Bob Altman

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Bob Altman

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Bob Altman It was the spring of 1978, and Bob was living in the dorms at the University of California, Irvine. Up to that point, his "folk dance" experience had been limited to the half dozen Israeli dances he had seen at Jewish singles events the previous couple of years.

His dorm decided to have a booth at the annual Wayzgoose Festival (the annual spring festival in the park at the center of campus). The day of the festival, the sky opened up and it poured, a warm, hard, drenching downpour. By the time the dorm tore down the booth, everyone was soaked to the skin. As Bob walked in from the park, he heard the music for Pata Pata playing. When he went to investigate, he saw a bunch of wet students dancing in the rain, the record player sitting under a table and plugged into an electrical outlet that apparently grew out of a nearby tree. I joined the dance (that was the one non- Israeli dance Bob knew) and discovered that this wet band of happy students were the UCI Folk Dancers. The rest, as they say, is history.

The next year, the club on campus folded when the entire leadership and most of the participants graduated.

Later that year Bob discovered folk dancing in the community (Narodni, Veselo Selo at their old home on Anaheim Blvd., Donna Tripp's group at the Long Beach Jewish Community Center, Herb Offner's group at the Long Beach Unitarian Church, Pnina's Israeli group at Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton, and Israel Yakovee's Israeli group). It was around that same time that he also met his wife-to-be, Michelle Sandler, at a Jewish singles folk dance event (although it took another sixteen years of dating before he got around to making her his wife, but that’s another story).

Along the way, Henrietta Bemis taught him the fundamentals of being an effective teacher and he's enjoyed more than a few folk adventures. Two trips with Dunaj to perform in Eastern Europe, fourteen annual excursions to Mendocino Woodlands and the Russian River for Hungarian dance camps, a week in Taiwan as an invited teacher at a folk dance camp (he taught Romanian dances), LIFE Camp, and a few times at North/South Camp. Bob has been involved with running the Laguna Festival for more years than he wants to admit, usually in the role of Concert Chairman or Festival Chairman. He also danced seven years with Lee Otterholt in Syrtaki. And, slightly tangentially, he's been able to play with some great folk musicians in Zimzala (international folk dance music with a seriously tongue-in-cheek twist), Madison Avenue Folk, and Hurok (Hungarian village music).

Like many of his compatriots, folk dancing and folk music has pretty much defined at least part of his life for the last thirty-plus years. Bob is looking forward to many more years of participating with his friends in the folk dance community.

Dances Bob has taught include Brîul de la Făgăraş and Sârba din Cimpoi.