Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bringing Home the Gold!

Toronto’s Harnasie Awarded Złota Ciupaga
by Staś Kmieć
as printed in the October 2013 edition of The Polish American Journal

Edyta Kołpak of Toronto’s
Harnasie Highlander Ensemble
holds the main trophy –
the Złota Ciupaga
Mountaineers from all around the world presented their folklore at the 45th International Festival of Mountain Folklore in Zakopane, Poland.  President Bronisław Komorowski and First Lady Anna presided over the festival, and took part in several events. 

The main trophy – the Złota Ciupaga (Golden Mountain Axe) was bestowed to several ensembles in various categories.  Among them was the Highlander Ensemble – Harnasie from Toronto, Canada under the direction of Ted Zdybal and Barbara Bejger.  The special award was presented by President Komorowski in recognition of the cultivation of native culture in North America. The group also received from the Judges an honorary award for singing and a Parzenica Award – the Highlander symbol of Pride for their artistic program in the “Artistically Elaborated Presentation of Highlander Folk” category.

Promoting highland history and culture, the Festival dates back to 1968.  Known both in Poland and around the world, its main objective is to present not only the native folklore, but also traditions and culture from around the world. 

MILESTONE: Celebrating 75 Years

The Polish American Folk Dance Company
by Staś Kmieć
as printed in the October 2013 print edition of The Polish American Journal

The Polish American Folk Dance Company of Brooklyn, New York (PAFDC) will celebrate the
75th anniversary of its founding with a 2-hour performance at New York University’s Skirball Center on Saturday, November 23 at 7:00 pm.

As part of the celebration, the troupe will premiere three new dance suites choreographed by Zofia Czechlewska, a former soloist with Poland’s Śląsk Song and Dance Ensemble: Kołomajki from the Beskid Śląsk region, Mazurka featuring maiden games at the Court balls, and Szamotuły from the western Wielkopolska region.  Resident Choreographer Tomasz Orzechowski will debut a fusion of dances from the distinctly different White and Green Forests of the northeastern Kurpie region, and a Cinderella-themed Mazur Kopciuszek.
Tickets are available at: 212-352-3101 or 866-811-4111,; Polish National Home - 718-387-0505, or Forum Travel - 718-389-1010.

Founded in 1938 to preserve and perpetuate Polish folk dances and songs among Americans of Polish descent, The Polish American Folk Dance Company was organized by Frances Wesołowska-
Popławska in New York City under the auspices of the Polish Workmen’s Aid Fund.  With the assistance of other community organizations, such as the Kościuszko Foundation and the Polish-American Aid Fund, Popławska built a folk dance group that combined the traditional with the grace of classical ballet.  For 30 years she taught not only those in her own troupe, but held courses for dance teachers across the country.
In 1969, Popławska relegated the direction to her most promising dancers, Stanley Pelc and Ursula Bestecka, and soon after the group moved from Manhattan to Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  This would begin a period of growth and transformation.  With extensive research, Pelc and Bestecka crafted a company of theatrical scale. 

Pelc studied Polish Dance in Warsaw, and as the general manager of the company he arranged the performance season.  Bestecka guided the expansion of the company’s costume wardrobe.  Musically, the company was enriched by Halina Kalitka, who for over 20 years served as accompanist beginning in 1970.

During this period the company premiered its first full-length concert, debuted at Lincoln Center, had tour engagements, and in 1972 participated in the World Festival of Polonian Folk Ensembles in Rzeszów, Poland for the first time.  In total, PAFDC has participated in ten World Festivals in Poland.  Bestecka moved to Japan in 1975 and Maria Zdzienicka Koncewicz and Jay Poko were named assistant choreographers. 
Known to those close to him as “Skippy,” Stanley Pelc developed and shaped a company of style, flair and prestige.  Under his watchful and meticulous eye, PAFDC developed a vast repertoire modeled after the presentation ideal of Mazowsze.  Being in close proximity to Broadway, PAFDC strived to appeal and be relevant to both a New York theater-going audience and a Polonia audience who held Poland’s national companies in high esteem as the pinnacle of Polish dance. 
Pelc developed a costume wardrobe fitting for the stage with color, fabric flow, design and brilliance.  The stage “look” was uniquely their own with intricate period adornments in Polonez and Mazur, and signature looped braids for their Krakowiak finale.  Many costumes were made in Poland, while others were created and sewn by Mrs. Cecylia Pelc, assisted by other mothers, as well as by the dancers themselves. 
Upon Pelc’s retirement in 1996, Daniel Dziadura – a graduate of the Studium Folklorystyczne at the
University of Marie Curie-Skłodowska, succeeded him as Artistic Director.  As musical accompaniment, a Kapela Ludowa (folk band) was formed under Andrzej Buczek.  A children's group – PAFDC Kids, was established under the direction of long-time member Alice Karpinski-Bajno and former Mazowsze member Katarzyna Nitecka in the Fall of 2003.

When Dziadura retired in 2005, PAFDC reorganized its leadership by creating two separate positions of Artistic Director and Executive Director.  Ryszard Sudol was named Artistic Director and initiated a “Beginners” training program.  Today PAFDC is led by Executive Director Mariusz Bernatowicz, and Artistic Director Tomasz Orzechowski - who completed a qualification instructor’s course in Warsaw, and performed with folk dance groups in łomża and at Warsaw University.  The children’s group is currently led by Diana Chrościelewski. 

The company’s repertoire consists of multiple arrangements of Poland’s national dances, over 25 regional suites, along with staged presentations of seasonal customs (obrzędy).  The company owns over 600 costumes.

For many years, the PAFDC has performed at the annual Bal Polonaise in Miami at the invitation of Lady Blanka Rosenstiel of the American Institute of Polish Culture.  They have performed at tribute programs and other events where Pope John Paul II, Princess Grace of Monaco, Lech Wałęsa, Zbigniew Brzeżiński, Henryk Górecki, and other dignitaries have been distinguished guests of honor. 
Today's Polish American Folk Dance Company
The Company has been honored twice by the Republic of Poland in recognition of its presentation of Poland’s folk culture to American audiences by receiving the Oskar Kolberg Award in 1979 and the Order of the Merit of Culture in 2003.

In recognition and support of the contributions that PAFDC makes to the cultural landscape of New York State, the company has for many years received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

POETRY: Magical Polish American Poets

Designed as a continuation of last year's Poetry Salon devoted to the Beat Generation, the Salon "Magic Polish identity - poetry of Polish Americans" introduces the audience to a wider circle of poetry of Polish Americans.

On The event will take place on November 17, noon, the poetry of Michael Basinski, Phil Boiarski, Stuart Dybek, John Guzlowski, Leonard Kress, Linda Nemec Foster, Karen Kovacik, John Minczeski, Elisabeth Murawski, Mark Pawlak, Thad Rutkowski, Laura Ulewicz and Cecilia Woloch will be read by Magdalena Cielecka and Jan Nowicki – actors from Teatr Polski in Warsaw.

For information:

ART: “Still Life” at the the Starbucks Gallery

“Still Life” - an exhibition by artist Eva Zeller will be on display through December 1 at the Starbucks Gallery in Greenpoint-Brooklyn. Zeller who has lived in the U.S. since 2003, shows several still lifes in pastels and oil technique.  Janusz Skowron  is the curator of the exhibition.
    Starbucks Gallery - 910 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY