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Mainewoods Featured Guests for 2023
Aaron Alpert, Roberto Bagnoli, Joe Blumenthal, Bill Cope, Sonia Dion & Cristian Florescu, Bruce Hamilton, Ralph Iverson, Ercüment Kılıç, Ralph Iverson, Kathleen Mazurek, Barbara Merson, Gergana Panova, Barbara Pixton, Tom Pixton, Julia Poirier, David Skidmore, Patricia Williams,
Aaron Alpert (Israeli) started dancing before he was born! His parents met at Israeli folk dancing in Los Angeles, and brought him up with a childhood filled with dance memories.
In his first year at UC Berkeley, Aaron became one of the instructors and the curriculum developer for Jewish Studies 98: The Israeli Dance DeCal. In October 2012, Aaron opened a monthly dance session, Nirkoda!, in Palo Alto. Wanting to expand the Israeli Dance experience in the Bay Area, Aaron announced Camp Nirkoda Ba'Kerem. The first camp was canceled when the venue burned down in the Sonoma fires, but it was rescheduled for November 2019.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Aaron adapted to virtual dance classes — Zoom-Cali and Chicago Israeli Dance — where he was often joined onscreen by his cat, Steve. Eventually, he joined with Latishya Steele to pivot back to in-person sessions, first outdoors in a public park. That session, Nirkoda Le'Chayim, continues today, indoors on Thursday nights.
Aaron's first major appearance in the international dance community was on the Stockton 2018 faculty. Since then he has taught at Mendocino Folklore Camp, Laguna Festival, Folk Arts Center of New England, and Fall Camp. He is very excited about returning to Mainewoods 2023!
Roberto Bagnoli (International) grew up in Rome, where he was first introduced to folk music and dance, eventually taking part in several performances and teaching dance classes. He subsequently studied various forms of folk dance in workshops throughout Europe, Israel, and North America under the guidance of renowned choreographers and teachers. From 1995 to 2003, he performed as a dancer and choreographer with the Terra di Danza Dance Company and was involved in the production of Raggi di luna Italiana and Capriccio Italiano (Italian dances), GiroGiroMondo (dances from around the world), Keltic Emotion (Celtic dances), Mazal Tov (Israeli dances), and Ethnos (international folk dances). He currently organizes two dance camps in Europe: Balkanot (Balkan and Israeli dance) and Camp Yofi (Israeli dance).
He is the founder of Folk Atelier Reggio Emilia (FARE), devoted to the development and conservation of folk dance heritage. He has also lectured and conducted workshops throughout Europe as well as in North America, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.
Sonia Dion and Cristian Florescu (Romanian) are known for their wonderful energy, warmth and exciting choice of dances and music. Cristian has danced with and choreographed for many Romanian folk ensembles and has studied with various specialists including Theodor Vasilescu. In 1993 Cristian joined Les Sortilèges, a professional folk dance company based in Montréal, where he danced, taught and choreographed. In the course of her 20 years with the same company, Sonia was lead dancer, choreographer and artistic director, among other roles. It was at Les Sortilèges that the two met and formed a professional and personal partnership. They have performed with the Collage International Dance Ensemble of Boston, have taught at l'École Supérieure de Danse du Québec, and have been part of the Artists in the Schools program sponsored by the Quebec Ministry of Education. In recent years, they have been teaching workshops for recreational folk dance groups in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United States, sharing their love of Romanian folk traditions.
Bruce Hamilton (English) is a well-respected teacher of English and Scottish dancing with 50 years' experience across 5 countries. He has launched classes, trained teachers, programmed camps, coached performing groups and adjudicated festivals.
A retired research scientist, Bruce is always looking for new ways to understand and present ideas. He tries to weave many threads besides technique and choreography into his lessons. Music, sociability and physiology are his current favorites. People often say they come away with things to think about and ways to grow.
Bruce lives in Menlo Park, California with his wife Jo and as many dogs and cats as her rescue operation happens to have on hand. He runs a biweekly English dance class, and is a past president of the Country Dance and Song Society.
Ercüment Kılıç (Turkish, Azebaijani and Circassian) was born in Ankara, Turkey, and comes from a family of dancers and musicians. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in Economics and International Relations.
