BATON ROUGE INTERNATIONAL FOLK DANCERS
It is time to realize that half of 2008 is history and the rest is coming at us fast. It has been an interesting and busy spring for BRIFD and though summer is only a few days old it is gathering steam and nope there is no pun intended here. Actually I thought the spring was nice this year and cool weather hung on despite a few early days of higher temperatures. I have been anxiously waiting for the hot winds of south Louisiana summers but instead have still felt some cool morning breezes. But we all know what is coming so it might as well come on and we might as well get ready. We did have a real weather event this spring with a significant flood on the Mississippi River. For the first time in over 10 years we topped 40 feet on the Baton Rouge river stage and ships on the river serenely floated above the downtown streets. The Bonnet Carre’ Spillway was also opened for the first time since 1997 to protect New Orleans and it is always fascinating to see river water cascading under I10 and into Lake Pontchartrain. We didn’t have it nearly as bad as our upriver neighbors who had some serious flooding to the extent that the New Orleans paper exclaimed sympathy with the caption, “We feel your pain”.
The year got off to a fast start for both BRIFD and the KARPATY Folk Dance Ensemble. The 2008 calendar put Mardi Gras and Easter about as early as they can be on February 5th and March 23rd respectively so that had a lot of people scratching their heads wondering if there was a mistake! But all was true and we had a short and fast Mardi Gras season this year and Easter was the very next Sunday after the annual San Antonio Folk Dance Festival so that meant that the Festival fell partly on Palm Sunday this year for the first time I could remember. The short Mardi Gras season was made up for by the celebrations for the LSU Football Tigers who won their second national title of the decade in the January BCS title game. So since the Mardi Gras season was early it just seemed natural to extend the football celebration as part of the Carnival season this year. And 2008 had another unique calendar event in store for us, Leap Year! Certainly BRIFD did its part of celebrating that with our annual February Mardi Gras/Valentines/Birthdays party night on February 29th, Leap Day of Leap Year!! That meant that there was a very unusual five Fridays in February this year. Also those born on February 29th got to celebrate their real birthday this year!
This year’s San Antonio Folk Dance Festival held on March 14-16 was special for several reasons. First it was the official 50th year of the festival and as noted in previous newsletters, Karpaty has performed at almost half of them! So it was special for Karpaty to be a part of the 50th. And second, at a Sunday luncheon after the festival, Nelda Drury, the festival founder, was honored on her 90th birthday. And although Karpaty performers were on their way home at the time and did not attend, we felt a kindred spirit with Nelda and celebrated with her as part of her folk dance family all these many years.
Karpaty performed a special choreography at the SAFD Festival this year. Under Artistic Director, Vonnie Brown, Karpaty performed, “OLAFSKA A CSARDAS”, a spirited fast action dance with both Slovakian and Hungarian steps and roots. And it was special since Slovakia and Hungary are two of our favorite countries. In fact most of us had accompanied Vonnie on a special tour of the Slovakian side of the Danube River where Hungarian is frequently spoken and in fact is a second language of the area. And on another trip, we had visited the Hungarian side of the river and looked across longingly at the Slovakian side. So it was clear to us that there would be dances with both Slovakian and Hungarian styles in it and Olafska A Csardas is one of them. Some of the music reminded us of music from some of Ando Czompo’s Hungarian dances while other music was reminiscent of the several Slovakian choreographies we have danced.
The featured teacher and dancers of this year’s SAFD Festival was Miroslav Marcetic and the young dancers of the Toronto Academy of Serbian Dance. They certainly lived up to their age through the lively Serbian dances they performed and we saw them twice in a special concert on Friday night and again at the regular SAFD Festival performances on Saturday night. It was a lively spirited exhibition of Serbian dance. A suite of teachers also taught at this years Festival including old favorites Sandy Starkman, George Fogg and Mihai David. Vonnie also taught a fun Slovakian couple dance which yours truly got to exhibit in. Everyone seemed to enjoy it! This years SAFD Festival also marked a historic event with the retirement of Nelda Drury as Festival organizer and her son Jimmy Drury will now be taking the lead. We can only wish Jimmy and his San Antonio hosts the best in continuing the truly unique folk dance experience that is the San Antonio Folk Dance Festival.
