Tuesday, September 29, 2009

MUSIC: Polish composers Paweł Mykietyn and Paweł Szymański performed by The Del Sol Quartet – NYC

Symphony Space in association with

the Polish Cultural Institute in New York



Symphony Space's 2009/2010 season opener

Thursday, October 1, 2009, 6:30 PM
6:30 PM
Underscore: Conversation with Paweł Mykietyn and Tania Leon, moderated by Laura Kaminsky, Symphony Space's Associate Director

7:30 PM
Edgy. Rhythmic. Rhapsodic.
Eastern Europe meets Latin America with U.S.
US premieres of Paweł Szymański and Paweł Mykietyn, NYC premieres of Tania Leon and Gabriela Ortiz

Symphony Space, Leonard Nimoy Thalia

1537 Broadway at 95th Street, New York, NY
Tickets: advance $25, day of $30, Members $20


Monday, September 28, 2009


Polonia: Poh-lan-ya (God rests here)
- Hebrew saying

Understanding Jewish Polonia

by Staś Kmieć

It is important to recognize similarities between cultures, rather than any differences. Understanding the culture of Poland is understanding all its many and diverse aspects

Poland was in many ways the first multi-racial and multi-cultural society; from the Middle Ages onwards, it was a melting pot of different peoples, traditions and religions.

Polish culture is often synonymous with Catholicism; however to understand the unique and complex history, one needs to look deeper into other religions and cultures of Polish brethren. Substantial communities of Ukrainian, Byelorussian, Lithuanian, German, Armenian,Tatar, Boyk, Łemko, Hucuł and Gypsy cultures, along with Poles of Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish faiths were all a part of the tapestry of Poland.

The Jewish name for Poland was Polin or Poyln in Yiddish (etymologically “po” = “here” and “lin” = peace”).

For about half a millennium Poland was home to the largest Jewish population in the world and served as the center for Jewish culture. A diverse population of Jews from all over Europe sought refuge in Poland, contributing to a wide variety of religious and cultural groups.

Ashkenazi Jewish communities, which were numerous in the early Middle Ages in France, Italy and Germany were pushed further eastwards during the persecutions of the Crusades. Many fled to Eastern Europe, particularly Poland. They spoke Yiddish, which is a combination of Middle High German, Hebrew and Slavic languages, written in Hebrew script.

Jews, who had been the victims of pogroms all over Europe were often held responsible for the Black Death.

Under the rule of Prince Bolesław Pobozny (1221-1279), Jews were treated well. In 1264, Prince Boleslaw issued the Statute of Kalisz, guaranteeing protection and granting the Jews of Wielkopolska (Great Poland) their rights.

King Kazimierz Wielki, (1310-1370) was favorably disposed toward Jews. OnOctober 9, 1334, he confirmed the privileges granted to Jewish Poles by Prince Bolesław. Although Jews had lived in Poland since before the reign of King Kazimierz, he allowed them to settle in Poland in great numbers and protected them as people of the king. Jews are granted rights to transit through the whole country, settle in its cities and villages, and lend money.

A law in 1346 expanded the scope of the Statute and specifically protected them against persecution in Poland and was a major factor in Poland’s centuries-long position as the home for the largest community of world Jewry.

Of three important messianic movements (including Sabbateism and Frankism ) the only one to achieve widespread and deep significance was Hasidism.

This popular movement of both a religious and mystical nature originated in Central Poland and the Galicia (Małopolska) area in the 17th century. Within the Jewish population the movement is regarded as Polish with its characteristic philosophy, traditional dress, music, dance, and joy of life.

Many Jews took part in the struggle for an independent Poland, joining Piłsudski’s legions – as their forefathers had taken part in Kościuszko’s insurrection of 1794 and the uprisings of 1830 and 1863.

Yom Kippur

The 10th day of Tishri, the first month of the Jewish calendar, is Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. It is the holiest and most solemn day of the year and marks God’s forgiveness of the early Israelites after they worshipped the golden calf while Moses received the tablets of the law (The Ten Commandments) from God on Mount Sinai.

