2022 Roo Bio

Roo Lester

Roo began folk dancing as a child, and has been observing, learning, and studying Scandinavian dance since she saw the Hambo during a college folk dance class. This inspired her to pursue and complete a Master of Arts in Dance Ethnology from UCLA. She later turned toward a specialty in Scandinavian dance.

Since 1983, Roo has traveled extensively in Scandinavia studying dance and participating in dance and music events, including testing her skills and dancing in courses and competitions. She has been the American coordinator for several dance and music camps in Scandinavia and published a number of lengthy descriptions of Norwegian dances including Telespringar, Hallingspringar, and Valdresspringar. In addition, she wrote a guide to Scandinavian Dance Basics, and has published several articles.

Roo teaches many different kinds of Scandinavian dance but has focused especially on what she calls the turning dances of Norway and Sweden. Her teaching is infused with a great love of dancing and a desire to help others to love it too. Today she is recognized as one of the foremost exponents of Scandinavian dance in the United States.  Her hallmarks include her clear, positive teaching that incorporates background information, styling, and technique and her ability to present the basic concepts of dance to dancers of all levels in a fun and lighthearted manner.

Roo’s life work in dance has taken many interesting twists and turns, from teaching folk dance in the Los Angeles area public schools, to a 3-month research trip to Spain to study Basque dance. Roo was a director of Barátság Hungarian Music and Dance Camp, and for over 20 years has served as a director of Scandia Camp Mendocino. She had a stint in the television industry working on an episode of M*A*S*H called “Inga.” During the pandemic, Roo has worked with dance in a variety of ways over Zoom, both as a teacher and assisting other dance programs to reach widespread, house-bound audiences.

Among the venues where she has taught are Christmas Country Dance School, Buffalo Gap; Florida Folk Dance Camp, Mendocino Folklore Camp,  Folklore Village, Kentucky Dance Institute, Maine Dance Camp, Mainewoods Dance Camp, Ogelbay, Old World Music and Dance Events, Pinewoods, Scandia Camp Mendocino, Scandinavian Week, Texas International Folk Dance Camp, Hardanger Fiddle Association of America, and Stockton Folk Dance Camp.  She also serves on the board of directors and is currently involved with the NFO’s membership and Heritage Award committees.

When she is not traveling, Roo lives in the southwestern suburbs of the Chicago metropolitan area with her husband and frequent dance partner, Larry Harding.