There is much news about BRIFD dancers. Anita Evans and Rey del Castillo continue their recoveries from recent illness and surgery. Both have been back to Friday night dancing when they can. Rey continues to help Roland Ducet out with his Cajun Dance class and keeps us informed of the time and location of Roland’s weekend “graduation” trips to local Cajun dance halls. We did celebrate one class graduation on a Saturday night at La Poussiere dance hall in Breaux Bridge where much to our amazement Walter Mouton was still playing Cajun accordion after 30 years! Also Bruce Evans became the latest “bionic” BRIFD person with his knee replacement operation. All has gone according to plans, and sure enough Bruce returned to Friday night dance a new man with a new step and has jumped right back into his favorite dances. Bruce also kept up his tradition of making Karpaty dancers a DVD of the latest SAFD Festival performance. And he did it this year despite his knee problems and trouble getting up and downstairs to and from his computer loft and the crashing of his computer! Thanks again Bruce. And now Janetta Kriel will become the next bionic BRIFD person when she follows Anita with hip replacement surgery in late July. We wish her the best and know she will be back on the dance floor soon after to help with the music DJ duties while she heals. And also George Lezu, long time Hungarian community and BRIFD dancer had a stroke earlier this year and has been making a slow but steady recovery and he should know we are thinking of him and cheering his recovery.
We also have continued to enjoy the cultural “education” from Tsveta Spassova our resident Bulgarian on the dances and culture of her native country during Friday night dances. And since we do so many Bulgarian dances, Tsveta has helped in understanding some of their background. For instance we have learned that Dospatsko Horo is a horo from Dospat and that Dvasti Tristi means two times three times! I also appreciated knowing that Karamfil refers to the flower carnation and Vrapceto is the name of a bird! And then we learned that the dance Melnik is also called Tsveta Mome and is about a young girl named Tsveta. So when Bruce leads Melnik as one of his favorite dances, we will now think of Tsveta and Bruce! Tsveta also informed us of the Bulgarian birthday tradition where the birthday celebrant brings the cake and goodies to celebrate! And she did just that when we celebrated her birthday one Friday night. The cake was of Bulgarian style of course. We have some pictures of that event. Tsveta has gone home to Bulgaria for the summer but says she is returning this fall so we will be looking for her return.
We have also been keeping up with our regular band members Steve and Donna Bing who have formed “Steve Bing and the Bayou Hot Shots Cajun Band. Dugan, Jim and Idabelle Burke and Connie Holmes went to see Steve and Donna play at Boudreaux’s and Thibodaux’s downtown on Third Street when they released their new CD. Both Jim and I bought copies. They make some real good dancing music and we will put them down on our favorite Cajun Band list! Steve also does square dance calling and has called dances at “The Big Square Dance” event held in a historic building in Cypress City near Arnaudville. The Bayou Hot Shots will next be playing publicly again at the BR CFMA Friday night dance, July 25th at the new location, UTC Hall, on Florida Blvd. from 8-10:30PM and again August 1 from 6-9PM back at Boudreaux’s and Thibodaux’s on Third Street in downtown Baton Rouge.
Jim Burke has continued his tradition of pleasantly surprising us with teaching old and new dances. He recently taught two Russian dances, one oldie and goodie, the Moscow Hora, and a new one, Ja Da Kalinuschka. When I pleaded for an easier title for the new one, I was told to just grin and bear it that is the name! And so I will since the music and steps are making it a favorite after only a few weeks on the repertoire! And our favorite traveling BRIFD member, Karl Volkmar has continued to delight us with his regular visits. Karl gets the distance award in coming from across the Atchafalaya Basin in Lafayette where he is an Art professor at ULL. He tells us he will be traveling this summer and plans to show up again in the fall. And we should also mention our favorite Israeli dance teacher, David Kirshner. David continues to join us when he can and keeps us informed of his activities. He teaches Israeli dances at the B’nai Israel Synagogue on Kleinert Avenue here in Baton Rouge on selected Sundays and is listed in the Friday Fun Section of the Baton Rouge Advocate as is BRIFD. David joined us in celebrating long time New Orleans dancer Elliott Raison’s 80th birthday. Elliott had a gala festival recently to celebrate the occasion with live music and dance and poetry, reminiscences and humor! We all should hope we will be around to celebrate the day as Elliott did. And Elliott also notifies us of folk culture activities in New Orleans.