Moses ascended Mount Sinai to ask God for forgiveness. The Israelites repented by fasting during the day while Moses was on the mountain. On the tenth day, Moses descended the mountain with the second Tablets. God decreed the tenth day of the month of Tishrei as a day of atonement:

According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into a "book" on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. At the end of Yom Kippur, one considers one's self absolved by God.

NEWS: Filmmaker Polanski arrested 31 years later

Director Roman Polanski, whose turbulent life has on occasion come close to resembling the violent, perverse world of his movies, was arrested in Zurich on a 1978 U.S. warrant for having sex with a 13-year-old. Polanski, reached a plea deal, but was threatened with more prison time than previously agreed upon and fled to France before he was formally sentenced.

Polanski, 76, was due to receive a prize for his life’s work at the Zurich Film Festival, opening a retrospective of his distinguished film career, but he was arrested at the airport upon his arrival in Switzerland on Saturday night.

Polanski’s seminal suspense and horror films in the late ’60s, Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby, marked a new era in filmmaking, highlighting deeply psychological and taboo subjects such as incest and Satanism. Polanski would go on to direct classic, award-winning films like 1975’s Chinatown and 2002’s The Pianist.

The legal proceedings around Polanski heated up again in late 2008 with the release of a documentary film, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, which detailed claims of judicial and prosecutorial wrongdoing at the time of the director’s original arrest.

Citing the film and other evidence, Polanski’s lawyers asked in December 2008 that the case against him be dismissed.

Mr. Polanski has been careful to avoid certain countries, but has traveled freely in Europe for decades, in part to direct films.

Meanwhile, Poland and France intend to make a joint appeal to Switzerland and the United States to have Polanski released from his detention, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski told the Polish news agency PAP. Sikorski said he and French counterpart Bernard Kouchner also plan to ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to offer Polanski clemency.

In Paris, Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand was ''dumbfounded'' by Polanski's arrest, adding that he ''strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them.''

Those comments referred, in part, to the fact that Polanski, a native of France who was taken to Poland by his parents, escaped Kraków's Jewish ghetto as a child during World War II and lived off the charity of strangers. His mother died at the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp.

Polanski worked his way into filmmaking in Poland, gaining an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film in 1964 for his Knife in the Water, which offered his entry to Hollywood.

His life was shattered again in 1969 when his wife, actress Sharon Tate, and four other people were gruesomely murdered in Los Angeles by followers of cult figure Charles Manson. Tate was eight months pregnant at the time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

POLISH AMERICANS: "Broadway Salutes" Honors Theater Professionals with 25, 35 or 50 Years on Broadway – NYC

Broadway Salutes — a unique public celebration honoring the myriad of artists who have made Broadway great for decades, took place today in the heart of Broadway theater district – Duffy Square.

Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell hosted the event, which honored a wide-range of theatre professionals – including actors, directors, choreographers, designers, stagehands, casting directors, general managers, theater owners, publicists, ushers, musicians, wardrobe workers, hair and makeup artists, producers, playwrights – who have dedicated their careers to the Broadway theatre industry."

Among the almost 2,000 honored at the industry-wide celebration were several Americans of Polish descent.

Those known as Polish or with recognizable Polish names include: Lee F. Iwanski, John Wolanczyk, Charles J Zarobinski, Kenneth J. Dybisz, Helen Olga Gorski, Albin E. Konopka, Tracy Malinowski, Walter Mazurek, Robert Nowak, Frances Obidowski, Thomas J. Oldakowski, Dave Ratajczak , Tom Ruzika, Joseph Szymanski, Marai Szymanski , Michael J. Szymanski and Tony winners: Lighting designer Peter Kaczorowski, actress, singer and dancer, Karen Ziemba and Walter Bobbie (baptized Władysław Babij), a dancer, choreographer, theater director and occasional actor.

"Who would have thought watching Walter Bobbie in the 1972 Broadway production of GREASE that the mooning champ of Rydell High would one day be awarded the Tony for Best Director of a Musical for Chicago?” said event Co-Chair Laura Penn. “These are the people and the stories that we know and don't know - New Yorkers, doing extraordinary work that defines our city. ‘Broadway Salutes' [brought] them all together for a moment for us to say thank you."

