The Shoe-Slappers Who Aim High


Dirndl skirts for the girls, lederhosen for the men and a joyous upbeat dance involving a great deal of slapping? It can only be the schuhplattler, a folk dance popular in Bavaria and the Tirol, in which the participants wear traditional Alpine costumes…


… and slap the soles of their own shoes a lot. For the name of the dance, schuhplattler, translates literally as ‘shoe-slapping’. But don’t be disappointed, because sometimes the girls find their fellow dancers aiming a little higher. Witness this incident in New York:


New York? Yes, the schuhplattler has traveled the world and can be seen at many an Oktoberfest in many a place where the first language has never been German. But for choice, the place to go see it performed is the San Francisco Bay area of California.


Founded in 1953 by European migrants, the schuhplattler group associated with the Nature Friends organization in Oakland and San Francisco performs ten to twelve times a year, mainly at Nature Friends events. And since the very beginning, their signature dance has involved this:


They even call it, informally, ‘the spanking dance’!

It’s choreographed for four couples, and fittingly, since the schuhplattler was originally a courtship dance, it begins with the men showing their affection by kissing the girls, before going off to do some same-sex shoe-slapping in the middle. Unimpressed with this, the girls creep up behind them and kick them in the rear. And that can mean only one outcome:


And sometimes, if the girls are really out of luck:



OK, it’s not really that much of a misfortune, because the spanking is usually simulated: the men smack their own left hands rather than the girls’ bottoms. Most of the time, anyway…


Applause, please, for the Nature Friends Schuhplattler group, and long may they continue to perform the ‘spanking dance’! (And for more spanking in traditional European folk dancing, go here.)

2 thoughts on “The Shoe-Slappers Who Aim High

  1. maitrefesseur says:

    Exquisite post, great research work! May I add that there is also an interesting aspect of flagellation in European Schuhplattel Dancing? It’s in the watschenplattler (face slap plattler). Due to film and TV (mis)representations of the original version,an aberration from tradition found its way into the dance, which consists of one half of the dancers taking the other half headlong, and musically spanking their behinds. Since FEMALE plattle groups arrived on the scene about 20 years ago, this routine is now often performed by young women in either leather pants or even skirts (If it’s skirts, the skirts usually fall backwards and white undies are “platteled”. In most cases those undies are made from white jeans cloth, cause otherwise the dance would be quite painful.) This headover butt drumming among females can be quite intriguing to watch, if done with gusto.
    You probably already know all about this, I just could not resist adding the info.
    Thanks for your post,
    yours maitrefesseur


  2. jimc says:

    I always love any production that has otk and this certainly delivers Great research and commentary. Thanks for sharing and have a great day.


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