Holiday Folk Fair Turkish Folk Dance Group Embodies True Spirit of Cultural Understanding
Perhaps no single group embodies the Holiday Folk Fair’s promotion of understanding diverse cultures than the Turkish American dance group from Milwaukee’s Hamilton High School. “Not one member of the group is of Turkish heritage,” said Curt Winterfeldt, the group’s long-time choreographer and music teacher. “The group is almost equally divided between Asians, African Americans, Caucasians, and Hispanics. We are the most diverse group in the (Hamilton High) building.”
The students in the group are all high achievers in honors classes or in Advanced Placement classes and many also participate in tennis, volleyball, soccer, drama club, and more. “They are a very energetic group and are all very committed to the dance group,” he said. “But they enjoy it and that’s why they are in it.”
This year’s Holiday Folk Fair International, produced by the International Institute of Wisconsin, will be held Friday, Nov. 18 - Sunday, Nov. 20, in the Wisconsin Exposition Center at Wisconsin State Fair Park.
Winterfeldt has been rehearsing the group intensively since school began this fall for the Folk Fair, but they are not just a once-a-year performing troop. They have performed at most of the summer lakefront festivals as well as some other venues. “They are getting quite a bit of experience on grass and concrete as well as the stage,” Winterfeldt said.
At Folk Fair, they will perform a set of dances from Bitlis, a province in the eastern region of Turkey, known for folk dancing call halay. Typically, halay dancers form circles and lines, while staying connected in a hand-hold. The dances can be performed by males or females, either together or separately. They will be costumed appropriate to the region. Winterfeldt is a stickler for authenticity and purchases the costumes during his thrice-annual visits to the country. “Everything is hand-made and is shipped to me from Istanbul. Even the footwear comes from Turkey,” he said.
The dance group also has its eyes set on a competition, The Turkish Olympiad, to be held in Cleveland in March 2012. “If we are fortunate to take first place in Cleveland, then we will win a trip to Istanbul,” Winterfeldt said.
Winterfeldt also choreographs the adult group of dancers, which has about 10 members. Like the youth group, the adults do six or seven performances over the three-day event. “The adult group will be performing dances from the Black Sea and from Eastern Turkey. The Black Sea dances, called duz and horon, involve a lot of shaking and moving, reflecting the small wriggly fish of the Black Sea, the hamsi,” Winterfeldt explained. “The Eastern Turkey dance is called ‘Serker Oglan,’ which translates to sugar boy.”
Produced by the International Institute of Wisconsin, Holiday Folk Fair International celebrates the cultural heritage of the people living in southeastern Wisconsin. This year’s theme, “Celebrate Cultures Without Borders,” will allow Fair-goers the opportunity to explore the ways in which music, food, dance, and art enhance racial, cultural, and ethnic cooperation.
The three-day event features the All Nations Theater with traditional music and dance, the World Cafe offering traditional dishes, the International Stage where young people perform their ethnic dances, the Music Pavilion with a variety of musical styles, Heritage Lane with unique traditions and customs through interactive exhibits, the International Bazaar where cultural artifacts create a unique shopping experience, and the Callen Construction Cooking Demonstration Stage featuring local chefs preparing traditional cuisine. Holiday Folk Fair International will also host a United States Citizenship Naturalization Ceremony on Sat., Nov. 19, at 10:30 a.m. and a 5K Run/Walk on Sun., Nov. 20 at 9:00 a.m.
Hours on Fri., Nov. 18 are 2 p.m. – 10 p.m.; 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 19; and 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Sun., Nov. 20. Advance tickets will be sold for $10 each, with family four-packs for $36, and can be purchased on-line at www.folkfair.org.
Admission at the gate will be $12 for adults; $10 for children ages 6 to 12 and those 62 and over; children under the age of five will be admitted at no charge. All military personnel with a military ID card will be admitted free.
For more information on the 2011 Holiday Folk Fair International, visit www.folkfair.org or call the International Institute of Wisconsin at 414-225-6220.
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