From 1958 to 1961, Dennis served in the U.S. Army Security Agency. He was trained in the Czech language at the Army Language School in Monterey, California where he graduated first in his class with highest commendations. From there he was sent to West Germany to monitor and translate radio transmissions from Czechoslovakia. While in Germany, in 1960, he took his annual 30-day leave and through a stroke of luck and good timing, ended up traveling with the National Folk Ensemble of Yugoslavia, “Kolo iz Beograda”. The dancers of “Kolo” accepted Dennis as their young American friend and shared with him many of their dances as he traveled with them from town to town.
Dennis then traveled to London, England to study with Phillip Thornton’s “Yugoslav Dance Club and Danny Lumbley’s “Bulgarian Dance Group”. There he learned the original five dances that were to launch him on his career. They were Bavno Oro, Ravno Oro, Tresenica, Sitno Zensko, and Belo Lence.
Returning from the Army, Dennis traveled West to study at the University of California, Berkeley, having finished his freshman year at the University of Minnesota. En route to California, Dennis was “discovered” by John Filcich in the small town of Richland, Washington during their annual folk dance festival. Mr. Filcich was the creator of the San Francisco “Kolo Festival” (Kolo means “dance” in Serbo-Croatian) and owner of the largest Balkan record and music shop in the U.S. He brought Dennis to the Kolo Festival that fall, in November 1962, where Dennis presented the “original five dances” with great success and acclaim.
Dennis’ career was now launched in full swing. He was asked to teach at Stockton Folk Dance Camp where he taught for five years in a row. He was the first Balkan dance teacher to go on an extended national teaching tour, visiting dozens of cities throughout the country, presenting his five dances, including a new addition, “Šopsko Horo”. Of the original “Five,” Bavno Oro is still a favorite everywhere. Ravno, Šopsko and Tresenica are still danced here and there. Belo Len?e has been “resurrected” as “Iz Banju Ide” and is becoming a favorite as of this writing (winter, 2001).
In the fall of 1963,
heeding the public’s clamor for more information about Balkan Dance,
Dennis packed his suitcases and headed for the Balkans. He did
not return until he
had: 1) Recorded over 150 dance tunes. 2) Visited and studied
with eminent folklorists such as Ivan lvan?an of Croatia, Milica
Dobrivoje Putnik of Serbia, Pece Atanasovski and Vasil Hadjimanov of
Kiril Dženev and Raina Katsarova of Bulgaria and Nana Stefanaki of
Greece. 3) And had picked up a working knowledge of the
Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian languages along the way. These
experts made it possible for Dennis
to travel to remote regions, collecting and recording the numerous
he was later to introduce to the folkdance world.
Alix Cordray (Oslo,
Alix Cordray is an American who has lived in Norway for almost all of her adult life, and teachs a selection of dances from Norway. Alix teaches and leads several groups in the Oslo area. She has brought a number of groups to the USA to teach and tour. A few names of Alix's dances that folk dancers in the United States will recognize are Dobbel Reinlender, Krossadans med Seks, Oppdalsril, Over the Border Schottis, Sandsvaerril, and Wienerkryss frå Hardanger.
Ivan Dimitrov is a fun dynamic teacher for recreational dancing for beginners and advanced dancers alike. Ivan has lived in the U.S. since 1996, including 18 months in Chicago. He leads a performing group in the D.C. area. That has danced at the Kennedy Center Millenium stage, the World Bank, the Cherry Blossom festival, DC area folk dance festivals, at the tri-state parks and at the annual Heritage Festival in Philadelphia. In Bulgaria, he
was a dancer with the Bulgarian National Folk Ensemble "Trakia" of Plovdiv.
Todor and Irina
Todor and Irina Gotchev have lived in the Chicago area since moving to the U.S. in 1996. Todor Gotchev specializes in the of the village of Kermen in eastern Thrace. For many years he was a dancer, choreographer, and director with the Bulgarian National Folk Ensemble "Sliven". Irina Gotcheva was soloist with the Bulgarian National Folk Ensemble "Sliven". She is a graduate of the national choreographic school in Sofia as well as the Academy for Music and Dance Arts, Plovdiv and has done research on village dance in eastern Thrace. Todor and Irina recently did a great job of teaching at the Balkanske Igre Spring Festival Weekend at International House in Chicago this March. At the Spring Fling Workshops, Irina will be reviewing several of the dances sha and Todor introduced at the March Workshop.
(Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada)
Boris "Kete" Ilievski was born in Skopje, Macedonia where Folk dance and music was a family tradition. His father, Ilija Ilievski, was co-founder of Macedonia's first village folk dance performing ensemble "Rastak", the first Macedonian professional choreographer, the artistic director of Ensemble "Koco Racin", and a musician of Radio Skopje. Kete's first direct contact with folk dance was in an elementary school folk dance ensemble in Skopje. In 1958, at the age of 14, Kete became a member of Ensemble "Koco Bacin" and by 1961 had become the dance leader of traditional Macedonian men's dances. Between 1965 and 1984, he was the ensemble's choreographer and from 1973 through 1984 was its artistic director. Since moving to Canada, Kete has been very active in teaching within the folk dancing communities of North America and Europe, including the Balkanske Igre Festival, FDCC's June Camp, the Kolo Festival, Balkanalia, Ramblewood and Medocino. He has also has prepared choreographies for many groups in the Macedonian communities of North America including those in Columbus, Detroit, Syracuse, Toronto and Windsor. Between 1986 and 1991, he was co-organizer of the Seminar for Macedonian Folklore at Struga, Macedonia. Kete has also given academic lectures and presentations on Macedonian folklore throughout Europe and North America. He has received numerous awards including "Best Individual Dancer" from the Cultural and Educational Society of Macedonia and "Best Choreography" at competitions in Sarajevo and Belgrade. Kete currently resides in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada (a Toronto suburb) and is president of CAMA Trade International, a company that specializes in the import/export of fashion products. Kete also spent 11 years as a professional soccer player and 1 year as a soccer coach in Yugoslavia.
Bob Leibman (Austin,
Bob Leibman has been interested in ethnic dance since 1961, when began dancing as a junior at University of Chicago. He was born and raised on near and far west side of the city. He moved to St. Louis where he got MA in Math. He continued to dance and founded a dance group at Washington U. He then moved to Boston where he was co-leader of the MIT Folk Dance group (1965-1969) and also was the first director of the Mandala Folk Dance Ensemble that continues on to the present.
Bob traveled to Yugoslavia in the summers of 1965, 1967, 1968, 1972, and 1973. He was there for a full year on a Fulbright scholarship during 1970-71. He studied wedding customs, translated many articles and attended and filmed a number of weddings - in particular, in s. Peshtani on Lake Ohrid where he had attended weddings in 1965 and 1968. He also traveled through East Serbia and South Serbia with his first wife who was writing a dissertation in Slavic Lingusitics on the Torlak dialects. Here, he attended weddings in Halovo area and in Pirot area.
He also did a lot of filming and recording of music during these trips. He attended the Ivancan's seminars in 1967 (Pula) and 1968 (Badija) where the teachers included Ivancan, Dopudja (Bosnia), Desa Djordevic (Serbia) among others. He also attended a folklore seminar at Ramovsh (Slovenia) and the seminar on Macedonian dance put on by Pece Atanasovski and Zhivko Firfov at Oteshevo (L. Prespa) in 1971 and 1972. He wrote the booklet of dance notes for Pece's first US tour and has taught many of those dances around the U.S.
Bob devoted a good portion of his trip of the summer of 1972 to recording music of good sound quality and subsequently released an LP/CD with dances and songs from the Soko Banja area, including Rumenka, Osamputka, Sokec, Stara Vlajna and Ostraljanka. He also taped and filmed dancing at weddings among Tosk Albanians in s. Krani on Lake Prespa. He issued an LP/CD of music from there and taught dances from this area, including Devolliçe, Beraçe, Nesho and Grchkoto. Bob did some of this research with Steve Kotansky and they recorded music and filmed dancing among Serbs in S. Koretishte, Gnjilane. He has yet to issue the music from these sessions (zurles) and has taught few of these dances with the exception of Memedo.
Since the middle 1970s, Bob earned an MA in Folklore from UCLA where he focused on dance and the Balkans. Bob later received a Ph D in Folklore from University of Pennsylvania in 1993 - although he did most of his work in late 70's. He wrote his dissertation on the structure of dance in the Balkans - a semi-mathematical analysis, describing dance families - thus combining his knowledge and love of both mathematics and folklore.
Bob did a lot of dance
teaching in the early 70's, and toured around the U.S. in
mid-70s. He has taught several times in Chicago and at the
Bay Area's Kolo Festival, and
was brought to Seattle by Dennis Boxell to teach his group in mid 70's,
He has taught much less in the 80s and 90s since getting married again,
a math department at the University of Texas at Austin, writing a book,
But he's getting the itch to teach again and hopefully will release
more of the music he recorded.
Ventzi Sotirov is a native of Sandanski and a graduate of the Institute of Choreography in Sofia, Bulgaria. He has been dancing since the age of 7 when he was a member of a Sandanski children's ensemble. For 11 years, he danced with the "Pirin National Ensemble". Ventzi was voted "No. 1 ethnic Dancer" for 4 years in national competitions of professional dancers in Bulgaria. Ventzi also taught Bulgarian dancing for children and arranged choreography for amateurs aspiring to enter choreography institutes. Ventzi presents exciting dances from all 6 ethnographic regions of Bulgaria: Shope, Thrace, Rhodope, North Bulgaria, Dobrudja, and his native Pirin (Macedonia) while spicing big doses of humor into his teaching. He plays tupan and tarambuka and has taught workshops in these instruments. Since moving to the Chicago area in 1991, Ventzi has taught at many groups, workshops and camps including: Ethnic Dance Chicago, Door County Folk Festival, Balkanske Igre's Reunion Festival, Madison Folk Ball, Santa Barbara's ethnic Music and Dance Symposium, Illini Folk Dance Weekend, and Buffalo Gap Music and Dance Camp. He has also taught workshops in Japan and Europe.
Zoya Sotirova is a native of Strumesnica, Bulgaria and has been singing since she was a child. She first learned Bulgarian folk songs from her mother. For 13 years, Zoya was a singer with the choir of the "Pirin National Ensemble". Zoya was also a featured soloist on Radio Sofia and "Pirin National Ensemble" recordings. Her lovely soprano voice, her professional experience and her ability to master all of the Bulgarian vocal styles led to her selection as a soloist for a special "Nostalgia" program on Bulgarian National Television. While Zoya sings and teaches songs from all 6 ethnographic regions of Bulgaria: Shope, Thrace, Rhodope, North Bulgaria, Dobrudja, and her native Pirin (Macedonia), she is a specialist of the Macedonian style, with its intricate ornamentations. Zoya's classes begin with warm-up exercises for the voice and stretches. She gives historical background for and translations of the songs she teaches and performs. Since arriving in the United States in 1993, Zoya's engagements have included: Old Town School of Folk Music (Faculty), St. Louis Folk Dance Weekend, Balkanske Igre Reunion Festival, Madison Folk Ball, Polish Highlanders Festival and various World Cup functions and at Taste of Romania. In addition to her vocal talents, Zoya also is an experienced seamstress and costume designer.
Marc Smierciak, clarinetist, vocalist and accordionist, was born in Chicago to European parents. Coming from a multicultural background, he had been exposed to many European cultural traditions since early childhood. He studied music at the American Conservatory of Music and received degrees in music, French and linguistics from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is also composes chamber music, performs regularly with Slavic Projection Folk Ensemble, and jazz music with his brother, Yves Francois.
and Marc, the founders of Most, have always had a passion for the
cultural traditions of central and east Europe. It was no surprise that
in the spring of 1999, this shared passion and their musical talent
came together to form Most. In just six months, Most had built a
repertoire of over 300
songs and dances from over 15 countries. Through the ensemble’s
research, its repertoire continues to expand rapidly. The
Most chose this name because the word "most" translates to "bridge" in
Slavic language: a fitting name for a group that "bridges" cultures
its music. Most performs music from the following Slavic cultures;
Bohemia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Lusatia, Macedonia, Moravia,
Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. They also perform music
other central and east European cultures such as Austria, Germany,
Hungary and Romania among others. And, of course, the list will
Ljupco Milenkovski (Merrillville, IN)
Ljupco Milenkovski originally from Dracevo, Macedonia, moved to the U.S. in 1985. He made and learned to play his first wooden flute at the age of 10 years old. By the time he was 14, he had started playing kaval (open-ended flute) with the famed Macedonian musician, Mile Kolarov. About two years after he started playing kaval, he also started learning to play the Gajda (bagpipe) from his father, Andreja Milenkovski. Between 1977 and 1985, Ljupco played traditional Macedonian dance music with Mile and other musicians for the "Kitke" Dance Ensemble in Dracevo. In recent years, Ljupco has taught himself to play the clarinet and saxaphone. He plays some of the more Macedonian and Southeastern European music with several ensembles in the Chicagoland & Northern Indiana areas including his own ensemble, "Sar Planina". Ljupco lives with his wife Linda and their two children, Andres and Dionaa in Merrillville, Indiana.