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Out & About in Cleveland

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Csardas Dance Company at Hungarian Museum; Fundraiser for Turkish Cultural Garden;

 Our day on Saturday began a little later than usual (no morning event) but we did go to the Hungarian IMG_9935Museum in the Galleria around 2pm to attend a program about the wonderful Csardas Dance Company which as its literative states, "strives to promote and further ethnic dance as an art form as it embodies the infectious exuberance celebrated in Hungarian villages."

Soon after we arrived we connected with Mr. Rashe'd Whatley who loves to go to cultural events in Cleveland. We have seen each other at various places before including the annual Culture Shock festival at Tri-C. He owns a copy of Ms. Margaret W. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way" and we look forward to seeing him again soon. We were also recognized and welcomed by Ms. Judy Horvath, the wife of Mr. Mike Horvath from the IMG_9934Hungarian Scouts, an accomplished dancer in her own right who helped start the Company in Cleveland back in 1994 with her brother, Mr. Richard Graber, who is now the director of grants, programs, and IMG_9942services at the Houston Arts Alliance.

On this day, Mr. Graber talked about his experiences in founding the Company and the roles that quite several other people (such as managing director Ms. Toni Gras who was also present) have played in its artistic success over the years. He shared with us such stories as how the costumes didn't arrive until just before an important performance and they wouldn't have arrived at all if the craftspeople hadn't worked overtime hours to get them ready.

 He remembered with great affection how rewarding it was to give "informances" to young students where, in addition to the dancing, he would talk to them about Hungary and its culture and traditions. Before the Company visitedIMG_9963 their school, Mr. Graber recalled that most of the young people didn't even know where Hungary was when he asked them although some believed it was somewhere in Africa.

 In course of his presentation, Mr. Graber emphasized how difficult it is to operate in the non-profitworld where the scramble for the necessary funding is very intense. Plus relatively few people realize the sizable expenses involved in properly maintaining such an enterprise as the Csardas Dance Company. We learned that even though its operations are being suspended at this time, Mr. Graber has "no regrets" and after hearing his presentation, we believe that it was miraculous that the Company remained active for as long as it did.

 The program ended with the performance of three stunning dance numbers by members of the IMG_9961Company, several of whom will perform now with other ethnic dance groups.

 Afterwards, we talked to Mr. Graber for a moment and told him that we once worked for former U.S. Congressman Dennis K. Kucinich and recalled a day in the Fall of 2009 when representatives from the Company visited our office and we presented them with a Congressional Record as a tribute for the Company's accomplishments. Not only did Mr. Graber remember this, he even included a copy of the honor in his book about the Company; a copy of which all guests received along with a special t-shirt and a lovely poster.

Later that night, we reviewed the Congressional Record (written in first person reflecting the beliefs and attitudes of Congressman Kucinich) which read in part, "Mr. Speaker and colleagues, please join me in honoring the Csardas Dance Company, for enlightening, entertaining, and engaging audiences with song and dance, reflecting a certain vibrancy in movement and music-by bringing to life the age-old stories of village life in Hungary. The Csardas Dance Company is an arts treasure in Cleveland...serving as an audiovisual record of our heritage and our history and connecting us all through the universal language of dance and song."

 After, we left the Hungarian Museum to drive to Brecksville for a fundraiser for the planned and soon to be a reality Turkish Cultural Garden at the home of Mr. Mehmet and Ms. Christine Gencer. The house was packed with people, many of whom we had seen the previous night at the Centennial Gala for the Cleveland Cultural Gardens including Ms. Sheila Crawford, the president of its federation.IMG_9964

 The groundbreaking for Phase One will hopefully be in May, 2016 and Ms. Crawford said that it was great to have this happen at the start of the centennial (the initial garden, the Shakespeare-now English Garden-was established in April, 1916) and Mr. Gencer thanked Ms. Crawford for "adopting" them into "the family."

We were very pleased to get to meet Mr. Cengiz Karpa k and Mr. Bulent Bilgin respectively the designer and engineer guiding the progress of the Turkish Garden.

 The food was absolutely excellent with plenty of vegetarian options for us and we enjoyed eating with our good friend, Ms. Mari Galindo-DaSilva.IMG_9969

 IMG_9980We also met, for the first time, Ms. Guliz Elliott who grew up in the same small area of Turkey as Mr. Gencer did. Family members knew each other but she and Mr. Gencer didn't actually meet until around 1986 after they had both immigrated to the United States and now, of course, they are very good friends.

On Sunday, April 10th, our only event was the annual Super Button Box Bash hosted by the Polka Hall of Fame, the children of the Slovenian Junior Chorus, Circle No. 2, SNPJ, and the Slovenian Society Home on Recher Avenue in Euclid where the event was located.

 Outside, we talked to Mr. Michael Gronick (who we know from the East Side Irish American Club) who told us that this yearly get-together is for the Slovenians what St. Patrick's Day is for the Irish.

IMG_9993Inside about 10-12 polka bands played IMG_9997on either the upstairs or the downstairs stages but what we liked the most was the ongoing jam session next to the upstairs bar where musicians playing horns, guitars,and accordians amazingly complemented each other; throughout the day the players came and went but the music kept on.

Ms. Kathleen Trebets, formerly the president of the Polka Hall of Fame and the principal organizer of this event, told us that this all started years ago because the members of the Slovenian Junior Chorus conceived of it as a way of raising money for travel expenses. Over the years the tradition has continued and now draws peopleIMG_9985 and performers to Cleveland from all parts of Ohio, Michigan,Pennsylvania and Canada.

Ms. Trebets, herself, has always wanted to be a part of this since she was a child and loves working on the jamboree because it contributes to the celebration and preservation of her Slovenian heritage.

 This viewpoint was echoed by Ms. Cheryl Pittard, another lifetime member of the Polka Hall of Fame, who told us that, "I could polka before I could walk!"

By:

Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.

Newsimwong