Luckily birthdays come every year and then quietly slip away. I celebrate this special occurrence with a friend in Polish culture, my birthday brother – Ted “Tadek” Zdybał . Those who believe in zodiac qualities may find it interesting that both of us, although born on different years share an extraordinarily similar background, history, desire, passion, and mindset.
We were both born on August 28th; both our parents were born in southern Poland: Ted’s – Górale; mine – Rzeszowiacy.
We met in Poland at the Course for Instructors in Lublin and immediately connected. We were in different years of study, but the spark of similar interests was ignited and the dialogue began.
We both came from classical dance training –Ted was an apprentice and student with National Ballet of Canada, later graduating from it's teacher's training program; and I realized my dreams as a member of the Boston Ballet.
I created my own Polish choreography with the Lublin Polish Song and Dance Ensemble, which I had founded; while Ted was a member and choreographer for Lechowia in Toronto. Ted has since been associated with numerous groups as choreographer - Kujawiacy (Kitchener, Ontario), artistic director and choreographer of Krakowiak of Boston , and currently since 1996, as the artistic director and choreographer of Toronto's Biały Orzeł Ensemble.
I had wanted to dance with Mazowsze – attended rehearsals and company class and began the discussion of taking residence with the company. Due to the government rules regarding this state dance company during the Communist era, I was denied entrance to company because I was not a Polish citizen and was not married to a Polish citizen. Ted had a similar desire to dance with Śląsk and realized that dream when Poland became a democratic nation.
Our interest in folk dance extended beyond Polish forms and we both danced with international folk ensembles - Ted professionally with The International Folk Danstheater in Amsterdam. We also had an interest in Polish dance beyond the known entities – we devoured the obscure dances and cultures of sub-regions and the traditional and seasonal customs (obrzędy). We thought alike on many subjects and it was uncanny when we would meet and discuss that we choose similar obscure costumes and repertoire for our presentations.
This, of course, gave us a palate of discussion during my visits to Toronto, when on a performance tour or to work with a musical theater project. We would stay up until the next morning “drunk” on the talk of folklore.
My direction shifted to Musical Theater and Broadway, while always keeping the Polish dance involvement alive; Ted stayed completely on the folk dance path.
We think alike and when we don’t, we fed off of each others knowledge and interests. We support each other – I traveled to Massachusetts to support Ted’s debut as artistic director of the Krakowiak Dancers and to Toronto to celebrate his achievements at Biały Orzeł ’s 40th anniversary; and Ted traveled to Buffalo to see me perform during my last national tour of Fiddler on the Roof.
I was treated with courtesy, honor, and respect when I visited one of Biały Orzeł’s rehearsals and extended my words of praise and encouragement to the company.
It has been a period of time since we met, but calls and e-mails have filled part of that void. In the world of Polish dance in America, where often konkurencja (competiveness) is matched with zazdrość (envy/jealousy), and petty politics, it is unique that we celebrate our motives, achievements and passion for folklore.
Years have past, yet our paths cross periodically and like true connected friends, we pick up where we left off, without any forced sentiments.
I wish Ted was closer to New York City, so we could share more than fleeting folklore encounters, and perhaps join forces in our endeavors.
Happy Birthday! – Sto Lat! – May you live 100 years!