There is one other important informational news this summer. Vonnie Brown continues her long association with the promotion of Slovakian Folk Culture and is announcing another great Slovak Folk Dance Tour and Seminar set for July 31-August 10 this year. Many of us have attended these tours with Vonnie in the past and they are always trips to remember as the Slovaks are very friendly hosts and put all out for giving you a special time. If interested, you can contact Vonnie at email@example.com. A group of us are thinking hard about joining the tour next year to rekindle fond memories and old times!
And so we don’t want to forget to mention all our other BRIFD members who faithfully come to have fun with us on Friday nights as we move forward into the summer and fall dancing seasons. We want to especially recognize Kim Baker. Kim found us she says in the paper but had danced with us in past years at Bruce Evan’s Fellowship Church! Welcome back Kim! Anyway, all the rest of you know who you are so keep those dancing shoes warm and handy. In this regard, there was a good time had by all at our last Friday dance and party night on June 27. There were some special dishes provided by Lisa and Connie and Mary and others -did Bill Leblanc bring something? He did last party night and it was a popular dish. I for one am always appreciative so everyone keep those goodies coming at party nights! So let this be a lesson, you don’t want to miss party nights!
BRIFD will not have regular Friday night dances in July and August as we take a summertime break from the regular routine. But that does not mean we stop dancing! Plans are already being made for catching some of the July and August CFMA Friday night Cajun dances. They have moved to a new dance facility called the UCT Hall which is located on block west of the intersection of Florida and North Sherwood Forest Blvd. along the service road at 11175 Florida. The dances feature a live Cajun band and start at 8 PM and run until 10:30 PM. Plans are being made for making the Friday July 11 dance which Rey Del Castillo tells us will have a good band. So come out if you can. And then as mentioned previously the next CFMA Friday night dance is on July 25th and will feature our own Steve and Donna Bing and their Cajun band. You don’t want to miss Steve and Donna so plan on making it also if you can. Idabelle and Jim Burke will be Cajun dancing in July they said but will be leaving for an extended vacation to Minnesota in August and September. So if you want to catch the Burke’s see them at Friday night Cajun dances in July. It looks like the August CFMA dance schedule will include August 8 and 22 so there may be some folks going to those dances too.
The BRIFD calendar for the beginning of the Fall Dancing season has changed a little this year and looks like this:
1)Regular folk dancing will resume on Friday, September 12. We will skip the first Friday to give everyone a chance to recoup from any Labor Day holiday activities and travel. We will dance the rest of the Fridays in September and have a party night on September 26.
2)The annual Fish Fry will be on Saturday, September 20th. This is an out of town LSU football Saturday and will have less traffic around. We will once again be the guests of Jo and Ed Zganjar at their house and yard on 435 Kenilworth Parkway. Please come and bring a pot luck dish and your drinks. We all know this is a special event! There will be some further info available on the fish fry at the September 12 Friday night dance or you can email Dugan.
Also everyone remember to keep up with BRIFD and folk dance news on our website: www.brifd.homestead.com . Webmaster Bill Leblanc continues to keep our house in order and welcomes items for input. If you have some good information on folk or local culture activities send Bill an email through the website. He recently got notified by a New Orleans dancer that he saw a link to our website on an Evansville (Indiana) Folk Dance group webpage!! So we are out there and we owe it all to Bill’s computer and web wizardry!
And so that is about it. Have a good July 4th everyone and remember what the holiday it is all about! I will be with family in Texas and hope you will have some time with your family also. We will see everyone again in the fall.
added by your trusted webservant - Thank you Dugan for another excellent edition of the newsletter !!