Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.
A Century of Kolo Dancing in America
By Dick Crum, 2005
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1. PRE-WORLD WAR I
- Immigrants came from the southern part of the then-Austro-Hungarian Empire: Croatians and Serbians, along with Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, and others.
- Croatians and Serbians brought their dances: kolo, drmeš, polka, waltz, čardaš, and their instruments: the tamburitza (tambura, tamburica).
- In America, opportunities for dancing were few, often no more than five or six times a year. Those were hardworking times; leisure was rare.
- The "classic" kolos, brought directly from the Old Country by these earliest immigrants, included:
Drmeš (about four different ones)
Haj, haj, Bože daj (Devojačko kolo)
1. BETWEEN WORLD WAR I AND THE LATE 1930s
3. LATE 1930s AND WORLD WAR II
- The late 1930s saw the burgeoning of a revival of kolo dancing, particularly in certain Croatian-American communities in the Chicago and Pittsburgh areas.
- For the first time in the United States, kolos began to be taught in classes rather than being "picked up" from childhood by trial and error at dance events in church halls, clubs, and picnics.
- An important United States recreational movement, someties called "International folk Dancing" (IFD), had been developing nationwide at this time. More and more Americans were choosing, as a favorite recreation or hobby, the learning and practicing of folk dances of other countries.
- In the late 1930s, IFD leaders began to take an interest in the kolo. Two nationally known IFD leaders, Vyts Beliajus in Chicago and Micheal Herman in New York, visited these communities, learned kolos, and in turn taught them to the American folk dancers.
- In California, Ivan ("Kolo John") Filcich, himself of the earlier immigrant community, took interest in promoting kolos in the broader folk dance world. He founded the annual San Francisco Kolo Festival at this time.
- In New York, Michael Herman also initiated an annual kolo event at his Folk Dance House, featuring the Banat Tamburitza Orchestra. Both festivals took place over Thanksgiving weekend. The San Francisco festival is still being held.
- Then-director Walter Kolar's initiative to train the young to play the tamburitza was launched in the 1950s and the Junior Groups have since been sponsored and supported by fraternal and other organizations. These community groups foster the preservation of tamburitza music and associated dance as a performance genre.
- Other forms of the reconnection to the Old Country have been United States tours by the national folk ensembles of the respective countries as well as teaching tours by their former members.
A synopsis of a lecture presented by Dick Crum at The Tamburitza Association of America's 2005 Tamburitza Extravaganza on September 16, 2005.