– Staś Kmieć

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

POLISH AMERICANS: Baranski on CBS-TV's "The Good Wife"

Christine Baranski returns to network TV tonight in the CBS drama The Good Wife. Born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Virginia (Mazerowski) and Lucien Baranski, her grandparents were actors in the Polish theater.

She has won both the Tony and Drama Desk Awards twice and won an Emmy Award as best supporting actress in a comedy series for the sitcom Cybill.


Monday, September 21, 2009

POP CULTURE (TV): “Dancing with the Stars” Warsaw Connection

The popular reality Ballroom dance show – Dancing with the Stars returns to ABC tonight with a double Warsaw connection.

Born in Poland’s capitol, Edyta Śliwińska is the only professional dancer to appear on all nine seasons of the series, where she is known as much for her daring costumes as her dance moves. Edyta left her native Poland in 2000 to pursue her dream of becoming a world famous Latin-style dancer. She settled in San Francisco and partnered with Alec Mazo, who later became her husband.

Polish-American model and sometimes actress, Joanna Krupa was born in Warsaw and moved to Chicago with her family at the age of five. She has appeared on magazine covers including ENVY, FHM, Personal, Inside Sport, Stuff, Steppin’ Out, Teeze and Maxim, in which she was named the “Sexiest Swimsuit Model in the World” and has appeared in Playboy. Krupa has also been a lingerie model for Frederick’s of Hollywood. PETA’s “Id Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur” campaign featuring Joanna became a monster phenomenon.

– S.K.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

DANCE: Restaging of Works by Famed Polish Choreographers to appear in “Fall for Dance” Festival" – NYC

by Staś Kmieć
New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival (September 22 – October 3, 2009) will include eight companies presenting Ballets Russes classics or contemporary interpretations of these great works.

The company’s famed impresario Serge Diaghilev had knowledge of the arts that allowed him to select the most promising young choreographers, the most talented young composers, and artists to design the sets and costumes.The artists were not only Russian, but came from other countries, including many from Poland. Due to a policy during Poland’s Partition period, the powers were set to smother any signs of culture of the enslaved nation.

The names of Polish dancers and choreographers did however resound throughout the world in connection with the art of foreign countries. In Russia, however, these names assumed a Russian persona.

Russian Ballet was enhanced in dance and choreography of the legendary Wacław Niżyński(Vaslav Nijinsky) and his sister Bronisława Niżyńska (Bronislava Nijinska), who were associated with the Ballet Russes.

The program of Fall for Dance will include faithful stagings of: Nijinska’s Les Biches by Ballet West; Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun, performed by Boston Ballet; and the famous The Dying Swan, performed by Diana Vishneva, prima ballerina of the Mariinsky Theatre. The Dying Swan was immortalized by the legendary Anna Pavlova, who also has a Polish background,.

Pavlova started her own company she employed numerous Polish dancers and added many ethnic dances discovered during her travels to the repertoire including Polish, Mexican Japanese and Indian dancing.

With striking shapes and probing themes, choreographer Bronisława Niżyńska helped remake ballet for the 20th century. Though she was a prolific and acclaimed with an unusually long career, Niżyńskais not well-known. She was eclipsed by the notoriety of her older brother, whose radical choreography revivified ballet and whose tortured life made him the subject of gossip and media attention.

Born to Polish dancers dancers Tomasz Niżyński and Eleonora Bereda, the siblings attended the Imperial Ballet School of St. Petersburg’s Maryinsky Theatre and accepted into the company. They broke away to join Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, where they performed mainly in Paris. Later, Nijinska rejoined Ballets Russes in Paris and filled Leonid Massine’s choreographer post, where she found her creative voice. Initially bogged down by heavy Russian-themed works, she created two seemingly frivolous pieces: Les Biches and Le Train Bleu. Frequently called “choreographic cocktails,” these Riviera-set ballets are the dance equivalent of a jaunty Noel Coward comedy. Coco Chanel even designed the costumes.

Les Biches is a society satire with glamorous poses and demanding quick footwork. Niżyńska is considered to have wielded more influence than she was credited for, and that George Balanchine, among others, borrowed her movement motifs. Niżyńska was concerned as a choreographer with formal composition and the use of gesture and geometric form.

