West Coast/Southwest Book Tour

Kolo Festival, Thanksgiving Weekend, 2011

I began planning for the West Coast book tour immediately after returning from the 15-day East Coast book tour. In California, the only even that we (my husband Nick and I) attended was the Kolo Festival at City College in San Francisco, organized by John (Ivan) Filcich every year on Thanksgiving weekend since 1952. “Kolo” is the name of a dance form that was popular in some parts of the former Yugoslavia, and it is a group dance for many people in a circlular or serpentine formation where people hold hands.

At the festival, we were welcomed by John Filcich and Jerry Duke, whom I met at the 2009 Balkan Music and Dance Workshop in Mendocino, California. There were other familiar faces from Mendocino, as well, including the Cope family from San Jose, whose home appears in a photo in my book. It also was nice to see Ivan Velev, a musician who recently relocated to California from Washington D.C., where I initially met him through a couple of mutual friends. Ivan and several other people in their 20s played instruments and danced with vigor, illustrating that the Balkan dance movement has something to offer to youngsters who will adapt it to suit their own needs going into the future.

I was also delighted to see Sunni Bloland and Hank make a special appearance. Sunni taught folk dancing at UC Berkeley for many years and specialized in Romanian dancing. She is well-loved in the dance community.

I’m always happy to discuss my book with people, and I’m always surprised to meet someone who has already read the book because it’s still so hot off the press. I think the person I talked to the most at this festival was Marcel Vinokur, who started dancing with Michael Herman in the 1950s before moving to California. I’m not sure how Marcel found out about the book, but he seemed happy with the book overall. However, he informed me that in the International Folk Dance history, I missed one place that the legendary Michael Herman taught briefly, a New York high school for needle trades. This is the place where Marcel began to dance, so he remembered it fondly and told me all about his early years dancing with Michael Herman. I’m glad he spoke up, and I will correct this accidental oversight if I ever get an opportunity to revise the book.

Tucson Area Square Dance Festival: January 20-21, 2012

The other event we did was the Tucson Area Square Dance Festival, sponsored by the Square and Round Dance Association of Southern Arizona. I have to thank Rick Gittelman, chairperson, and the first square dance caller I interviewed for the book, for inviting us to the festival to do a book signing. The callers and cuers were suberb at this event, and we had the honor of reconnecting with the legendary caller Marshall Flippo, who was not calling at this event but decided to make an appearance.

Nick and I set up in the hallway outside the main dance room, and we often found ourselves remarking on the callers’ tremendous musical talent and ability to harmonize when they called together. On Friday afternoon, several grade schoolers came to the festival on a fieldtrip. Rick called to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the “Mickey Mouse” song, and everyone on the dance floor was singing along. A lot of parents were videotaping the session. At one point, the experienced dancers got up to do a demo, and a father who was probably from another country, based on his accent, leaned over to me and said, “So this is real square dancing, huh?” A simple question with a complex answer, so I just dodged it. Later on, someone asked me why square dancing was done in a four-person formation or set – another simple question with a complex answer. I’m happy that people are asking these questions, because it means that some people might look to my book to answer these questions. After all, part of the reason why I wrote it was to answer such questions.

I’m also glad that Tucson was our last official dance event on our book tour, because I began my fieldwork in Tucson in January 2009. There’s a sense of completion, bringing things full circle. The last major book event that Nick and I have planned is the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference in Boston from April 11-14, 2012. Ironically, it was through this conference in 2008 that I learned about the “American Dance Floor Series” — an idea by the very talented writer/architect/dance enthusiast Ralph Giordano, then an editor for Greenwood Press (now part of ABC-CLIO) – and this series now consists of 6 published books by different authors, including myself and Giordano. Going to PCA/ACA will truly bring the project full-circle and I’m very much looking forward to presenting about the history of square dance at this event. Actually, at the Tucson Area Square Dance Festival, Rick generously invited us to the annual callers’ meeting so that I could introduce the book and ask callers what dance educators should do/should avoid to introduce square dancing to college-age students today. Their ideas will be very helpful as I put together my presentation, so thanks to everyone who contributed insight!

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January 23, 2012. Book Tour.

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