Gloria Rene "Roo" Lester, a California native, began folk dancing as part of rainy day physical education at school. Raised in what we call a multi-cultural family, she received an early introduction into varying cultural views. A college folk dance class led to a Masters in Dance, with a focus in Dance Ethnology, from UCLA.
While a student Roo began performing with the UCLA Yugoslav Performing Group, Betyárok Hungarian dance ensemble, and Westwind in Los Angeles. Later she joined the AMAN Folk Ensemble with whom she toured the United States. While living in Colorado, Roo danced with Narodno and the Boulder Scandinavian Dancers. Roo has choreographed dance suites for the AMAN Chamber Ensemble, Westwind in Los Angeles, Živio in Utah, Narodno, the Boulder Scandinavian Dancers in Colorado and the Fermi Lab International Dancers in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.
Roo's work with dance has taken many different paths: Teaching folkdance in the Los Angeles area public schools; three months in the Basque Provinces studying Basque dance; five years as one of the directors of Barátság Hungarian Music and Dance Camp; and working with Alan Alda and Mariette Hartley for an episode of M*A*S*H called "Inga."
Roo has been observing, learning, and studying Scandinavian dance since she saw the Hambo on the dance floor when she was in college. She began teaching Scandinavian dance after her first visit to the San Diego State University Folk Dance Conference where she met Ingvar Sodal.
Since 1983, Roo has traveled extensively in Scandinavia studying dance and participating in dance and music events including testing her skills and dancing in courses and competitions. She has been the American coordinator for several dance and music camps in Scandinavia.
Roo has published a number of lengthy descriptions of Norwegian dances including Telespringar, Hallingspringar, and Valdresspringar. In addition, she wrote a guide to Scandinavian Dance Basics, and has published several articles. Since the time she was in college, Roo has been a dance professional teaching Scandinavian, Hungarian, Spanish Basque, and international folk dance, culture, and crafts to people of all ages throughout the United States and Canada, including colleges and universities.
Among the venues where she has taught are Christmas Country Dance School in Berea, Kentucky; Buffalo Gap; Florida Folk Dance Camp; Folklore Camp in Mendocino, California; Folklore Village in Dodgeville, Wisconsin; Kentucky Dance Institute; Maine Dance Camp; Mainewoods Dance Camp; Ogelbay; Old World Music and Dance Events; Pinewoods; Scandia Camp Mendocino; Scandinavian Week; Texas International Folk Dance Camp; Hardanger Fiddle Association of America; and Stockton Folk Dance Camps.
Roo teaches many different kinds of Scandinavian dance but has focused especially on what she calls the turning dances of Norway and Sweden. Her teaching is infused with a great love of dancing and a desire to help others to love it too. Today she is recognized as one of the foremost exponents of Scandinavian dance in the United States.
Roo attended the founding meetings of the National Folk Organization in Utah and became active again a number of years ago. She served on the board of directors for a number of years and is currently involved with the NFO's membership and Heritage Award committees.
Roo is a director of Scandia Camp Mendocino, teaches the famous 'Scandinavian Dance Basics' class at Nordic Fiddles and Feet on the East Coast, and is a consultant for Scandinavian events at Folklore Village in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Roo teaches a weekly Scandinavian turning dance class in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago. Her hallmarks include her clear, positive teaching that incorporates background information, styling, and technique and her ability to present the basic concepts of dance to dancers of all levels in a fun and lighthearted manner.
Roo has resided in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois since 1988.
Dances Roo has taught include Allemansmarsh, Åtabakspolska från Föllinge, Baztan Dantza, Busserull, Cickom Csárdás, Föllinge Gammalpolska från Föllinge, Hallingspringar, Hambo, Hambopolska från Jättendal, Hegi, Hyfs, Jäans'n, Jämtpolska från Ramsele, Långdans från Sollerön, Maiana, Margot's Valsen, Mazurkavariant från Sandviken, Palóc Csárdás, Pariser Polka, Polka och Bakmes från Kall, Polkamasurka, Polska från Järvsö, Rugen, Rundslängarn, Schottis från Hammerdal, Sex Change Schottis, Skrea från Nor i Järvsö, Slängpolska från Enånger, Slängpolska från Färnebo, Slunga, Smygvals, Stabberinglender, Stegvals, Swedish-Norwegian Waltz, Torpespringdans, Tyska Polskan - Schottis från Viksta, Txakolin, Telespringar, Valdresspringar, Vi Skal Danse Labadu, and Vingelvals.