He is one of the founding members of the Turkish State National Dance Ensemble and also specializes in Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Circassian dances. He has taught in the US, Canada, Mexico, England, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Holland, the Russian Republic, Belgium, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.
As a musician, Ercüment has produced a series of records and CDs in the US with his band.
As a researcher, his research papers and articles on the Turkish, Azerbaijani and Circassian cultures have been published in many international newspapers and periodicals, and he has been featured in more than 100 TV shows and radio programs around the world.
Ercüment has also been a civic activist. Due to his nationwide recognition as president of a Washington-based NGO for promoting Turkey politically and culturally, he is the only non-governmental Turk or Turkish-American in US history to be invited to the White House by a US President.
Currently, he is a lecturer at a university in Turkey, teaching in the International Relations and Law Departments. He is also a published author in Turkey. He has written 3 books on Turkish-American relations, and "Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Emperor Meiji of Japan".
Kathleen Mazurek (Novelty Dances) had her first experience with recreational folk dancing in 1987 at the local Winnipeg Manitoba group's halloween party. She heard the music and was instantly hooked. And, when the group insisted that the person wearing a pink panther costume lead Djurdjevica, she knew she had found her people and her passion. Kathleen has been a regular attendee at Mainewoods since 2005 and has been on the Mainewoods board since 2015. Kathleen has vast teaching experience and has taught the Mainewoods' basics class for the past few years. She currently lives in Mexico where she has had the opportunity to attend and teach at circle dance workshops, and gatherings. Kathleen's other dance loves are jigging, clogging, and anything where she can make noise with her feet.
Barbara Merson (Belly Dance) started belly dancing as a natural extension of her exploration of international folk dance. She has studied with many teachers and performers in Boston and New York, and currently dances at the Bright Star studio in Portland, Maine.
Belly dance (sometimes also called Raqs Sharki) is a form of folk dance originating in the Middle East involving abdominal and hip movements. In the United States it is usually associated with stage performance, but in Egypt and other countries it is often done casually at home and at informal gatherings.
A third generation folk dancer, Barbara began dancing in New York and then migrated to the Boston area where she danced at MIT and Brandeis. After graduation, she returned to New York and performed with the George Tomov dancers. She currently lives in the Portland, Maine area where she teaches and leads international and Israeli folk dance groups. Barbara is also a swing dancer, and plays the darbuka (middle eastern drum).
Gergana Panova (Bulgarian) was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and graduated from the National High School for Dance in Sofia, the Academy for Music and Dance Pedagogy in Plovdiv, the Folkwang University of Arts in Essen and the Technical University of Dortmund. She received her D.Sc. in cultural philosophy and communicative sciences with special awards in Germany and a Habilitation in ethnomusicology from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS). From 1988 to 1994 she choreographed and was a solo dancer with the National Ensemble of Bulgaria “Philip Koutev”, while also working with children and youth doing stage performances and establishing dance therapy for children in Sofia.
Gergana has published over 70 articles and two books on various aspects of Bulgarian traditional dance, ethnology and non-verbal communication and has lectured at numerous universities in Europe, Asia, South and North America. She has initiated theatre and dance therapy projects in different European countries, leads dance courses for refugees and locals in Germany and has taught over 300 Bulgarian and international folk dance workshops in many countries around the world.
Gergana is especially interested in the challenges and opportunities for growth that are faced by contemporary multicultural societies. This was the main focus of her Fulbright research and teaching project on dance at UCLA in 2016. Since 2022, Gergana has helped oversee the new State Program for Management of Communal Integration in Oberhausen, Germany, since 2022.
We are thrilled to have Gergana Panova join us at Mainewoods for the first time!
Patricia Williams (Scottish) has taught international folk dance at workshops, professional retreats, schools, dance festivals and other special events for over 30 years. She was introduced to Scottish Country Dancing at Maine Folk Dance Camp back in 1980!
Having achieved the highest level of teacher certification from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, she now teaches regularly at the Northampton, MA, RSCDS class, as well as other venues throughout the year. Beginners find her instructions to be simple and clear, her enthusiasm infectious. Advanced dancers appreciate her attention to detail, styling, and cultural context. Her mission is to introduce more folk dancers to the beauty and fun of Scottish Country Dancing!
