Folk Dancing in
Washington Park

When: Thursday (May to October)
Time: Dancing 7 to 10 p.m.
Cost: Free (donations accepted!)

Where: Pavilion Boat House
Smith Lake, Washington Park
701 S. Franklin St., Denver, Colorado

Information: 303-592-3977
Facebook: FDWP
Location: Map

Pavilion at Washington Park, Denver 2008



Bettina and Shukr Basanow 2016 Shukr Basanow ("Sugar"), who teaches and leads the dancing in Washington Park, was born in Mongolia and is one of Denver's living treasures.

He is descended from Kalmuck Mongolians who followed Genghis Khan to Russia hundreds of years ago. His family fled Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. On the move through Turkey and İstanbul, they found a temporary home in Yugoslavia where Shukr was born. When the Germans moved into Yugoslavia in 1942, he was put in one of a series of concentration camps. Liberated by the Americans in Germany in 1945, Shukr spent five years there before Church World Service and the Tolstoy Foundation intervened. They talked to the American government who said, "Okay, you all come in as 'white Russians'." Shukr found work as a dishwasher. He later moved to Philadelphia with help from the Friends Neighborhood Guild, a settlement house founded in 1879. His musical and dancing talents eventually helped him find work and a home at the Philadelphia Founders House. At the Founders House, he met his wife, Bettina, a Brazilian immigrant. Shukr trained and found work as a machinist while teaching dance at the Founders House over the next three years.

In Denver, the couple were walking by the Pavilion in Washington Park and thought it would be a good location for Shukr to teach dance. He began offering classes the following summer, and has now brought the diversity of world celebratory music and movement to three generations. The recipient of multiple city honors for his talents and decades of volunteer service, Shukr even had a tree dedicated to him at the 20th anniversary of his summer dance series, which was attended by local dignitaries including City Council people Bea Romer (the then-Governor's wife) and then-Mayor Federico Peña.

Shukr suffered a heart attack in December 2007, from which he has recovered with the help of an implanted stent. His brush with death has given him an even greater appreciation for every moment of life. "When I had my heart attack, there was this outpouring of love. Now I feel like I'm back in my life, starting all over again. This is my life, so far, today."

Shukr has brought the diversity of world celebratory music and movement to three generations. He sees the dancing as offering a kind of international passport. "People learn all kinds of folk dancing from Germany, Poland, Africa, China," Shukr says. "And I tell them, 'Anywhere you go where they have a party, you can join them!'" "This is my idea, my own special power – and my life," he says. "To teach people to come together with dance."

Adapted from "Bringing Cultures Together Through the Magic of Dance" by Susan Dugan

Check it out! The dances are easy and fun.

For more information on Shukr and Thursday dancing in the park, see the Denver Post article, video, and photos at