World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Łowiczanie Polish Folk Dance Ensemble

GENRE: Folkloric
First Appearance in SF EDF: 1983

Łowiczanie Polish Folk Dance Ensemble was formed in 1975. The Artistic Director is Mary Kay Stuvland. The company creates authentic programs of Polish traditional music, song, and dance throughout the Bay Area and California, as well as in Oregon, Nevada and Washington. The Ensemble's mission is to explore, preserve, teach, and present Poland’s rich cultural heritage through concerts, festivals, workshops and classes for Polish and non-Polish audiences. Łowiczanie’s achievements were recognized by the Polish government in 1989 with the Oskar Kolberg Award for the exemplary service in preserving the cultural traditions of Poland for audiences outside the country’s boundaries. In 2000, Łowiczanie was awarded a special citation by the Polish government for promoting cultural activities.


GENRE: Folkloric
TITLE: Songs and Dances of the Żywiec Highlanders: Traditional Highlander Song; Koń; Siustany; Pasterze; Sarna; Hajduk
Mary Kay Stuvland
CHOREOGRAPHY: Piotr Lącki, Mary Kay Stuvland
MUSICAL SCORE (from the traditional)
: Susan Worland
Jen Bzura, Kasia Chaberska, Dominik Dąbrowiecki, Ryszard Drelich, Witold Dudziński, Jola Jankowska, Phillip Kosiara, Ola Kozak, Brennan Kreller, Adam Kodzis, Anna Paśnik-Szymańska, Aleksander Poppe, Krzysztof Mokszan, Natalia Mulawa, Krysia Smoleń, Mary Kay Stuvland, Basia Suroż, Elżbieta Zieńczuk
Carol Braves (violin), Barbara Deutsch (flute, piccolo), Nicolai Prisacar (accordion), David Mostardi (accordion), David Reyna (bass)

From Poland's high Beskid Mountains, sixteen dancers present Songs and Dances from the Region of Żywiec. The suite opens with a traditional a capella song about every girl’s hope for the perfect suitor. The next dances are: Koń—The Horse, where singers promise their horses food and rest if it carries their carriage quickly and safely towards their beloved; Siustany, a popular couples’ dance featuring a unique kicking step; Pasterze, a men’s acrobatic dance, where shepherds display their prowess; Sarna—Deer, where girls imitate deer and sing of dancing just as gracefully. The suite concludes with Hajduk, the quintessential fast-paced Żywiec dance, with hopping patterns, and a song of dancing until one’s shoes fall off.

Slavic clans have lived in the Beskid Mountains since the tenth century, and their mountain dance and music remains part of today’s Polish folk culture, a style clearly born of high and rugged landscapes. The men’s running and walking steps show the strength and stances needed to climb mountain paths, and their dance becomes an exhibit of mountaineering skills in high leaps, graceful and energetic rolls, squatting dances, and rapid and rhythmic push-ups. The simplest acrobatics bring to mind the shepherd boy testing his strength—jumping over his own foot, hooked cane, or hat.

A traditional Kapela folk band plays in Żywiec mountain style with fiddle, bass fiddle, and the thin reed pipes easily made by shepherds. At a highlander party, you might hear bagpipe or accordion, or perhaps only simple handclapping and singing.

The dancers' decorated wool pants and leather kierpce shoes are from home-based Polish shoemakers and seamstresses for everyday mountain wear. This Żywiec suite is an expanded choreography by Mary Kay Stuvland, created in 2012, based on a 2004 version by Piotr Lącki.


LowiczanieTITLE: Songs & Dances from the Biale Podlasie
CHOREOGRAPHER: Mary Kay Stuvland
Jen Bzura, Geoffrey Cant, Alexander Dabrowiecki, Dominik Dabrowiecki, Ryszard Drelich, Witold Dudzinski, Ania Gudelewicz, Alexander Hadas, Julia Kite, Adam Kodzis, Phillip Kosiara, Brennan Kreller, Karen Oakley, Aleksander Poppe, Kasia Rostkowski, Joasia Smolen, Krysia Smolen, Basia Suroz, Gosia Suroz, Mary Kay Stuvland, Gosia Wojciechowska, Natalia Zelazna, Elzbieta Zienczuk
Carol Braves (violin), Barbara Deutsch (clarinet), Nikolai Prisikar (accordion), David Reyna (bass)

Biale Podlasie, a culturally diverse region in central eastern Poland, has suffered
changing borders, pogroms, and holocausts. For centuries it has been home to Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Roma, and Jewish communities, with many dance and music forms shared across cultures. Songs & Dances from the Biale Podlasie exhibits the pathos, poetry, and confident sensuality of Podlasie villagers. The suite includes: Sobotka, an ancient solstice rite involving young women, flower wreaths, and love; Krzyzak, a walking and greeting dance; Jest, Drozyna, Jest, a man’s plea for faithfulness before he braves a proposal; and Skocz, Koniu!, with the suggestive lyrics: Jump, horse, into the wheat! Jump, horse, into the rye! Yesterday she was a young maiden, and today she’s a woman.

It continues with: Korobeczka to Eastern-style music; Oberek, a variation on a national dance, with dazzling traditional spins and twentieth century aerials; Tupacz, a “jiggling polka” performed with bending knees and foot-to-foot pivots; and Jeziora, the “little waltz”, with lyrics mourning an impossible love: I, a poor girl, am simple and poorly dressed, so I do not ask you, Jasienko, to be my husband.

Finally, the group performs Ojra, a smooth-gliding polka, the dancers’ arms shaping “the window”; and the galopa polka, where dancers travel like the wind.

This authentic presentation shows style of the regional floating and raised arms, and a dance style that is flat, level, and low—with no jumps in the air between “sits”. Men wear authentic handspun Polish-cut clothing. The women’s one-of a-kind costumes are costly works of art: the master craft of woven embroidery is disappearing in Poland. Musicians play regional instruments and most songs are in Podlasie’s favored minor keys.

Mary Kay Stuvland created the suite in 2010; consultant was Polish master choreographer Emma Cieslinska.


TITLE OF PIECE: Sarna (Deer), Siustany, Pasterski, Hajduk
GENRE: Beskid Mountain dance from the Zywiec Highlands
DANCERS: Jolanta Budynek, Jen Bzura, Alex Dabrowiecki, Dominik Dabrowiecki, Ryszard Drelich, Witold Dudzinski, Piotrek Filiposki, Lukasz Fuller, Alexander Hadas, Magdalena Koszalka, Piotr Lacki, Bogusia Libera, Michelle Maciel, Eva Miekus, Danusia Muchlinska, Jerzy Olszewski, Krysia Smolen, Joasia Smolen, Adam Sternak, Mary Kay Stuvland, Basia Suroz
MUSICIANS: Danny Cantrell (Accordion), Barbara Deutsch (Flute &Clarinet), David Reyna (Bass), Susan Worland (Violin)

Lowiczanie Polish Folk Ensemble presents a suite of songs and dances from the Zywiec highlanders, beginning with a song to call everyone out to dance. The women then perform the Sarna, or “Deer Dance,” mimicking the long graceful leaps and prances of a deer while singing of their wishes to be as graceful as a deer. The well-known couples dance called Siustany illustrates the mountain styling of a still upper body with grounded footwork. Men then perform Paszterski, showing off their game-like stunts. The suite concludes with the energetic Hajduk and Obertka dances, full of show-off steps and raucous fun. The song translates as, “We will dance until our shoes are in pieces, and then still continue!”

Back to top