Joe Blumenthal (West by Northeast) is a Northampton, MA based musician who plays bass in a variety of bands including Klezamir (playing Jewish weddings and bar-mitzvahs as well as concerts since 1988), Orkestar Banitsa (a folk dance band playing music of the Balkans), The Klines (a folk trio featuring Michael and Carrie Kline playing songs of Appalachia and its coal mines) and Zay-Tunes (playing traditional Arabic music) in addition to MerakKef Express. He was a frequent "ringer" for Bobba Culpa, playing upright bass and percussion. He also leads AEIOUkes, Northampton MA's ukulele club. He recently retired from owning a musical instrument retail store, Downtown Sounds, in Northampton, MA
Bill Cope (West by Northeast) is a California based, multi-instrumentalist, who began playing music at the age of six, and to date has performed on 73 instruments. He has made many trips to the Balkans and Turkey, and has studied and performed with many wonderful musicians, there as well as in the United States. He has played international folk dance music for many years.
Bill is currently the director of the San Francisco Kolo Festival. During the pandemic he provided and helped others provide live music at countless online events. Bill continues to lead weekly online zoom-shops in Balkan and Turkish music. Please see https://Cope-a-cabana.com for more info! This is Bill's first time and Mainewoods and we are thrilled he is able to join us.
Ralph Iverson (West by Northeast) has performed for folk dancing since 1985. He is a member of many Boston based folk bands including the Pinewoods Band and the Vaccinated Squirrels. He last attended Mainewoods in 2022 as part of Balkan Fields. . Ralph's main instruments are gadulka and violin. He also plays viola, flute, whistle, saxophone, tambura, kaval, braè, lijerica, kemenche, and other instruments. He plays classical and modern music in the Waltham Philharmonic Orchestra, and in the New England Philharmonic. Starting in 2011, Ralph has submitted compositions six times to a competition “Bulgarian New Music in 7/8,” generally winning second or third place honors.
Barbara Pixton (Pixton-Poirier Band) began playing her mother's button accordion at the age of eight. She moved on to the piano, obtaining a degree in piano performance from Boston University. A folk dancer for many years, in the early 1990's she and her husband Tom Pixton began playing for dances. Since then they have put together several bands, played at music festivals and dance camps all over the US, published a music book, and made several recordings. Barbara has picked up skills on many other instruments including double bass, santouri, guitar, flute, violin and panflute. In 1994 she started the International Music Club under the sponsorship of the Folk Arts Center of New England. She is known for her wonderful ability to pull together amateur musicians for music-making and merriment.
Tom Pixton (Pixton-Poirier Band) is active as an International, Balkan, and Scottish folk dance musician. He has worked with many of today's most accomplished dance teachers and musicians as accordionist, pianist, band leader, music arranger, and CD producer.
As a soloist or with the Pinewoods Band, he has provided dance music for dance camps, workshops, and special events in the US, Canada, and Japan. He has provided music leadership for the Boston Branch of the Royal Scottish Dance Society, Cambridge Revels, June Camp (Illinois), August Camp (New Mexico), and the Folk Arts Center of New England.
Tom publishes the Pinewoods International Collection, a 400-page book of folk dance tunes and songs from around the world. The book has become widely known as a major source of dance music and as a reference volume.
Julia Poirier (Pixton-Poirier Band) has been singing and playing in Boston-area choruses and folk dance bands for more than 20 years. During that time she has led numerous groups in singing a variety of music ranging from Christmas choral arrangements to folk dance songs to a cappella pop. In 2009, she completed an MA in Ethnomusicology, focusing on Bulgarian traditional song. Julia plays rhythm guitar for The Pinewoods Band and The All-Girl Band, two of Boston's many folk dance bands. She also plays recorders and tenor viol, and sings with the Tufts Early Music Ensemble.
David Skidmore (West by Northeast) has been a folk dancer, teacher, and dance musician in the Boston area since the early 1970s, performing with the Mandala Folk Dance Ensemble and playing in various bands based in Boston, including the Cambridge Folk Orchestra, the Pinewoods Band and Zdravets, a group that plays traditional Bulgarian & Macedonian dance music. He is primarily a percussionist, playing Bulgarian tapan and dumbek, but he also plays clarinet, pennywhistle, kaval and floyera.