Baton Rouge International Folk Dancers
It has been over six months since the last newsletter so that means we are half way through the 2004 dance year! Been a mighty fast one by all accounts but fortunately it did slow down enough to get in some dancing. Unlike last year when we were still getting some significant dry weather, there has been no lack of wet weather this spring. My trusty rain gauge on my back yard fence has caught 46.98 inches of rain through early June! That puts us over 10 inches above normal. And it is still raining. The onslaught of rain challenged my house and yard drainage system and when the second round of storms hit in May I had to get out the push broom and dewater my patio that was fast filling up. Enough is enough and I am sure everyone is ready for some normal summer weather. Otherwise, however, it has been a nice spring with lingering cool breezes and plenty of colorful blooming flowers. The summer heat is finally turning on so I at least appreciated the cool spring breezes on my April and May fishing trips.
January 2004 saw the inauguration of Louisiana’s first woman governor with all its pomp and circumstances. It has only taken 150 years or so and I reckon is about time. Time will tell of course on how her administration will fare. Also Mardi Gras came and went more quietly than usual this year. It fell on Tuesday, February 24, which was not early or particularly late so the “middle of the road” time might account for the quietness. There were a record number of parades in the Baton Rouge area this year, however, which was notable. I would be remiss I guess if I did not say something about what happened at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans this year. Yep, the LSU Tiger Football team which won their first game of the season during the fall fish fry last September, won all the marbles and by the only poll that counts were credited as national football champions! As a result, there was a Mardi Gras like atmosphere through the month of January and into February. So with the Governor’s inauguration and football championship going on already perhaps it is understandable why Mardi Gras this year was not the highpoint it usually is. And I almost forgot, this is a leap year so there were 29 days in February.
The annual San Antonio College Folk Dance Festival fell over March 12-14 this year and marked another milestone for the Karpaty Folk Ensemble. By my account, it would be the 19th performance at the festival. There was some confusion as to whether it was the 45th or 46th festival but since I noted that last years was the 44th it seemed only natural that this years would be the 45th. The real contention though seemed to be on the concert being the 46th. Guess there was an extra concert somewhere. Regardless, there was another great time had by all at the festival. Karpaty performed two dances this year. The women did the Tance zo Zemplina from Slovakia and couples did the Dunamenti Tancok from Hungary. The Slovak women’s dance was a karicka that Vonnie Brown had taught years earlier and the Hungarian couple dance was one of Andor Czompo’s choreographies. What with doing choreographies from two of Karpaty’s favorites, the dances were done with special gusto this year and were well received.
Returning to teach this year at the San Antonio festival was our favorite Romanian, Mihai David who received the festival’s National Folk Dance Award. Vonnie Brown gave the introduction to Mihai for the award and in appreciation Mihai gave an impromptu Romanian dance performance with no music! Quite a feat. In fact Mihai was in rare form this year and was the most fun to be around. He also surprised us by bringing the keepsake gift we had given him when he taught at one of the earliest Baton Rouge Folk Dance festivals some 30 years ago! Bill LeBlanc also gave us a nostalgic trip back in time with his converted DVD of some old Super 8 movie film of Mihai performing in his early days and teaching at the Baton Rouge festival. It was almost too much nostalgia for many of us but did bring back warm memories of long ago. Also teaching at this year’s San Antonio Festival was Lee Otterholt doing Balkan dances and Jacqueline Schwab with English Country Dances. BRIFD dancers Ed Zganjar and Bruce Evans had a great time learning the fun dances as always and Jim Burke was able to get enough music and dance syllabus to reteach some of the San Antonio dances back in Baton Rouge.
Other activities of note in Baton Rouge this spring was the DeBlieux Clan gathering which brought 27 clan cousins all the way from France to meet their American cousins. Our DeBlieux cousin informant BRIFD/Karpaty dancer Anita Evans gave us a vivid account of the happenings. This included a dinner at the Old Governor’s Mansion and a tour of the Natchitoches home site of the first DeBlieux in America. Word was that Cajun dancers Rey Del Castillo, Suzan Martin and Louis Monic helped give the French visitors some real local hospitality. Upwards of 150 American DeBlieux cousins were expected to attend. So significant was the clan gathering that Baton Rouge Advocate Genealogy writer, Damon Veach, devoted the lead entry in one of his Sunday columns to the DeBlieux Clan gathering. Anita and Bruce Evans will be returning the favor and visiting her French clan in France in late June. We will have to hear the rest of the story as they say when Anita and Bruce get back from France in July. And congratulations to Nick and Jennifer Martin who were married on April 16. Proud Mom is Karpaty dancer Suzan Martin and Grand Mom is Helen Nyeki. Thanks to Nick and Jennifer tying the knot some BRIFD/Karpaty dancers were treated to a special Hungarian feast and party at the Hungarian Settlement to celebrate the event. The Hungarian food and camaraderie is always a treat no matter what the occasion! Best of wishes to Nick and Jennifer.
And finally, Vonnie Brown is helping to coordinate two exciting folklore tours this year to central Europe. Virtually all of us wish we had could go to both of them! The first one is to Slovakia and Poland from July 1- 10 and the second is to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary from August 13-22! Both tours are offering unique folklore and heritage experiences to include dance lessons and festivals. Having been on some of these tours in the past, I know from experience they will be trips to remember. You can get more info from www.folkloretrip.com.
Our BRIFD dance schedule for the remainder of the spring and summer is as follows:
Regular Friday night dancing continues through June including June 4,11, 18 and 25th.
Friday, June 25th will be the end of summer dance party. Everyone try to show up and let’s let the air out of summer with a bang.
There will be no folk dancing in July and August as always. Enjoy your summer and brief time off from regular dancing but do keep dancing whenever possible! We suspect that there will be some trips to La Poussiere or elsewhere for some good Cajun dancing and food so you might want to keep in touch and do some calling for times and dates.
We will return from the summer break to begin dancing again on Friday September 10, the Friday after Labor Day.
And the annual fall fish fry will be on Saturday, September 11th this year at the garden home of Bruce and Anita Evans starting at 6pm as always. Plan on starting the fall with BRIFD at the best fish fry in town.
So go forth and have a great summer everyone. But bring all your hot memories and experiences back with you in September and share them with everyone over a good Balkan line dance and Hungarian or Scandinavian couple dance and of course some fresh fish. We will be here!