Niżyńska was the first artistic director of The Polish Ballet between 1937 and 1938. She created five new ballets which were premiered by the company at the Paris Exposition Internationale. In these works Niżyńskamerged Polish national dance forms with classical and modernist ballet. The Polish Ballet won the Grand Prix and Niżyńska won the Grand Prix for choreography. The company toured Europe, including London and the World’s Fair in New York City.

Wacław Niżyński was born in Kiev, Ukraine, christened in Warsaw, and considered himself to be a Pole despite difficulties in properly speaking the language as a result of his childhood in Russia's interior where his parents worked. In a letter to the Polish Opera star Reszke, Niżyński wrote "My mother gave me milk and the Polish language, which is why I am a Pole. (...) I can not speak it well because I was not allowed to speak it". Polish was the only language the famed ballet star would ever pray in.

His ballet L'après-midi d'un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun) utilized a score by Claude Debussy. Inspired by the poem by Stéphane Mallarmé, the style of the ballet was deliberately archaic. It is considered one of the first modern ballets and proved to be controversial, in fact scandalous in its sexuality. Due to its hostile reception the ballet was only in the repertoire for a few years before being forgotten and assumed lost. In the late 1980s dance notation specialists reconstructed the ballet from Niżyński's own notebooks, his dance notation and the photographs of the dancers that were taken shortly after the first performance.

Fall for Dance FestivalNew York City Center (September 22 – October 3, 2009) www.nycitycenter.org

POLISH AMERICANS: Krakowski Receives Emmy Award Nomination

Tonight the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles and will be televised on CBS at 8PM ET.

Jane Krakowski has received an Emmy Award nomination as “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy” for her portrayal of Jenna Maroney in NBC’s 30 Rock. An accomplished Broadway singer and dancer, originally from Parsippany, New Jersey, she won the Tony Award for “Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical,” 2003 for Nine and the Laurence Olivier Award for “Best Actress in a Musical,” 2006 for Guys and Dolls.

Born Jane Krajkowski, she dropped the "j" from the family last name when she began working as an actress as people kept trying to pronounce the letter. Krakowski's father's family is entirely Polish and hail from Kraków, and although she knows some words and phrases in Polish, her father and grandparents are fluent.

Krakowski lends her personality and humor to promote Breyers® Smooth & Dreamy™ ice cream at www.smoothanddreamy.com. The webisodes feature a modern take on two of Hollywood's most iconic romance films -- Gone with the Wind and King Kong.

– S.K.

POLAND NEWS: Russian Missile Plan near Poland Suspended

(photo: Evgeny Stetsko)

Russia now says it is giving up on a plan to deploy missiles near Poland. The announcement follows an American decision to cancel deployment of a missile shield in Eastern Europe.

Vladimir Popovkin told Ekho Moskvy radio that Obama's move has made the deployment of Iskander short-range missiles in the Kaliningrad region unnecessary.

Today, President Barack Obama sharply dismisses criticism that Russian opposition influenced his decision to scrap a European missile defense system, calling it merely a bonus if the leaders of Russia end up "a little less paranoid" about the U.S.

"My task here was not to negotiate with the Russians," Obama told CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview for broadcast Sunday. "The Russians don't make determinations about what our defense posture is."

The president's comments were his first on the matter since he abruptly announced on Thursday that he was scuttling plans to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a related radar in the Czech Republic. That shield had been proposed under President George W. Bush.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, a conservative supporter of the shield, said his government shared blame for the demise of the U.S. project, but analysts say the economy is a far bigger priority than missile defense for Polish and Czech voters.

Russia had fiercely opposed plans to deploy the shield in a region it had dominated until the fall of communism in 1989.

"Betrayal! The USA has sold us to the Russians and stabbed us in the back," said the Polish tabloid Fakt.

Washington and its NATO allies in Prague and Warsaw always insisted the shield was aimed against Iran, not Russia, noting that 10 interceptors could not deter Moscow's

"Polish diplomacy and administration must bear part of the blame for the present situation. In the process of negotiation with the American side ... what was lacking was a feeling that the Polish government believes in the strategic character of the American presence in Poland," Kaczynski wrote.