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Mainewoods Featured Guests for 2024
Penny Brichta, Roo Lester, Gergana Panova, Tom Roby, Maurits van Geel, Tineke van Geel, John Matulis and Dottie Yacek-Matulis, Barbara Pixton, Tom Pixton, Julia Poirier,
Penny Brichta (Israeli) has been an avid Israeli dancer since college, spending her junior year at Hebrew University in Jerusalem dancing far more than studying. She has attended dance workshops in the US and abroad, learning from the top choreographers in Israeli dance. She performed with Nitzanim, Chicago's premier Israeli Folk Dance Troupe for many years. Penny has been teaching the beginner's session at the popular Chicago Israeli Dance group for 30 years. She is a regular teacher at the Door County Folk Dance Festival and has taught Israeli dance at Madison Folk Ball, June Camp, KDI, Enon Valley, Ontario Folk Dance Camp (2024) and at Mainewoods Dance Camp. Since her recent retirement from the corporate world, Penny has obtained certifications in Group Fitness instruction thru ACE, Silver Sneakers, Barre Connect, Stretch and Flexibility, and Jazzercise and teaches multiple fitness classes each week, including an online dance fitness class geared to folk dancers.
Roo Lester (Scandinavian, Basque, and Beyond) is a California native, who began folk dancing as part of rainy day PE at school. Raised in what she called a multi-cultural family, she received an early introduction into varying cultural views. A college folk dance class led to a Masters in Dance, with a focus in Dance Ethnology, from UCLA. Her work with dance has taken many different paths: Teaching folkdance in the area public schools; colleges; dance camps, teacher workshops and mentoring students; folk-crafts, studying dance in the Basque provinces, Norway and Sweden; directing folk dance workshops, seminars and camps; publishing lengthy dance descriptions; participating as a consultant for a variety of organizations and events; and serving on the board of directors of the National Folk Organization. Her teaching style is very clear and positive, while incorporating background, technique, style and care with people, while having fun.
Gergana Panova (Bulgarian) Gergana Panova (Bulgarian) was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and studied dance in Bulgaria and Germany, receiving 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 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. She has initiated theatre and dance therapy projects in Europe, leads dance courses for refugees and locals in Germany and has taught over 300 Bulgarian and international folk dance workshops in countries around the world. Gergana is especially interested in the challenges and opportunities for growth that are faced by contemporary multicultural societies.
Tom Roby (English Country Dance) has been teaching English Country Dancing since his undergraduate days, and is well-known as an ECD leader on both coasts. Currently he is one of the three main callers for CDS Boston Centre (calling regularly with Bare Necessities and
Friends), and maintains a busy schedule teaching at special events, dance camps, and weekends. Credits include Pinewoods, Mainewoods, LCFD (gender-free), NEFFA, BACDS, Cascadia (Seattle), etc. For five years he taught an intro ECD course, "Dance with Jane Austen" for first-year students at UConn. Tom works hard to foster community, communicating the skills needed to dance better and to assist others gracefully, and helping everyone appreciate the amazing diversity of styles and music represented by ECD's 373-year history. Dancers at all levels appreciate his lively and efficient teaching, clarity, and sense of humor. His dance choreography, "Sunlight
through Draperies", is well-known across many ECD communities. Tom is also an accomplished leader and teacher of Balkan folkdances and of couple dances from Transylvania and Scandinavia. He frequently teaches the lesson for Mostly Waltz for Boston.
Maurits van Geel (Roma / International) lives in The Netherlands, has a degree in Arts and Crafts and Art History, graduated as a folk dance teacher in 1977 and has been active in the recreational folk dance world for many years. He later graduated as a dance teacher at a Dance Academy level in 1986.
He was employed by Het Internationaal Danstheater, a professional dance company in Amsterdam, first as choreographer and later as artistic director for 23 years (1988-2011). During his career, he produced over 47 theatre productions. Part of this job involved several months of dance research each year in order to prepare these programs. His travels have included India, Pakistan, Turkey, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Siberia, Korea, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, among many other countries. His archive consists of almost 900 DVDs, with research material from all over the world, most of it recorded by himself.
In 2011, Maurits began to teach internationally. He often travels and teaches with his wife Tineke Van Geel. They taught in many European countries, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, and were guest teachers at a number of folk dance camps and workshops in North America. Maurits has not only taught traditional dances, but also choreographed many dances for recreational groups using traditional steps and styling from his vast research.
In November 2017, Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands, appointed Maurits Knight in the Order of Oranje-Nassau for his extensive contribution in the field of dance.
Tineke van Geel (Armenian / International) lives in The Netherlands, graduated as a folk dance teacher in 1977 and has been active in the recreational folk dance world for many years. She specializes in Armenian dance and works as a professional teacher and choreographer. Since 1985 she has regularly visited Armenia to study folklore at the Pedagogic Institute and Choreographic School in Yerevan. Part of each research trip was devoted to working with several amateur groups in Armenia and doing research on costumes. Two of those research trips were supported by scholarships from the Dutch government. On several occasions Tineke also visited the United States to observe the dances performed by the Armenian communities living here.
The music for a lot of dances that were researched in Armenia had never been recorded. Therefore, Tineke invited bands from Armenia to make recordings in a Dutch studio and she produced a number of compact discs on her own Van Geel Records label, established in 1989. Recently these programs were also made available on DVD.
Tineke has also conducted over 50 successful dance and culture tours to Armenia which have been attended by hundreds of participants from all over the world.
Tineke is an excellent teacher who can break down dance patterns step by step. She has taught both beginners and professionals and all levels in between. She has given workshops in 14 European countries the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. In 2006, she received an award from the Armenian government for her extraordinary devotion and energy in promoting Armenian dance, music and culture.
Although Tineke is known as an Armenian dance specialist, she also teaches a variety of international folk dances.
John Matulis and Dottie Yacek-Matulis John has been actively playing music for international folk dancing since 1967, in the greater Philadelphia area and beyond, when he joined the Penn (University of Pennsylvania) Balalaika Orchestra as its first accordionist. He then started a career as musician and orchestrator for various instrumental and dance groups, including Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Janosik Polish Dancers and Igra Balkan Performers. For six years, John directed the Penn Balalaika Orchestra, during which time he selected the repertoire, arranged music, and taught bass domra and all sizes of balalaika. He is director and founder of ZIMA Eastern European Ensemble, a small instrumental and vocal performing group, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. His recordings include performing as accompanist for three women's singing groups. John also plays solo for Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Greek, Scandinavian, Romanian, German, French, and Italian events. In folk dance circles, John is especially known for his energetic, well-paced performances at parties and his huge repertoire of folk dance tunes.
In both ZIMA and their duo “John and Dottie,” wife Dorothy Yacek-Matulis sings and plays domra and percussion. Dorothy danced with several performing groups, including Vardar Macedonian Ensemble. In the Penn Balalaika Orchestra she taught most domra sizes and chorus. Culture Pearls, a women's singing group, was started and directed by her. She's known for improvising appropriate instruments, such as clinking a Bb-sounding drinking glass for a Bb Revels Song. She is an avid gardener and fiber artist and natural dyer at the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers. Some of her handwork will be available during the session.
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.