Learn & Teach: A Beginner's Guide
You can’t learn the Schuhplattler from books, and learning from videos can be a slow and frustrating experience. Kids in particular need a real live teacher who can demonstrate the steps, adjust the tempo of the dance and the learning process as needed, find the right balance between hard work and rest, and stand behind a youngster who is having difficulty, moving his hands through the dance.
Unless you are already proficient in the Schuhplattler or know someone who is, you may peruse some of the hundreds of websites that purport to teach the dance. Many of these are confusing, the dancing is too fast, and the dancers are shown facing you, which makes it hard to know which hand or foot to slap or step with. However, the Alpenrose Schuhplattler group of Orlando, Florida, has several excellent videos of the Heitauer, Reit im Winkel and Gauplattler, showing the dance both in slow motion and up-to-speed, and they have one dancer facing the camera and one facing away, so you can watch whichever one you find most helpful. If you have a good video editing program, you can make a similar version of any Schuhplattler you find on the web by slowing the tempo and making a mirror image of the video.
Learning/Teaching the Dance
Set the steps/slaps/stomps to a count such as “one and two and three and four, five six,” using the numbers for the quarter-note beats and saying “and” for the steps/slaps/stomps that fall in between. Count aloud as you teach to the kids; you will find that in a particular dance, for example, every time you say “four” you are slapping the heel of your right hand on your left shoe behind your back, and every time you say “six” you are are slapping your right hand on the sole of your right foot in front of you. This will make it easier for your kids to remember what to do as you count.
Teach the dance in little bites. For example, count “one and two and three and four” and then stop. Learn that much well before you go on to “five and six.” With younger kids who are having trouble, you can stand behind them, take hold of their hands, and help them do the slaps as you count slowly without music. You can then play the music (perhaps slowly at first) and see if they can get up to speed.
Master the steps and slaps before you add the hopping, and then practice the hopping without the steps and slaps. This may seem silly, since all you are doing is hopping three times on one foot and then three times on the other in time to the music, but the steps/slaps and the hopping should be virtually automatic by themselves before you try putting them together. When you do put them together, you may find that the kids may not be able to hop slowly enough and you will have to take the dance up to full speed.
Trachtenverein Chiemgauer München
Trachtenverein D'Ammertaler Diessen
Schuhplattler kids from Krimml, Austria
Boston Grammar School, UK
River Valley Schuhplattler
Trachtenverein D'Ammertaler Diessen
Fathers and sons learn the Schuhplattler together at the Trachtenverein Diesen in Diesen am Ammersee, Bavaria
Choosing & Designing Your Schuhplattler
Once you know some of the Schuhplattler moves, you need to choose a basic dance for your kids to learn. There are some 150 basic Plattlers to choose from, as well as marches, Ländlers, and acrobatic figures that can be added to fill out a complete dance. A typical full Schuhplattler might include an entrance march, the Plattler, a second march, the Plattler again, and an exit march. If this seems like a bit too much marching and too little dancing, you can cut the entrance and exit music and include other material between the Plattlers.
Your performance may also include girls in dirndls twirling about the stage as the boys slap and leap, or having the boys and girls dance together, but this is beyond the scope of our website. In any case, teaching the slap-dance to boys and girls in lederhosen will probably be the most challenging part of your work.
The basic Plattler and the march are usually each sixteen measures long, and the march usually turns and moves in the opposite direction after eight measures. A “shuffle march” is standard, but many groups have found interesting variations. Acrobatics and choreographed rough-housing are especially appealing to kids and can be found in the Ranggler and the Schuhplattler Tramin’s Fasslschwänzer.
The sound of slapping and stomping is a major feature of the Schuhplattler and the best surface to dance on is a wooden floor, but if you will be performing on asphalt or grass, you may need a dance that does not have a lot of stomping. Alternately, you can make adjustments to a standard dance that normally begins with stomping, provided the traditionalists aren’t watching.
In his book, Auf Geht's: Das Buch übers Scuhplatteln (1990), Franz Hegenbarth presents several notation systems that have been used to record Schuhplattler figures, and others can be found online. It may be more convenient to devise your own, and one such “homemade” system can be seen on this page. If you are familiar with Reit im Winkel, incidentally, you will see that this version has been altered to remove the big stomps at the start of the dance, since in this case it was to be performed on grass, and stomping on grass would not have been a very exciting way to begin a performance! Purists may be horrified to see a traditional Schuhplattler modified in this way, but if no one is around to enforce the rules, go ahead and create a dance that works for your kids.
Youngsters learn the Schuhplattler at the Trachtenverein Hammerau-Ainring, Bavaria
Composing and Playing the Music
Your complete Schuhplattler and even some basic Plattlers may require transition time for the kids to get in position for the next part of the dance. This can be done by slowing the tempo, as in the Ranggler video on this page, or by adding a measure or two of filler, as in the River Valley Plattler on our home page.
Since the dancers will do best if they know exactly how much time they have for a particular transition, your accompanist needs to be consistent in rehearsals and performances. Once the transition time is set, you might have the accompanist make a recording of it that can be used for rehearsal or reviewed periodically to insure the tempos are consistent.
If you don’t have an accompanist, you can write the music with a program like MuseScore (free), scan it with a program like PhotoScore ($250), or scan it first and then make changes in MuseScore. MuseScore will play your score in any of several instruments, and if you use the same recording for rehearsals and performances, you won’t have to worry about consistency.
Hochstadlbuam Irischen Rehearsal
Hochstadlbuam Irschen in Rehearsal
First Try (Trachtenverein Klagenfurt)
This simple dance by the Trachtenverein St. Gilgen would be excellent for beginners
Schuhplattler at the Großwildalm, Austria
An impromptu Schuhplattler performance at the Gasthof Post Mieming in Mieming, Tyrol
Schuhplattler in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria