Ethnic Dance Music in Northern Indiana: Fieldwork Report

Note: Click on highlighted dates to access recordings.

Orchestra Balkan

Nick Georgifski (accordion), Steve Lozanoski (accordion-vocals), Steve Poposki (electric guitar-vocals), Perry Sperich (electric bass-vocals) & Steve Serekus (drums)

Gary, Indiana

dance music [Macedonian]

March 1, 1987

Dance for 6th anniversary of SS. Peter & Paul Macedonian Orthodox Church Youth Organization

The Macedonian Youth Organization is for young people in the church up to the age of about thirty. They view the organization as preparing them for the leadership roles in the church that they will fill in the near future. The organization supports several athletic teams and a folk dance group. The dance group regularly attends dance competitions involving groups from other churches in their diocese. There will be a large affair with dance performances and social dancing over Labor Day when the Gary organization hosts a diocesan or national conference of the Macedonian Orthodox Church Youth Organization. The local organization also sponsors picnics in the summer, and performances by touring professional and amateur folklore ensembles from Yugoslavia and other Macedonian communities in North America.

The dance was held in the Macedonian Hall at St.St. Peter & Paul Orthodox Church at 51st and Virginian in Gary. Approximately two hundred people were in attendance representing all age groups. Tables and chairs were set up along the north and east walls of the hall, leaving a dance floor of about forty feet by fifty feet. The band, Orchestra Balkan" was set up on a stage at the south end of the hall. Members of the Youth Organization sold food and drinks at tables along the west wall. And also on the west side of the hall, adult women sold food from the kitchen, while men served drinks from the bar. Most men in attendance crowded into the barroom. Women who weren't dancing or working in the kitchen sat at the tables and talked in groups of women or of couples. Children played around the edges of the floor.

The dance started at 7:30, and for the first two or three hours, around forty people, mostly women, danced in a single line. A core group of about a dozen young women, were on the floor for almost the whole time. They stood around between dances, waiting for the next one to start. Older women got up from their seats, came out on the floor to dance, and then returned to their tables when the music stopped. One or two men, including one elderly man in particular, joined some of the dances. The men who danced always waited until the dance was well underway before they joined the line. Many dances were performed only by women.

By 10:00 or 10:30, only twenty or so young people had stayed around to dance. Now a few men danced regularly. Two slow horos were led by a small groups of young men. I was told that normally the men only started dancing at the end of the evening, after they had gotten loosened up at the bar, and then the dance could last well past midnight. But this evening, only about eight to ten young women were still dancing at 11:00. At 11:30 the band quit. As they were packing up, some of the hangers on shouted out requests. As I was leaving, the band got their instruments out and started to play again.

Balkanske Igre (Chicago) & Macedonian Youth Organization Dancers (Gary)

John Kuo (instructor), Ljupco Milenkovski (kaval-guida-accordion), John Parrish (bass drum) & unknown (vocals)

Pelister (Waukegan & Chicago)

Stojan Gurovski (clarinet), Joe Gurovski (accordion), Milan Zlatevski (lead vocals), Frank Spirovski (electric guitar) & Mike Georgievski (drums)

Gary, Indiana

speeches, dance music, dance performances [Macedonian]

April 19, 1987
    Easter Sunday celebration and performance at the Macedonian Hall of SS Peter & Paul Macedonian Orthodox Church

The Macedonian Hall was packed with close to four hundred people of all ages. About twenty rows of chairs were set up in the center of the hall facing the stage and, as before [see Orchestra Balkan], tables lined the east and north walls while a mob of men crowded into the barroom and the southwest corner of the hall. The atmosphere was charged with anticipation. Parents made sure their children had seats in the front rows. Several adults set up video cameras aimed at the stage. And from behind the stage curtain came the sounds of dancing feet, a drum, and the raspy notes of a kaval. But it was nearly an hour after the announced starting time that the organized festivities got under way.

