By Dick Oakes
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THIS IS HISTORICAL INFORMATION ONLY
The AMAN Folk Ensemble was a non-profit performing arts organization dedicated to researching, preserving, and performing the traditional dance, music, and folklore of the many ethnic groups residing in America. Founded on the campus of UCLA in 1964, the company took its name from the biblical affirmative Eastern Europeans and Middle Easterners pronounce "Aman" and Americans "Amen."
AMAN was the only professional company including in its repertoire and education program the cultural traditions of five continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. Drawing from this expansive repertoire, the company presented colorful and exciting choreographies. Each performance featured authentic traditional costumes and instruments from the company's own extensive collection. The result was an increased awareness of the value of traditions and cultural identity in our homogenized, highly technological society.
Fom 1975 on, when AMAN joined the prestigious roster of companies funded by the National Endowment for the Arts Dance Touring Program, the company toured extensively throughout the United States. The company also toured as cultural ambassadors to the Middle East and North Africa under the auspices of the United States Information Agency. A typical AMAN season consisted of national touring, folklore seminars, costume exhibits, the AMAN Institute, school programs, community service activities, and performances throughout southern California.
"AMAN implies that national traditions should be cherished rather than scorned. And by making its program so varied, it expressed the hope that different cultures may co-exist harmoniously. Perhaps only in America could one find a company like AMAN." --Jack Anderson, New York Times
Goals of the Organization
Concert Performances -- on tour and in Los Angeles. Each AMAN concert featured authentically costumed dancers accompanied by the Ensemble's Orchestra. Depending on venue size, a concert could include anywhere from 10 to 45 performers.
"AMAN was a breath-taking evening...they left us dizzy with their acrobatic feats of dancing and music-making. They deserve their reputation for exceptional entertainment." --The Sacramento Review
Education Program. This program (established in 1974) reached more than 100,000 students and educators annually through narrated performances, workshops, master classes, and teacher-training services. AMAN also produced a 330-page teaching guide, the Dance and Music Residency Handbook, which was presented, along with two audiotape cassettes, to each school where the company was conducting residency activities. Increasingly these programs became an important part of the company's annual touring schedule.
"The AMAN Folk Ensemble has been working in the Los Angeles Unified School District since 1971. The nature of the folk material AMAN uses, and its international scope, forms a solid foundation from which to build a program aimed at the ultimate goal...all people harmoniously co-existing in the schools and in the community at large." --Don Dustin, Director, Performing Arts, L.A. Unified School District
Artist-in-Residence Programs. AMAN regularly worked with nationally and internationally recognized dance and music specialists. Choreographers, musicians, dancers, and teachers from French Canada, Norway, Mexico, Hungary, and Turkey worked with the company.
Recording Projects. AMAN produced recordings of traditional music since the early 1970's. Internationally recognized experts worked with AMAN as performers and arrangers on these recordings. In 1991, AMAN worked with Paramount Studios on an original film score (as composers and performers), which combined elements and instruments of both traditional and modern music.
Costume and Instrument Collection. AMAN maintained an extensive collection of rare and authentic costumes and instruments that were used in all performances and education program presentations. Pieces from this collection were exhibited in museums, galleries, schools, and libraries.
"The AMAN Folk Ensemble has in its possession one of the finest collections of original folk costumes in this country...It would be virtually impossible to replace any of the outstanding older pieces in this collection since these items are no longer made and are usually to be found only in important museums or private collections in Europe." --Edward Meader, Curator, Textiles & Costume Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Community Outreach. Several Community Service projects were developed over the years, most prominent being a partnership with the County of Los Angeles Public Library. Each season AMAN traveled to different libraries throughout the country presenting free performances and costume and folk art exhibits.
Producing and Presenting. The company included in its concert performances guest artists from such countries as Norway, Japan, Turkey, India, Mexico, and Bolivia. AMAN also produced international music concerts featuring prominent southern California ethnic musicians.
"AMAN continues after a quarter of a century to be one of Los Angeles' real cultural treasures." --Helen Peppard, Daily Variety
AMAN closed its doors in 2004 during its 40th year of operation.