The Inventory Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in the Netherlands contains ICH of which the communities, groups or individuals involved have written a safeguarding plan. Those plans are reviewed by an independent review committee. Every two years an evaluation of the safeguarding takes place.


Living Dutch folklore or folk dances are company dances in (regional) costumes to traditional music, which in some cases have been given new choreographies.

The folklore dance has the following characteristics: 

  • Dancing in pairs, in a circle, square or row. Pairs do not always stay together, sometimes men or women move on to another partner.
  • The different melodies to be danced at require different steps such as waltz, mazurka, polka. There are also steps that belong to a specific dance, such as the Horlepiep step, which is only danced at the Horlepiep.
  • During performances for the public, costumes or regional costumes are worn. Some groups dance all in the same costume, other groups choose to show costumes from different parts of the country.
  • The performances of the groups are often outdoors and accessible for everyone, for instance on markets or fairs.

Living folklore dance originates from traditional, handed down dances, which may or may not be performed in a contemporary choreography. By using new choreography, traditional dance is made more dynamic and new steps can be used that make the dances more attractive to both dancers and audiences. The dancers may wear non-regional and non-authentic costumes as well as modern costumes, with or without fake jewellery as accessories. Although new music is sometimes used to accompany the choreography, music handed down from earlier times is usually used. During performances, the musicians do link up the different melodies so, that the songs flow into one another.



The Stichting Levende Folklore (Living Folklore Foundation), which submitted the Living Dutch Folklore Dance for the Inventory, believes that contemporary dance is the folklore dance of tomorrow. They do not want to set a boundary that determines when a dance is 'old enough' to be danced.

For example, one of the affiliated dance groups dances folk dance from the rock & roll period in the Netherlands. Their costumes match this period: for instance, they dance in petticoats. In theory, even the gabber trend of the 90s could be captured in a folklore dance.

For the practitioners, it is a hobby that they like to show to a broad audience during performances. With the help of dance descriptions and accompanying melodies, live (e.g. with accordion, harmonica, clarinet, violin, hurdy-gurdy, guitar) or via sound carriers, the dancers practice for their performances under the guidance of a dance teacher.


The art of dancing originated in noble circles, in court dances. Dancing masters would travel from one residence to another showing dances there and teaching the dances to the members of the court. These dances were later adopted by the people in the towns and villages, with the steps and figures being simplified.

The folk dances in the Netherlands that are still practised today, date back to the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th century. From the 19th century, few or no dance descriptions are known, in which it is indicated how a dance was performed. However, there are writings describing what music was used for the dances at parties and festivities. Since the beginning of the last century, many regional costumes have disappeared from everyday view. Research carried out since the 1950s, has shown that several European countries have had an influence on the dances, which were initially seen as characteristic of the Netherlands. In the 1980s, dance leaders described traditional dances from Terschelling, North-Holland and Twente. In addition, new dances were developed on traditional music. This aroused much interest among dance groups in those years.

In the traditional folklore groups, the dances are performed based on data from the beginning of the 20th century as being Dutch tradition. Special attention is paid to ensuring that no changes are made to the dances that could affect the tradition. The dances must remain as they were once danced. 

However, in the living folklore dances, the Dutch folklore dances are made dynamic: the music that is performed is sometimes made more contemporary and the dances are adapted when they are presented on stage. In addition, choreographies are used to make the programme attractive for contemporary audiences.



  • A strategic image-strengthening programme is started.
  • In the own PR, the good performances, which are attractive to watch for the public, will be extensively highlighted to increase the image.
  • More contacts will be made with dance raining institutes throughout the Netherlands, such as secondary vocational dance schools, to offer guest lessons.
  • Folklore groups will be stimulated to record their knowledge and share it with newcomers.
  • The exchange between the different folklore groups is promoted.
  • Videos are made of how, for example, the lace caps are made.
  • The traditional folklore dance groups will be encouraged to record their knowledge and make it public. This will be done by organising some inspiring pilot projects, in which folklore groups are helped to film and digitally record certain aspects.
  • Advice will be sought from the Platform Digital Heritage on how the sources and archives of dance groups in the field of folklore in the Netherlands can be made public.
  • Regular and more intensive consultation with the traditional folklore groups and the Dutch festivals to discuss the possibilities for more cooperation to propagate folklore dance in the Netherlands.
  • The cooperation with the Dutch Costume Association and the Queen Wilhelmina Traditional Costume Foundation will be intensified to secure the knowledge about the costumes.
  • At performances, the public, especially young people, will be asked what they thought of the performance so that they can take their tips or ideas in consideration.
  • More young people will be attracted for folklore dance, for instance through dance education, so that the level can be raised.
  • A quality mark will be developed for the attractiveness of the dance (speed, dynamics), so that festivals will get the chance to contract good groups.
  • Contact will be made with teacher training colleges, so that eventually they will be able to give guest lessons about living folk dancing.
  • Teaching materials will be developed for use in primary schools and/or class talks.


Stichting Levende Folklore
Vrugginklanden 4