|WICI Song and Dance Company Guest Performers at “Folklorama” Festival in Canada |
11/1/2004 - It’s a well-known fact that travel is enlightening. WICI Song and Dance Company, the representative folk group of the Polish National Alliance, travels for concert performances nearly 30 times per year. These concerts are usually in the Chicago area and surrounding suburbs, but recently, WICI received a special invitation from Polonia residing in Canada. The Tatry Windsor Dance Company hosted a folk dance festival this May called “Folklorama,” inviting other dance groups from neighboring Canadian towns and cities such as Montreal.
Despite the long distance, and the fact that most WICI members are unusually active young people involved in numerous activities such as studying, part-time jobs, sports teams and musical groups, 36 people volunteered to participate in the trip. This number comprised over half of the 62 total group members. Ms. Magdalena Solarz, Artistic Director and Choreographer of WICI, put forth her best efforts to prepare the group for the special event. Choosing an engaging repertoire, she organized additional dance rehearsals and customized a selection of the group’s extensive costumes to match.
“My job is to make sure that the dancers are prepared in every way for their upcoming performance – not just in the way they move, but also in the way their costumes and makeup accentuate their movements,” said Ms. Solarz.
Thanks to the generosity of many sponsors, the group was able to travel together in a tour bus, in keeping with their motto, “Razem,” which means, “Together.” The drive towards the Canadian border passed happily with lighthearted singing and games.
Shortly after arriving in Windsor, Canada, WICI took part in a main dress rehearsal that included all festival participants. The Polish community in Windsor greeted the out-of-towners with characteristic warmth and hospitality. After settling in, all festival attendees were invited to a dance held at the community cultural center. Although their specialty is folk dance, the WICI crowd did quite a good job entertaining themselves to the rhythm of hip-hop and rap music – the DJ struggled to keep up with the energetic dancers. The fun came to a climax when the WICI dancers formed a circle, and, in customary fashion, began a series of solo stunts that were accompanied by cheers and laughter of the onlookers. In a word, the dance was a great success.
The following afternoon, the festival hall was packed to the brim with an eager audience. The opening act was a traditional mazurka performed by the Tatry Windsor dancers to the music of Stanislaw Moniuszko’s “Haunted Manor.” One after another, each dance group showcased its best dance numbers. Among them were suites from the Rzeszow, Slask, Sacz and Kaszuby areas of Poland. One group, Tatry Dancers of Oshawa, Canada, entertained the audience with their rendition of a Lowicz Carnival. The same group also presented a fiery gypsy dance, which gained much applause. The music and choreography of the group are the work of artistic director and choreographer Tadeusz Zdybala, whose choices of singers, colorful costumes and acrobatic acts were favorites at the festival.
The WICI Song and Dance Company, representing American Polonia, also impressed the audience with a lively polka by Strauss. The exciting choreography of this dance and the impeccable execution of each move by the dancers evoked a storm of applause. WICI went on to present a Beskid dance suite, as well as a Polonaise to open the second half of the artistic program. One of the highpoints of their presentation was the group’s latest artistic hit – the Krakowiak suite that featured all 36 dancers on stage at the same time. The stirring music, rainbow of costumes, and the sheer number of dancers filling every available space on stage, as well as the unsurpassable choreography of Ms. Solarz, made a lasting impression on everyone watching, and elicited a tear from many an eye.
A precisely timed finale directed by Ms. Elena Kulaga and performed by all participating dance groups made for a captivating end to “Folklorama.” The festival organizers, and especially the dedicated Ms. Barbara Koczwara, deserve a sincere thanks for their efforts.
The journey yielded many fond memories and lasting friendships. At the invitation of Mr. Zdybala, WICI joined the Tatry dancers for a last dinner together. It’s possible that the two groups will meet again for a mutual concert, as the Canadians expressed a desire to visit their peers in Chicago in the future. After exchanging heartfelt goodbyes, during which dancers exchanged group t-shirts and contact information, WICI members returned safely to Chicago.
This is just one example of the way in which WICI has been representing the Polish National Alliance throughout North America for more than 20 years. They do it with a high level of professionalism and artistic skill, garnering applause and respect even outside the borders of the U.S.