Springtime in Holland: Toe Tapping Among the Tulips

It’s time for one of Michigan’s most adored spring traditions: the Tulip Time festival in Holland. Running from May 6 to 14, this event is all about celebrating the natural beauty and culture unique to this part of the state. But don’t let the name full you: The festival isn’t just about the nearly 5 million tulips that bloom. Visitors also can’t get enough of the Dutch dancers.

During the festival, nearly 1,000 children, teens and adults take to the streets of Holland in authentic Dutch costumes to perform traditional dances. (The dancers have actually been a part of Tulip Time since 1935.) The program director of the dancing, Nicole Prins, recently shared a little about her history with Tulip Time and what really goes on behind the scenes. Here’s her story:

How did you first get involved in Dutch dancing?

My older sister had danced during Tulip Time for years before me, and I did it for the first time when I was a sophomore in high school. After college, I found out the director for our high school’s program was looking for an assistant. I started out helping her, then she retired 11 years ago and I took over for Zeeland High School’s program. I’ve loved coaching, teaching and directing so much, so when the opportunity came up three years ago to become the Tulip Time Dutch Dance Program Director, I took it.

What’s the best thing about being a Dutch dancer?

It’s so fun to keep the Dutch heritage alive here in Holland. Plus I get to do something I enjoy—dance—along with my friends and family!

Dutch Dancing on the street

What goes into preparing for Tulip Time?

It takes a lot of practice! High school dancers start twice-a-week rehearsals in January. They need to learn a 13-minute routine, which has three separate sections in it. Each student also has to get a costume made if they don’t have one. They have to pick out a fabric (they can only choose ones that have been pre-approved since we want them to look authentic) and a group of local seamstresses help sew the costumes. The dancer also has to have wooden shoes (this is Dutch dancing after all!) and five to 10 pairs of socks. They actually wear all the socks at once—it helps keep the wooden shoes on and makes them more comfortable to dance in.

To learn some of the dances yourself, stop by the Tulip Time Festival on Saturday, May 6, at 6:30 p.m. or Wednesday, May 10, at 7:30 p.m. Feeling inspired to join in next year? You can register here.


Photo credit: Nicole Prins

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  1. My wife and I were there on May 10, 2017 and we really enjoyed see the parades and all the tulips. We spent our 18 year anniversary in Holland, the food and people were wonderful.

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