John and Juaketa Hancock



John Hancock 1973



John Morris Hancock was born on February 8, 1932, in San Diego, California. He was raised in the area, enjoying his horses and school athletics. John attended California Polytechnic College in San Luis Obispo, California, and transferred to Oregon State College in Corvallis, Oregon, after two years. It was in Oregon that he became interested in folk dancing and immediately started performing with the College Folk Dance Exhibition Group. A year later, in 1953, he started his own group, the Mazal Tov Dancers, which performed at local dance festivals in the Northwest.

In 1954, John chauffered Vyts Beliajus around the United States and assisted him by demonstrating the dances while Vyts, in his raspy voice, taught his dances from the microphone. After graduating in 1955, John married Carol and Vyts was John's best man. John and Carol then moved to San Diego.

In 1957, John formed the folk dance exhibition group Dolina Cygany Dancers – Polish for Valley Gypsies – that performed the dances of several nationalities. One of the group's early performers was Dick Oakes. Their first two-hour concert was performed in 1964, with the help of members Dean and Nancy Linscott and Lucy Wnuk. Later, the group's name was changed to Cigany Dancers.

John was active with the Folk Dance Federation of California (South), acting as treasurer then president (1957-1958), as well as teaching and serving on various committies, such as chairperson of Teacher Training. In the early 1960s, John also was involved with the San Diego County Retardation Association and was on its board for several years. In 1969, he was assigned a special federal dance grant, which involved choreographing and teaching a different nationality program to three separate high schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

John and Juaketa Hancock 1994 - Photo by Dick Oakes John married Juaketa in 1973 and she assisted him in Cygany's costume development. He also was invited to teach at the Idyllwild Folk Dance Workshop camp for two years. Whenever John was not involved with dancing, he was working at General Dynamics, Convair as an industrial engineer and manufacturing estimator.

Cygany's major achievement was the promotion of their December 1976 tour to Mexico, where the group performed in Guadalajara, Cuernavaca, and Oaxtepec. The group raised some $5,000 for transportation and each of the performers took vacation to make the trip. The highlight was their two-hour performance in Guadalajara's beautiful "Teatro Degollado" to a jam-packed audience, culminating in their spectacular "Russian Finale." John and Juaketa presented the "Key" to the city of San Diego from Mayor Pete Wilson to Guadalajara's mayor. John was always been very thankful to the 40-some dancers that went and to Juaketa's efforts in arranging the trip.

By 1980, the Cigany dancers had performed 24 major concerts, as well as many monthly programs for local charities, businesses, and festivals throughout California. The group had a repertoire consisting of 18 nationalities, many of which could be expanded into their own half-hour programs. Each concert ended with their traditional "Russian Finale," and an invitation to the audience to meet the performers. It was in 1980 that Cygany gave their last performance. John invited former group performers to participate in their "Finale," and they came from all over the United States for this special event. John's recipe for group's success was to take people of average ability; utilize their desire to achieve; sprinkle with warmth and smiles; stir with patience, love, and determination; and cover with adequate choreography, so that everything came out in the oven a bright, fresh, and pastry ready for viewing.

John and Juaketa started doing serious bicycling in 1980, with several weekend trips. While preparing for a trip to Zion National Park in 1984, Juaketa took a tumble and ended up with serious injuries. Upon her recovery, they made the decision to move to San Luis Obispo and really enjoy life. He worked for the county as a grant administrator and Juaketa worked as a personnel manager for a major electronics firm. At the end of 1988, the couple took their bikes to New Zealand and biked South Island for 12 days and over 600 miles. In 1989, they developed "Make It Personal," a successful embroidery business. They sold the business in 1998.

John Hancock 2004 - Photo by Dick Oakes Juaketa Hancock 2004 In 2000, the Gypsy bug took hold and, selling everything, they hit the road in their 35-foot fifth-wheel as full-time RVers to see the USA. In March, they fulfilled their ultrimate dream, travelling 15,500 miles for seven months through Europe while visiting 16 countries, which exceeded their expectations. John's real thrill was viewing a local Serbian Festival in Szentendre, Hungary, and then joining in to dance the "kolo" dances, led by a young priest, that were the same dances that John Filcich had presented to American dancers in the 1950s! As he said, "It really is a small world!"

In 2003, John and Juaketa began to trace their roots on the geneology trail across the United States, and the British Isles. In 2004, they continued to travel North America, stopping to visit with their many friends in this wonderfully diverse continent.

John died on September 30, 2015 of a massive lymphoma in his chest.

Dances John taught include Glamoć, Jabadao I, John's Rigs, Karikázó from Püspökbagät, Kasapsko Horo, Krakowiak, Kujawiak Niebieski, Kujawiak Weselny od Osiecina, Morpeth Rant, Mouchoirs, Oberek Janusza, Orlovskaya, Rørospols, Soldier's Joy, Stradanya Waltz, and Vossrull.