HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — In Holland every spring, Tulip Time Festival attendees are delighted by the city’s Dutch dance performances.
The tradition was started by a Holland High School gym teacher in the 1930s, according to Jenn Ryckbost, the Dutch dance program director for Tulip Time. The gym teacher choreographed the dance based on folk dances in the Netherlands.
“They had an idea to bring dancers together and community members together from the high school to come up with a dance that kind of represented what they used to do in the (1800s and 1900s) in the Netherlands,” Ryckbost said. “It was kind of pulled from different old folk dances that were brought over from the Netherlands, because we had a lot of immigrants in Holland at the time.”
Ryckbost said there is a lot of overlap between Holland, Michigan’s choreography and some of the folk dancing in the Netherlands.
It took about 10 years for Dutch dancing to become a big part of Tulip Time, as other high schools and alumni dancers started joining.
The music is a mixture Dutch folk music, first composed by Margaret Van Vyven. In 2018, a woman found the original score for the Tulip Time dance, which used to be played live. She told News 8 in 2018 that when she was in high school in the late 1940s she would play the piano from the third of fourth floor of the Warm Friend Tavern — now a senior living center — as the Dutch dancers performed below on 8th Street.
“It used to actually be played with someone on a piano and an accordion and all the crazy instruments on the street and they used to put a microphone right up to it,” Ryckbost said. “So we got a little more high-tech from then.”
The copy of the music dancers use today was recorded a few years ago, Ryckbost said.
A compilation of the music was created and today’s choreography was set in 1953, according to TulipTime.com.
In 2009, Tulip Time added “Kinder dancers,” a group made up of third through fifth graders.
“They are precious. They get those wooden shoes on and they actually sing in Dutch while they dance,” Ryckbost said.
In 2018, Tulip Time added a program for middle schoolers.
“They do the most adorable dance and they jump around and hop around, it’s perfect for those middle school,” she said.
The festival also typically has a community Dutch dance program for adults. The festival was not able to put that program on this year due to staffing shortages but Ryckbost said there are plans to bring it back in the future.
The dancers now have 22 costumes from eight provinces in the Netherlands, including several pairs of socks to keep dancers’ wooden shoes on. It took some time to get to those 22 costumes.
The costumes were originally “delft blue with white organdy caps and aprons,” according to Tulip Time’s website. Over the years, the costumes were changed and more costumes were added to the lineup.
Ryckbost said costumes take about a year to design.
“We have some really cool books from the Netherlands and from some different museums there,” she said. “We have costume directors and these directors will take ideas and turn them into things that are usable for dancing the way we need them.”
The costumes represent different aspects of culture — for example, Ryckbost said costumes that came from flood zones have shorter pants.
According to the festival’s website, the cost of a costume ranges from $180 to $300.
WATCH IT THIS YEAR
A total of 320 dancers will be participating during Tulip Time 2022. Ryckbost said high school groups are small this year, as students “had other opportunities to fill their time since COVID hit,” but she said the Kinder, Middel and alumni groups have great numbers.
The Kinder group and Middel group has been practicing since February and new high school students have been practicing since January.
“It’s a lot of work, so they put a lot of hours, volunteer hours into this and it’s really beautiful to see the number of people who come and watch and the number of dancers who come back year after year,” Ryckbost said.
There will be performances in downtown Holland throughout the festival, which runs Saturday through May 15. A schedule of performances can be found at TulipTime.com.