Statewide: 42 Years and Counting
By Larry Getchell
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As of this year, 1987, following the Statewide Folk Dance Festival in Pasadena, forty-two such events will have taken place continuously, mostly hosted evenly between the Folk Dance Federation, North, and the Folk Dance Federation, South. At the time of the first Statewide, the movement in the North was fairly established, with the Federation being already some five years old. It had been put in motion, mostly through the efforts of Buzz Glass during a meeting of folk dance leaders at a Festival held in Lodi, California, during their big Grape Festival. However, there had been considerable folk dancing in the San Francisco Bay area for several years prior to this 1941 Festival. Changs of San Francisco was operating as a club as early as 1938 and they are celebrating their 49th birthday as of June 2, 1987.
The Berkeley Folk Dancers organized as a club on the east side of the Bay, not too long after Changs, meeting at picturesque old John Hinkley Park. An early member of the club was David Young and his lovely wife Betty. Prior to 1946 they moved to Ojai in Southern California and shortly thereafter David organized a folk dance club. He, together with several members of the Berkeley Folk Dancers and very likely of Changs as well, worked out plans for the first Statewide Festival to be held at Ojai, California. Among those from the North who participated in the early planning were Clarice Dechent (Wills), Mildred Buhler, Henry Koopman, Ed Kremers, and Walter Grothe. Virginia Anderson, who was to become 2nd president of the Folk Dance Federation, South, along with others who's names I do not have, assisted from the South.
Dancers all received a printed program of dances but here there were some problems. The styles and arrangements of the various dances differed between those from the North and South, necessitating two separate lines and groups to prevent confusion. While the exhibitions were interesting, they were not up to the high standard of those done in later years. For example, my wife Helen and I had been dancing only a short time and were recent members of Grace Perriman's Folk Arts Group of San Francisco. It had not been our intention to attend the Statewide but a couple of days prior, Gracie called us and said she needed help for her exhibition group because, at the last moment, two people were unable to make the trip. She talked us into taking their placess although we didn't know the dance, in fact had not even seen it. Gracie said they would show it to us on the way down as we were to stay overnight at her mother's house in Fresno. Not much time to learn a dance for an exhibition but we were game to try. The only trouble was, no one remembered to bring along a record player. We tried walking through the dance out in the street but without much success and besides the folks were having a lot of fun and were not much interested in walking through a dance without music. So we decided to wait until we reached Ojai the next day and then rehearse.
It was a long trip over the mountains and we didn't reach Ojai until almost 5:00 p.m. and the Community Arts Center, where we expected to rehearse, was also being used by other exhibition groups. They alloted us just fifteen minutes.
The night of the Festival, one of the couples split, Peggy taking me and Toni taking Helen and they pushed us through the dance. Somehow we made it and anyway the light was not too good so mistakes were not so noticable. We actually did the dance one more time at a Federation Festival, after some rehearsing and fell flat on our faces, making numerous mistakes. That was the end of the Lithuanian Quadrille as far as Folk Arts was concerned.
Copyright © 2011 by Dick Oakes