Shawn Donaldson, who was born on September 21, 1966, was involved in folk dance since early childhood, but really took to it around the age of 12. His father led one of the largest folk dance groups in the country at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan from the mid-1960s through the late 1980s. Shawn was exposed to dance from all over the world but thanks to the surrounding immigrant communities and his own tastes it was Balkan and Middle Eastern dance for which he became passionate. Detroit was a rich source of immigrant communities to get first-hand dance knowledge. Shawn was a special guest at Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Romanian, Chaldean, Bosnian, Armenian, and Croatian events including weddings and festivals. Early on he learned original material from these experiences.
For seven years, Shawn ran a Balkan-style nightclub (The International Folkdance Coffeehouse) in Detroit that attracted folk dance enthusiasts and immigrants alike. His unique style of programming brought these communities together. The next step was to live in the Balkans. Shawn embraced this fully, packed everything and moved to Bulgaria where he remained for two years. He was fortunate to have had the opportunity to research dance in social settings as well as dance with two ensembles, Haskovo Horo and the Academic Folk Ensemble of Sofia.
Shawn was a featured teacher at weeklong and weekend workshops in the mid-west and Canada. He has studied with renowned Bulgarian folklorists such as Ivan Donkov, Donyo Donev, Atanas Sinanski, Ivan Kočev, and Lubčo Manevski from Macedonia. Among Shawn's teaching venues were Mainewoods, Door County Folk Festival, the 15th Annual Folk Ball Festival, and Rang Tang 2006 in Stone Mountain, Georgia. He sponsored concerts with Yuri Yunakov and Ivo Papasov, Esma's "Voice of Hope" U.S. tour, and Greek Folk Dance Workshops with Joe Graziosi in Saint Louis.
Shawn was involved with the Ann Arbor Folkdancers for the last few years. Not only did he provide recorded music, expert organizational and teaching skills at their dances and the workshops he had featured, but he brought to our group boundless energy and enthusiasm. At the time of his death, he was looking forward to offering a workshop devoted to the traditional dances found in Bulgaria, and Slavic-speaking Macedonia (formerly the Republic of Macedonia in Yugoslavia). He learned these dances from attending countless events over the last two decades, both from immigrant communities in the United States, and among natives living in Eastern Europe.
Shawn died on September 14, 2011. His departure is a great loss to the Ann Arbor Folkdancers, and to the folk dance community at large.
Dances Shawn taught include Mitrino Horo.