I love using Sasha as a way to get students moving after a break from school. This allows us to mingle with our classmates in a safe, structured way that also gets us back into the right mindset for music.
My students love this dance because of its catchy tune and because they get to learn a little bit of the Russian language!
Suggested Grade Levels: 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade
When I was taught the folk dance Sasha, I was told that it came from Russia. I was also told that the name “Sasha” is a nickname for Russian boys and girls who’s real names were Alexander or Alexandria.
Fairly recently, there has been debate on whether or not this dance actually comes from Russia. So far I have heard from others that the dance could potentially come from Germany, the Czech Republic, or even the United States! With all of this speculation, how could we possibly know the true origins of this beloved folk dance?
Let’s look at what we do know as fact. In lecture notes from Sanna Longden, it is mentioned that Bob Dalsemer learned the dance from a Danish teacher who had learned the dance from another Danish teacher who learned it from a German folk dance leader.
Now let’s consider a discussion from the Mandolin Cafe Forum. The original author of the discussion post (username crisscross) brings up that the song Sascha liebt nicht große Worteis, which translates to “Sasha doesn’t like big words,” is believed to be a European song of Russian lineage, but none of the Russians they have spoken to recognized the song. While this is not the same song as the folk dance Sasha, both songs share a very similar melody. Could one be an iteration of the other, but was incorrectly labeled as a Russian song due to the characteristics of its melody when Danish or American dancers heard it?
Whatever the origins of this song are, the fact is that this is a beloved dance in many classrooms. Hopefully we can discover its true, unfettered history in the future.
Formation: This song follows an AB form.
Dancers begin scattered around the room while facing a partner. After a brief melodic introduction, begin with the A section.
–Point at partner while saying, “Sasha, Sasha!”
–“Raz” (pat), “dva” (clap), “tre” (snap) (8 beats)
–With your partner, clap hands 3 times each (right, left middle) followed by 3 stomps and repeat (16 beats)
–Join elbows with your partner and turn in a circle to the left, shouting “Hey!” at the end (8 beats)
–Join opposite elbows with your partner and turn in a circle to the right, shouting “Hey!” at the end (8 beats)
–Wave farewell to your partner and say “Do svidaniya!” or goodbye in Russian
–Travel around the room to find a new partner (32 beats)
Repeat A and B until the dance has ended. I like to have my students bow to their partners at the end as a nonverbal way to say thank you for the dance! It gives the end of the dance a nice, final feeling as well.
–Learning language from a different part of the world
–Learning music/dance from another culture
–Creates an opportunity to learn about other countries (I have created a presentation for my students that goes over some cultural aspects of Russia; we also talk about its geographical location and that even though our maps are flat, the ocean between us and Russia is still connected and continuous.)
–Wonderful opportunity for students to socialize through dance
–Celtic, U.K., Nordic, Quebecois, European Folk. [crisscross]. (2015, September 12). Where does Sascha really come from? [Online forum post]. Mandolin Cafe Forum. https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-118347.html
–Hepburn, B. (n.d.). Elementary business meeting & folk dances with BethAnn Hepburn [Lecture notes]. Florida Music Education Association. https://flmusiced.org/flmusicapps/Sessions/Handouts/2015/3896_FMEAEvening_Folk_DancesHepburnR.pdf
–Janina und die Kinderlieder – Topic. (2018, May 17). Sascha liebt nicht große Worteis [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icuhHxnNkNY
–Longden, S. (2007). Sasha (Russia-Germany) [Lecture notes]. Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc. https://socalfolkdance.org/dances/S/Sasha.pdf
–Musicplay. (2019, September 15). Sasha – kids demo [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OBKjTjI1NM
–Peter, Paul & George – Topic. (2016, April 13). Sasha [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJCza9pSCa4
–Robert Amchin. (2021, March 16). Rob Amchin – Orff game – Sasha (virtual dance) [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQ4olowFqzc