The program started with speeches by a church leader, the priest, and a leader of the Macedonian Youth Organization. When the curtain finally parted to reveal the fifteen brightly clad members of Balkanske Igre, a performing folk dance troupe of young adults from Chicago, the audience responded loudly. But when the dance group of Macedonian Youth Organization followed Balkanske Igre on stage, the shrieks and yells reached a new high. There was a lot of pride and encouragement expressed at the less polished dancing of the local group composed mostly of high school age youth.

The two dance groups alternated numbers throughout the program. Interspersed among the dancing were performances by Balkanske Igre's musicians: Ljupco Milenkovski on kaval (a kind of reed flute), guida (a bagpipe) and accordion and John Parrish on bass drum. Each segment of the program was introduced by a female member of the Macedonian Youth Organization.

Following the hour-long program, the rows of chairs were cleared away and the band Pelister set up on stage. The social dancing lasted for three hours, until just after midnight. For the first part of the dance, the floor was packed with a hundred to 150 dancers in three or four lines. The dancers were jammed together shoulder to shoulder and movement was quite constricted. Still, people stayed on the floor for four types of dances repeated throughout the night: syrtos, horos, Serbian kolos, and a dance step executed in 9/8 meter. The same repertoire was performed at the Macedonian Youth Organization dance on 3/1/87. The one difference between the two events is that Pelister played many more Serbian kolos than Orchestra Balkan.

Jerry Kurdys’ Polka Party

Jerry Kurdys (drums-lead vocals), Tom Williams (clarinet) Gene Mikolajewski (trumpet-vocals), David Levendoski (concertina) & Ken Berzai (accordion-organ)

South Bend, Indiana

songs, dance music [Polish]

April 20, 1987

Dyngus Day celebration at Mike Berta’s Bar

Dyngus Day, the Monday after Easter, is a Polish calendar custom that has become a city-wide holiday in South Bend, Indiana. It’s a day for people–especially those with blue-color jobs–to skip work and spend the day drinking, eating, dancing, and celebrating. The other focus of Dyngus Day is political. Candidates come out on Dyngus Day to meet the people. With a mayoral primary two weeks away, Dyngus Day 1987 was a particularly important campaign opportunity for the two front runners in a field of five Democratic candidates: Richard Jasinski and Joe Kearney, whose names accurately reflect their ethnic identities. Mr. Jasinski had the support of the fifty to sixty people who crowded into Mike Berta’s Place on South Bend’s heavily Polish west side. Mr. Kearney also made an appearance at the party, but he was kept in the shadows (where the only person he could talk to was the fellow from IU-Bloomington who was tape recording the band). He had twenty more appearances to make that day, mostly on the west side; but ethnic solidarity notwithstanding, Mr. Kearney was the eventual winner of the primary election.

The celebration at Mike Berta’s Place began officially at 10:00 A.M. when Jerry Kurdys’ Polka Party took the stage, a small riser at the east end of the room. After a few numbers and several pauses to correct technical problems, the band went on the air with a live, remote broadcast on WAMJ (1580 AM), the radio station where Jerry Kurdys spins polka records for two hours early each weekday morning. The live broadcast was sponsored by State Farm Insurance and Richard Jasinki’s campaign committee. The music and paid ads, spoken by Jerry Kurdys and Gene Mikolajewski, lasted until noon with only one short break. Then Jerry cut loose with more polkas and a series of ribald, humorous songs that demanded audience participation. Several couples of various ages also got up to dance in the small open area by the entrance to the bar and on the sidewalk out through the open front door.

At 1:00 P.M. Jerry Kurdys’ Polka Party broke down their equipment to make room for the Brass Sunset. The Polka Tops with Jim Deka would take over at 6:00. The was hardly any room left in Mike Berta’s Place by noon, but I was told that more people would crowd in: “By 5:00 you won’t be able to see the band.” Jerry Kurdys’ group had two more places to play that day: the University [a club by that name, Notre Dame, or IU-South Bend?] and M.R. Falcon’s, “where it will be real big.”