International Folk Dancing: Blessed Abun dance

I fell in love with international folk dancing in 1972 in New York City. It was relatively easy for me to learn the steps and I found I had the necessary coordination, alacrity and stamina to quickly progress into a strong dancer. While dancing 2-3 nights a week I auditioned for and was accepted (1978) into the George Tomov Yugoslav Folk Dance Ensemble, led by the energetic, diminutive and ever-cheerful George Tomov, who had danced professionally in Yugoslavia. The “Troupe” performed by invitation at various events in the Northeast and East, including numerous smaller festivals, the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, N.Y. and Carnegie Hall.

The Troupe showcased dances from the various regions of Yugoslavia, including Macedonia (George’s origin), Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, and one American Suite, which included Appalachian clogging and Kentucky running steps. Rehearsals were twice a week, 4 hours each rehearsal. These rehearsals were rigorous – and fun . Although I no longer recall what I was seeking when I joined, what I gained from my 2½ years of intensive participation was much more than I ever could have imagined.

Foremost in my sentimental memories is the camaraderie. Sharing what we loved in an atmosphere of cheerfulness, dedication and hard work created bonds that exist to this day. Via email, I am kept apprised of various happenings (both glad and sad) of “Tomovites” and I knew about, and attended, both George’s joyous 70 th birthday celebration in 2003 and an enthusiastic party for celebrated Gypsy singer, Esma, in 2004 (both with Michael Ginsburg and his brass band). Also, two long-standing close friendships had their origins in the Troupe.

Secondly is my gratitude for having had the opportunity to both enjoy, and share with others via performances, the uniqueness, strength and variety that was “Yugoslav” dance. To be led by a consummate professional of boundless energy, good humor and graciousness enriched this cultural experience manyfold.

Although initially “foreign” to my ears and feet, I came to appreciate and love the challenging rhythms and the often haunting music and songs. The ubiquitous “droning”, in both music and song, is now familiar, comfortable and rich to my ears. As my taste expanded to include and welcome these differences so, too, did my awareness and appreciation for the culture and history that created this music and dance.

And how I came to appreciate the details that make dancing beautiful to watch. Into every movement we learned was the awareness of “carriage”, how we held our bodies, heads, arms and legs and how we danced (was it a dance of pride and dignity or playfulness). Of course, always we were taught to aim for authentic Yugoslav styling (to my eye, precise and often “angular” or “sharp”) and top notch performance standards. Examples are: awareness of and experience in “placement” in relation to dancers on either side of us and also those in front and behind, and included adjustments as needed to maintain appropriate spacing; maintaining straight lines; cooperation with and adaptation to dancers on all sides (tall/short, strong/gentle, on beat/off beat, etc.); consistency of movements so all like steps really are alike; and ensuring “flow” of movement of individual dancers and lines/circles. These attributes are second nature to well-trained dancers and look effortless.

Woven into the very fabric of our studies was some Yugoslav history, culture and political challenges. The highlight of my time in the Troupe was our trip to Yugoslavia in 1979, before then-President Tito died and the resulting ethnic upheaval began. I am all the more sad at the tragedy that has since unfolded and ever more grateful for my joyous experiences with the Tomov Ensemble.

Wednesday Waltz Etcetera

Waltz is a hugely popular dance. It can be fast, or slow, or somewhere in between. The music can be sweet, or syncopated, or hot. Moves might be simple or intricate. Styles include folksy, Viennese, Scandinavian, cross-step and many others. This variety is a big part of the attraction of the new dance series held the second and fourth Wednesday evenings each month at Boulder’s Avalon Ballroom. Call it “ballroom” dance, couple dance, lead-follow or just “social” dance. Dancers tend also to enjoy other couple dances in the same evening. This new series includes swing, foxtrot, hambo, tango, ragtime, blues and many other couple dances. The variety increases.

The “Wednesday Waltz Etcetera” series brings together dancers of many stripes. The intention is to provide an evening that is welcoming to newcomers, so that learning dance can be an enjoyable and non-threatening. Many of our new friends report exactly that.

The evening starts with a short dance lesson targeted for the complete dance novice. This is followed by a second lesson that covers more ground. The first several lessons provided review of the material taught by visiting artist Richard Powers, including his cross-step material. Future lessons will explore some of the ragtime dances, swing styles, rumba and many others. Lessons will sometimes tie into other local dance events.

Music is mostly waltz, with lots of other dances mixed in. More variety! Deejay Frank Vernon uses a custom computer-based music system that allows dancers to preview the next few dances coming up on the computer screen, and also see the name and artist of the music played. The 21st Century version of the dance card!

Refreshments are provided. When not dancing, there is plenty of conversation, and new acquaintances are made. When the energy is high, the dance goes overtime. Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, and the Bay Area, already have similar waltz-centric events, and these have proved very popular. We are finding the same enthusiasm here. Join us some Wednesday for waltzing and much more!
Article submitted by Jim X. Borzym, host with Frank Vernon of “Wednesday Waltz Etcetera.”

For further information on this series please call 303-443-9415.