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Mainewoods Featured Guests for 2022
Aaron Alpert, Roberto Bagnoli, Dean Brown, Sonia Dion & Cristian Florescu, Melinda Fields, Melika M. Fitzhugh, Michael Ginsburg, Henry Goldberg, Melinda Hunt, Ralph Iverson, Monique Legaré, Ahmet Lüleci, Barbara Pixton, Tom Pixton, Julia Poirier, 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 Mainewoods 2022!
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.
Michael Ginsburg (Balkan) has been teaching Balkan folk dance for over 50 years, starting in 1964 with Michael Herman's Folk Dance House in New York City. He continues to teach a weekly Balkan dance class in New York City. He is an expert in the complex rhythms of Balkan music and has made several research trips to Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia, and studied in Macedonia with Pece Atanasovski.
Michael has taught workshops all over North America, as well as in Brazil, Japan, Israel, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Michael has been on the teaching staff of many folk dance camps and seminars, including Stockton Folk Dance Camp, Kolo Festival in San Francisco, and the annual Macedonian Pearls Seminars in Berovo, North Macedonia.
Also a musician, Michael has been director and lead trumpet player of Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band since 1983. He accompanied ZU to brass festivals in Guca, Serbia, three times between 1987 and 1990, as well as in 2003 and 2005, where he and ZU were able to play and party with local brass bands and experience the music in its natural setting. Michael is also lead trumpet player with Kavala Brass Band, which features brass music of Northern Greece as well as music from North Macedonia. Michael has toured as a percussionist with Bulgarika, a Bulgarian band that specializes in traditional Bulgarian dance music, and plays tupan with the Bulgarian group "Cerven Traktor."
Monique Legaré (Hungarian) is an internationally known teacher of folk dance and a native of Montréal, Canada. She trained and performed with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal Ballet Company and studied dance in Canada, USA, and Poland. She graduated from the Choreography School in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and did extensive research on folk dance in Hungary. She has taught on the North American continent, Poland and Ukraine.
A remarkably versatile dancer, she directs the Monique Legaré International Dance Company and the Professional Dance Academy of Montgomery County, PA. Founded in 1985, the Monique Legaré International Dance Company performs folk dances from 15 countries.
Since 2008 she has been the artistic director of the Janosik Polish Dance Ensemble, founded in 1971 by her late husband, Dr. Morley Leyton. With him she also won first place at the 2003 and 2004 State of Pennsylvania's Polka dance championships.
At her dance studio she teaches Ballet, Character, Jazz, Tap, Folk Dance and Social Dance.
Ahmet Lüleci (Turkish) A native of Turkey, Ahmet is an accomplished choreographer,
dance teacher, and performer. He has taught several excellent ensembles in
Turkey. Since arriving in North America, he has taught at major dance camps
throughout the U.S. as well as in Asia, Europe, Australia, and South America. He
is the founder and artistic director of award-winning Collage Dance Ensemble of
Ahmet's college major was music. His fascination with dance and music led him to
conduct scholarly research into the historical, social, and cultural background of
the costumes and spoon dances from Turkey's Mediterranean coast. His efforts
resulted in an exhaustive, 400-page study for which he was awarded First Place in
the 1985 national competition in research on the folk dances of Turkey by the
Turkish ministry of Youth, Sports, and Education. In 1997 Ahmet completed a
second degree in Fine Arts. Ahmet organizes cultural tours to Turkey every year;
please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Patricia Williams (Scottish) has been teaching international folk dance at workshops, professional retreats, schools, dance festivals and other special events for over thirty years. Beginners find her instructions to be simple and clear, her enthusiasm infectious. Advanced dancers appreciate her attention to detail, styling, and the cultural context of dances. She has enjoyed Scottish Country Dancing since being introduced to it at Maine Folk Dance Camp back in 1980! She received her Level 1 Teaching Certificate from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) in 2017 and now teaches regularly at the Northampton, MA, RSCDS class, as well as other venues throughout the year. Her current mission is to introduce more international folk dancers to the beauty and fun of Scottish Country Dancing!
Dean Brown (Balkan Fields) has been playing Balkan and International folk dance music for over 30 years. He has performed with Mandala, The Cambridge Folk Orchestra, Evo Nas, Zdravets, Zornitsa, Shining Moon, Rakiya, Sladka, and Balkan Fields. Before all that he used to play jug band music, folk music, blues, and dumb rock-and-roll. He performs on guitar, tambura, dumbek, and vocals.
Melinda Fields (Balkan Fields) Classically trained as a pianist, Melinda adopted the accordion as her performance instrument following a mid-life epiphany that involved the discovery of the powerful music and dance traditions of the Balkans. She attended the Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Summer Seminar for music and dance in 2005 and studied for several years with the Bulgarian accordion virtuoso, Ivan Milev. After being involved in a number of Balkan-focused groups, including Hijaz, Družina, Gogofski, and the Harris Brothers Band, she brought together Balkan Fields Band and serves as the group's leader/organizer and music transcriber.
Melika M. Fitzhugh (Balkan Fields) a native of Stafford, Virginia, has studied conducting and composition with Thomas G. Everett, Beverly Taylor, James Yannatos, Julian Pellicano, Roger Marsh, Jeff Stadelman, and, most recently, Osnat Netzer and John Howell Morrison. Mel was the 2020 winner of the PatsyLu Prize for IAWM's Search for New Music, the 2014 winner of the Longy orchestral composition competition, and has performed with the Radcliffe Choral Society, Coro Allegro, the Harvard Wind Ensemble, the Village Circle Band, and WACSAC. Mel, who has composed music for film and stage, was a member of Just In Time Composers and Players and is currently a member of world/early music ensemble Urban Myth and the early music ensemble Quilisma Consort, in addition to playing bass guitar with acoustic rock singer/songwriter Emmy Cerra, the ambient rock band Rose Cabal, and the Balkan folk dance band Balkan Fields. Mel enjoys playing a variety of instruments for folk dance ensembles, including: violin/viola; acoustic guitar/bass; recorders; flute; and hand percussion, including dumbek/djembe/cajon.
Henry Goldberg (Balkan Fields) originally got involved with traditional Balkan music through folk dancing. He has been singing Balkan music and playing Balkan percussion since 1974, mainly with the groups Evo Nas (1975–1990), Zornitsa (1993–present), Gogofski (2003–present), and Balkan Fields (2013–present). He has also made countless cameo appearances over the years, including festival and television appearances in Bulgaria. Henry has studied tapan with a series of professional tapan players in Bulgaria and the US, and has taught at the East European Folklife Center's Balkan Music and Dance workshops, where he also enjoyed being the "Hit Man" for the "gaida mafia."
Melinda Hunt (Balkan Fields) is a New Jersey-based singer of Balkan songs—primarily in the Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Romany languages. She regularly performs with Balkan Fields Band and with Yasna Voices, the NY Bulgarian Women's Choir, and is a frequent guest soloist with Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band.
Ralph Iverson (Balkan Fields) (violin, gadulka, tambura, kaval) started playing for international folk dancing in 1985. He has been a member of many folk dance groups, including Mandala Folk Dance Ensemble (orchestra director), Cambridge Folk Orchestra, Pinewoods Band, Pajdashi, Rakija, Zdravets, and Zornitsa. Ralph also plays violin and viola with the New England Philharmonic, the Waltham Philharmonic, and with MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players. One of his original compositions, a concerto for gadulka and orchestra, won a competition in Bulgaria.
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.