Every July, dance teacher Katharina Meyer shares her love of Bavarian dance at Munich’s largest open-air dance event, the Kocherlball at the Chinese Tower. Throughout the rest of the year, she dedicates her passion and energy to Bavarian folk dancing
Dance Teacher Katharina Mayer
Munich, six o’clock in the morning. Thousands of people are congregating in the Englischer Garten park. The sun rises in the Biergarten below the Chinese Tower. All eyes are on one woman: dance teacher Katharina Mayer. She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. Then the music starts – and Katharina Mayer begins to dance. She twists and turns in time to the music, and invites everyone to join in. Soon the whole crowd is dancing – at Munich’s Kocherlball, the biggest and most popular open-air dance event in the Bavarian capital.
Reviving and continuing ancient traditions
"Bavarian dance culture has come back to life and is evolving further"
For dance teacher Katharina Mayer, imparting the joys of Bavarian dance is both her job and her passion. The Alpine and Bavarian dance music culture of the 19th century is an important part of regional identity.
In the beer tent at village festivals, at weddings and birthdays, at official celebrations such as Maypole dancing and parish fairs, and at the “Kathreintanz” (Dance of St. Catherine): people all over the region pair up and whirl round dance floors across the state to the beat of traditional tunes played live by skilled musicians. Traditional folk dancing is alive and well in Bavaria.
Yet this Bavarian festival culture had almost fallen into oblivion: For years, round dances like the Polka, Landler or Dreher and special figure dances languished in local archives. The young generation, in particular, no longer identified with them. Katharina Mayer offers a possible reason for this: “Bavaria’s traditions are closely intertwined with Christian culture. Dancing was therefore regulated and domesticated through church traditions.
This gave Bavarian dance a rather provincial, old-fashioned image. It fell asleep and was almost lost,” she explains. “Nowadays, people are coming to realise that it can actually be a spirited, passionate, personal and liberating experience. As a result, Bavarian dance culture has come back to life and is evolving further.”
The unflagging efforts of Katharina Mayer and her father are partly to thank for this revival: Her voice betrays her enthusiasm when she speaks about the huge dedication of her father, Wolfgang A. Mayer, a former folk music researcher and curator at the “Institut für Volkskunde”(Folklore Institute) at the “Akademie der Wissenschaften” (Academy of Sciences) in Munich.
“Like a treasure hunter, he spent the last 50 years making his way on foot through the entire Bavarian-speaking region, visiting villages to record the music, songs and dances that had been handed down to them,” ready to pass these on to the next generation, explains Katharina Mayer with enthusiasm.
Bavarian dance knows no bounds
Today, when the musicians strike up and the crowd moves to the rhythm of the hand-made music, the Alpine and Bavarian dance music culture comes to life. “Bavarian dance has struck a chord in many people,” says Katharina Mayer. “It is enlivening the event scene all through Bavaria: dance floors can be found everywhere. Bavaria is dancing – and everyone is welcome. Whether you are a native, an incomer or a visitor, Bavarian dance knows no bounds,” asserts Katharina Mayer.
Bavarian dance pays no heed to dress style, age, social class or culture – a lawyer will dance with a farmer, a Japanese tourist with a born-and-bred Munich native. Together they dance, spin, clap, stamp, jump and bow in time to the music. The formula is simple: watch for a while then join in. These smooth couples’ dances are so easy that everyone can learn how to do them in no time. And experience for themselves an enjoyable piece of Bavarian tradition.
Find out more about Katharina and the bavarian dances tanzart.eu (only in German)
... from Katharina
Munich Dance Floors
Four times a year, the Munich Dance Floors take place in the small hall of the Munich Hofbräuhaus. A great event with a great atmosphere, where beginners are also welcome.
Kocherlball and Kathreintanz
In addition to Kocherlball Kathreintanz, I can recommend the dance day at the Markus Wasmeier Open Air Museum in Schliersee to everyone.
At the Oktoberfest, some dances take place at the Oiden Wiesn, especially in the Herzkasperl festival tent.