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Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

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International Folk Dance Ensemble

By Dick Oakes



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by Vyts Beliajus
as appearing in Viltis Magazine

About a year and a half ago [1958], John Hancock organized a folk dance group to the downtown YMCA, a group of young people for the purpose of learning and demonstrating the dances of the Slavs -- all Slavs. He named that group Dolina Cygany (Dah-lee-nah Tsee-gah-nee -- Badland Gypsies, or Gypsy Encampment -- a word with several meanings).

The group meets every Friday evening. John Hancock is the director of it, however, members of the group who know dances of exhibition caliber, likewise teach. Since its organization the group appeared in a number of programs and demonstrated for a number of organizations. They make their own cosutmes and at present each one of the members owns three to four Slav costumes from various lands. In the picture they are dressed in Russian costumes.

John Hancock is a former president of the Folk Dance Federation of California, South, and still active in that organization. He was also one of Vyts's Cheaufeurs, and married to Carol, nee Mayers. Both of them are former VILTIS dancers as are six others in that picture.

(The group later changed its name to Cygany Dancers.)

Dolina Cygany, San Diego, California, c1959    

Men: L. to R.: Rory Thompson, Kenneth Olsen, Bill Kindt -- a Viltite who learned his first folk dancing as a VILTIS member, James Santalo, Joseph Kraynak, Edward Yacher -- also a member of the VILTIS staff and one of its former "goats," Robert Brisbin, and Dick Oakes -- another VILTIS Dancer.

Women: L. to R.: Gloria Bodie, secretary of the group; Marjorie Ann Jones, an Ex-Viltite; LaDonna Larsen, an original VILTIS dancer; Carol Hancock, ex-Viltite and John Hancock's wife; Lucy Wnuk, Patricia Wentworth, Luella Thomas, and Bonnie Wnuk.

Not a Russian among them, but there are three Poles, two Norwegians, some Germans, one Italian, and some "Old Stock" Americans. Sto Lat and Happy Dancing! 1959 (Photo: W. A. Sneathen)

LaDonna Larsen and Ed Yacher of Dolina Cygany, San Diego, California, c1959    

LaDonna Larsen and Edward Yacher, in a Russian pose. Very good, Juni! Bardzo Dobrze! 1959 (Photo: W. A. Sneathen)

From San Diego Newspapers, 1959

San Diego has its own budding Moiseyev troupe

They're the Dolina Cygany dancers, a group of 26 young people who have joined together to learn and perfect the traditional folk routines of the Slavic nations, Russia, Czecholsovakia, and Yugoslavia.

They don't claim to have reached the perfection of the Moiseyevs yet, but they are working hard at it.


Dolina Cygany, San Diego, California, c1959    

THESE COLORFUL dancers are the Dolina Cygany group which will perform dances representing the Slavic nations at the annual House of Pacific Relations Pageant Ball to be held at the Balboa Park Club, Saturday, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. 1959 (Photo: W. A. Sneathen)

The dancers, L. to R.: Carol Hancock, Patricia Wentworth, Louella Thomas, LaDonna Larsen, Marjorie Ann Jones, Gloria Bodie, Lucy Wnuk, and Bonnie Wnuk.

Dolina Cygany, San Diego, California, c1959    

IT'S A KICK -- Showing their agility in one of the traditional Russian folk dance routines are several members of the Dolina Cygany group, sponsored by San Diego's YMCA. They appear tonight at a pageant ball
in Balboa Park. 1959 (Photo: W. A. Sneathen)

The dancers, from lower L.: Dick Oakes, Robert Brisbin, William Kindt, Rory Thompson, Kenneth Olsen, James Santalo, Joseph Kraynak, and Edward Yacher.


"We organized about a year ago [1958]," Gloria Bodie, a Dolina Cygany member, explained, "with the idea of learning the fascinating dances that come from the Slavic areas.

"We're not an ethnic group. We just like to dance."

"In fact," Miss Bodie added, "our founder and director is named John Hancock, Jr., which is as an American a name as you can find."

The group was formed under the guidance of the San Diego YMCA and still operates under its sponsorship.

"All members of the dancing group must belong to the YMCA," Miss Bodie commented, "which is a unique aspect in itself, since half of us are girls."

"This dancing gets in to your blood after awhile," Miss Bodie said. "All of us have jobs to worry about and other interests to look after, but we put every minute we can spare in to dancing."

Part of this effort has been devoted to making costumes, all hand-fashioned and modeled after the authentic dress of the people whose dances they are performing.

"We're always on the lookout for pictures of costuming that we can copy," Miss Bodie said. "I made a trip to New York recently, and while I was there I found a book about Polish costumes which I immediately bought to bring back for study.

"It is written in Polish," Miss Bodie said, "but fortunately one of our members, Edward Yacher, is of Polish descent, and he can translate it."

The Dolina Cygany dancers perform at various functions in the San Diego area. Tonight, for example, they'll appear at the annual House of Pacific Relations Pageant Ball in the Balboa Park Club.

Their ambition is to attract enough recruits into the organization to bring the group's strength up to 40 members, and then to save enough money from dues and contributions to hire a professional teacher.

"We aren't interested in becoming professionals," Miss Bodie said. "We just want to learn all we can."