Let’s Dance Magazine - Editor’s Dance Bio

May 18th, 2008

Your editor –
More than you ever wanted to know
By Gary Anderson(This is the bulk of a bio I wrote for a project that the Albany Y Balkan Dancers is doing. It was suggested that I publish it in the magazine.)

I was born on a farm in North Central Kansas. No electricity, no telephone. Water by Armstrong (hand operated pump). The first memory of organized dancing I have was from the age of four or five. I remember riding with dad to pickup musicians for a dance at our place. I was too young to think of such things, but it must have been romantic, dancing by lamp light to live music. There was always music in our house. My mother was a classical pianist and from the first I loved to listen while she practiced. But she was no snob, she loved the pop tunes also and would play them when the mood hit her. My parents were an important part of my intro to dance. We were living in Marin County, Ca, when they became involved in square dance classes. It being before the popularity of television and the people who invented video games not having been born yet, there was nothing much to do, so I went to the classes with them. They did other dances between square dance sets: waltzes, two-steps, schottisches, mixers and, for my folks, the hambo. My mother taught me the hambo and I have loved it ever since. I was in grade school at this time.

The first time I heard other folk dance music was as a freshman in high school. On rainy day sessions the school gym was separated into two parts by a folding wall, the girl’s class on one side and the boy’s class doing gymnastics, calisthenics, etc. on the other. One day I heard this great music coming from the girl’s side and wondered what it was. They were doing folk dancing! Well, when they formed a folk dance club, I rushed to join. They must have had hopes of getting a bunch of jocks, but all who showed up were 14 girls and one skinny freshman! The club didn’t last long.

Song Chang had folk dance classes at the College of Marin and whenever I could get transportation, I would go. That is where I learned the Hopak, still one of my favorite dances. This was a time of growing dance opportunities, with groups and classes popping up everywhere. By the time I finally had my own wheels, (high school senior) one could dance every day of the week, having to choose between folk or square sometimes. The dancers built an outdoor platform at the Marin Art and Garden Center and we danced Sunday afternoons in the summer. It was a great time for dancing.

My folk’s square dance class had formed into a club and my parents ran it. Dad provided the equipment and from early on I helped to set-up things. There was a lot of curiosity about dancing and we would often be asked to put on dances in people’s homes. A number of clubs were formed out of these demonstration dances. It was for one of these dances that a friend of my folks’ asked me to take a niece who was visiting from Minnesota. It was Marie, to be my wife of nearly 40 years.

I had stopped folk dancing in 1953 and Marie and I stopped square dancing in the early 60s. I was working nights and could no longer attend the classes. Square dancing was changing so much by then that you had to take regular classes to keep up. Marie and I did continue to dance, but not folk or square. We would throw parties in our rec room a few times a year and eat, dance, play cards or sit in the hot tub.

Marie died in 1995 and after a year and a half, feeling the need of exercise and seeing people, I returned to square dancing. A gentlemen at the class commented on the fact that I seemed to be familiar with the steps and for some reason I replied that I used to folk and square dance. He perked up and said “folk dance?” It turned out that he was a member of the Balkan Dancers of Marin and I ended up going to see what it was all about—they didn’t do any dances I remembered, but there was Irene Croft, teaching and leading the group, and I stayed. My first folk dance group after all those years was an advanced group. I spent a lot of time behind the line! Irene and I married in 1998.

We are all influenced by particular things in our choice of dances and what we like to dance. I was awakened to a whole new world (to me) when Irene and I started going to the Menlo Park Folkdancer’s parties with Marcel Vinokur. (Irene had been going for years and had taken Marcel’s advanced class.) The Balkan Dancers of Marin do many of the classic advanced dances, but at Marcel’s I was exposed to dances such as Čestoto, Elhovsko, Kamenopolsko and many others, dances we didn’t do anywhere else. It was the desire to better learn these dances that led me to start the Advanced Balkan Class at Askhenaz.

Interests: Currently I am a member of the Albany Y Balkan Dancers, the Balkan Dancers of Marin, the Berkeley Folk Dancers and the Advanced Balkan class at Ashkenaz. I am the editor of Let’s Dance magazine, a member of the board of directors of the Folk Dance Federation and of the Folk Dance Promotion Fund committee. My interests are wide and varied. I love to hike the streams of the Sierra with a fly rod or lure caster, camping and travel to interesting places and going to dance camps when they have interesting teachers. I have spent hours at a time in the darkroom making prints, taking photos, target shooting, reading history (and mysteries, current passion) and collecting music. I have over 1000 folk dance LPs. I have archived, on quality tape, around 7000 folk dances (many duplicates). I have good sound equipment and enjoy using it for people’s parties. (It’s what we use for our extremely successful Balkan Dancers of Marin yearly parties.)

I love folk dancing and the people I meet dancing are some the greatest people I know. Some nights it is as interesting talking to people as it is dancing.

I have been involved in putting on dances of one type or another for over 50 years, whether classes of my own, for the church, for the school, for our club or otherwise, it still gives me a charge. It gives me a real high to see people having fun—that’s what it’s all about!

First Post

May 6th, 2008

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