ground is fairly level, so the site is generally manageable for people with physical limitations. The camp is divided into two distinct sections, and the EEFC uses only one of these. Sometimes another group uses the other section, and their campers can overlap with ours in the dining hall. Iroquois Springs may experience the hot and sometimes steamy weather that is typical of the mid-Atlantic section of the country. Campers should also be prepared for rain.
I’m new to Balkan camp. How will I meet people?
We were all new to this community at one time, and we are generally a very welcoming group. Though it may at first seem as if everyone has known everyone else for years, that doesn’t mean you can’t become a part of it.
To help to make you feel welcome, we have a buddy system for new campers. Your buddy can answer your questions and help you find people with similar interests. Just be sure, on your registration form, to check the box that this is your first EEFC workshop. You’ll be told how to find your buddy once you arrive at camp.
The Student Orientation meeting, held on the first night of camp, is an invaluable resource for new and returning campers. Here you will learn the details of camp life, and each of the teaching staff will make a brief presentation to help you choose which of the many fabulous class offerings to take.
Cabins: What are the cabins like?
Mendocino’s cabins are small and rustic, housing 4 people each. Each has a fireplace and a small balcony. They do not have electricity. Each cluster of cabins shares a bathhouse with electricity. Tenting is also quite popular at Mendocino.
Cabins at Iroquois Springs are medium-sized buildings that comfortably accommodate 8 to 16 people. Each cabin has electricity, a full bathroom, a storage area, and a big front porch.
Cabin mates: Who will I stay with?
Campers are invited to request specific cabin mates when they register, and every effort is made by the housing coordinators to accommodate these requests. For those who register late or are part-time attendees, specific requests may be harder to accommodate.
A list of basic suggestions for cabin etiquette is posted in each cabin. To enhance your workshop experience, you may want to discuss them, or add to or amend them, with your cabin mates.
Tenting: Is it an option?
There is space for camping in tents at both sites. In addition, at Iroquois Springs, people who are camping are assigned a cabin where they can store their things, and to use as a retreat during inclement weather.
Food: What kind of food is served at camp?
We offer plentiful, healthy food at both camps, including vegetarian options. Campers MUST sign up when they register for the vegetarian option and stick with that decision all week. We aim to please, but we cannot be responsible for other special diets, so you will need to provide for yourself.
If you have specific food allergies, please let the Kitchen Liaison (at Mendocino) or head chef (at Iroquois Springs) know, so that they can advise you on which foods to avoid.
Chores: How can we pitch in?
Keeping our public spaces (dining, dance, and class areas especially) neat, clean and ready for our activities requires a little bit of help from everyone. Each camper is expected to pitch in by taking volunteer slots during the week. A sign-up board or sheets will be posted at registration.
There are recycling bins for bottles and cans in central locations in both camps, and recycling is actively encouraged. A paper recycling bin is available in the office at Iroquois Springs.
Smoking: Is it allowed?
Smoking is not allowed in any of the buildings at either camp. Please smoke in designated smoking areas only, away from buildings and doors. Because Mendocino is generally dry and susceptible to fire, particular caution is advised there.
Shopping: What is available for sale at camp?
Many campers sell CDs, instruments, clothing, jewelry, music books and similar items at the designated vendor tables at both workshops.
Each camp has a Donation Store, which sells items to benefit the EEFC. At Mendocino, the Donation Store includes clothing, jewelry, music and more. At Iroquois Springs, the Donation Store features jewelry only. We encourage campers to donate appropriate items to each Store; information on how to donate is included in camper information packets.
For everyday necessities like batteries or toothpaste, the camp store at Iroquois Springs is stocked with many of the basics. At Mendocino, someone goes into town each day and may be able to pick up what you need. The Site Manager will be able to direct you to the right person.
Selling: Can I sell my CDs, crafts, or massage services?
Campers may sign up on the workshop registration form to sell their wares or services such as massage. You will be given a small display space among other vendors. The EEFC collects 10% of all gross earnings on goods and services sold at the end of each workshop.
Visitors: Can my friends or bandmates visit the workshop for a day? Can they stay overnight?
Only registered campers may stay on site overnight. Part-time options are available, and depending on space, shorter term options for overnight stays may be available. Depending on cabin availability, each workshop may offer a dance party plus an overnight “Dine & Dance, Bed & Breakfast” option. Please check the website for the availability of this option.
With advance registration, guests can also attend the evening dance parties for a small charge. Both camps are close to motels, B&Bs, and campgrounds, so party attendees don’t have to travel far to sleep.
Travel to camp: Is public transportation available?
If you are not driving to camp, there are a few public transportation options.
Each camp has a Ride Coordinator, whose primary responsibility is to arrange for teaching staff to get to camp. Depending on time and availability, the Ride Coordinators may be able to advise regular campers in making arrangements to get to camp. It is also often possible to find carpool arrangements with other attendees from your area. The EEFC email discussion forum is a great place to ask about rides.
Both workshop sites are within reasonable drives of intercity bus stations, and your fellow campers or Ride Coordinators can help you plan a ride from the station to camp. Please see the Directions sections on each workshop’s information page for more detail.
Medical care: What if I become sick or injured?
Mendocino has a medical advisor on staff and is about a 40-minute drive to a small hospital. Iroquois Springs is a 15-minute drive to an outpatient clinic and a hospital.
It’s a good idea to bring your health insurance card and information about any medical conditions or allergies with you to camp. You can also provide information about medical conditions in your registration materials. Camper-provided medical information will be kept confidential by EEFC administrative staff and Site Managers.
How do you set workshop tuition rates?
Workshop tuition rates are based on all of the costs involved in making each workshop a reality. These include facility rental, food, teacher stipends and travel costs, workshop staff, insurance, and the year-round logistical and programming work of the EEFC staff. These costs are not covered in full by tuition, therefore we continue to actively explore other methods to raise funds for our programs, including memberships, donations, and other types of fundraising.
Are there scholarships to camp?
Yes! A number of scholarships are available for both workshops. Visit the scholarship page for details on how to apply.
Can I work in exchange for tuition?
In addition to scholarships, there are a number of work exchange positions at each workshop. These jobs may not be glamorous, but they are essential to camp life. They include food serving, dishwashing, administration, bathroom cleaning, and similar tasks. Some are half-time positions, which involve approximately 3-4 hours of work per day at camp; a few are full-time, and require 6-8 hours a day. The Site Manager of each workshop generally supervises these positions. Information on how to apply for a work exchange is published as soon as workshop registration begins.