Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.
Interview with Sunni Bloland
By Esther Mosse Mann
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
Frances L. "Sunni" Bloland's focus as a teacher has always been to know her students and recognize their worth. She empathizes with the obstacles that block their fullest development: uncertainty, shyness, frustration, confusion, and the stress of competition. Along with her training as a dancer, Sunni has brought to folk dancing her enthusiasm for dance and music, a commitment to humor, and a belief in the power of dance to transform students into happier, more confident, more cultivated, more alive and sensitive people. Sunni has taught at major camps in the United States, including Holiday Camp, Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference, and Stockton Folk Dance Camp in California.
I was introduced to Sunni Bloland at a dance festival. Because I had not begun to dance until late 2001, however, I really didn't know much about her. It was quite obvious to me that this pleasant, smiling lady is someone who is respected and revered by dancers. All the teachers and other people around made sure to stop and speak with her. Then I was asked to interview and writ about her. So, my quest began to find out "who is Sunni Bloland?"
The first thing I did was ask some of my friends about her and was told that she was a very fine teacher of Romanian dance and a vivacious lady, full of personality, and no shrinking violet. When I got home, I went to my computer and googled "Sunni Bloland." Wow, was I impressed.
I found out that Sunni had been teaching at U.C. Berkeley for over thirty years. She received the U.C. Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award in 1990. In 1998, Sunni received the California Dance Educators Association Heritage Award for life service and dedication to dance. She has taught at majors folk dance camps including Mendocino and Stockton Folk Dance Camp. Sunni was past president of the California Dance Educators Association.
We were told by a couple who attended her workshop in Hawaii that they brought a book she wrote with Anca Giurchescu titled "Romanian Traditional Dance: A Contextual and Structural Approach." She also wrote "Evaluation Device in Dance" and an article on International Council of Traditional Music. Then I interview her. We spent a very pleasant afternoon and I found her delightful.
I truly am sorry that I was not around to dance with her. Although I have missed dancing with this splendid lady, I am grateful for the opportunity to have met with her and enjoy her company.
WHAT IS HER DESCENT?
Sunni is not of Romanian descent as I had thought. She was born Frances Alexandria Lober in New York City. Her father was English and her mother was Ukrainian (she was born in Kiev).
HOW DID SHE GET THE NICKNAME "SUNNI"?
The nickname "Sunni" was given to her at Girl Scout Camp Laughing Water in Bear Mountain, New York. She was a swimming counselor named for the sunfish that swam in the lake.
HOW ABOUT HER FAMILY?
Her family was very active For example, her brother, Jud, was awarded a scholarship to Tulane University for his tennis which was also her father's passion. Her father was her first dance partner. He used to put her on his feet and dance around the room with her.
DID SUNNI PLAY SPORTS?
Sunni loved sports and was an avid figure skater. One of her precious memories was receiving a pair of white buckskin skates so she could skate ala Sonja Heine.
WHERE DID SUNNI TEACH?
Sunni studied dance at Sargent College of Boston University where she received a B.S. in 1948. When Sunni attended her class reunion, over 40% of her class was still there and thy are still close. Among other places, Sunni taught at Teacher College of Connecticut and also at a private girls' school, Bennet Jr. College. Then she attended the University of Wisconsin where she studied modern dance under Margaret H'Doubler and met her future husband, Harley Bloland. Harley and Sunni were married in 1951. In 1955, they moved to Berkeley, California where Harley attended graduate school. Sunni taught physical education ate Mission High School in San Francisco, Piedmont High School. and San Francisco State College.
In 1960, Sunni joined the staff of the Physical Education Department at the University of California, Berkeley, where she taught modern dance and folk dance. She taught dance theory, history of dance, and rhythmic analysis. She also taught the Iyengar method of Yoga. She used to dance in Marin at the home of Anna Helprin who developed the Tamalpia Institute in Mill Valley. Sunni was instrumental in bringing the Kolo Festival to Hearst Gym at the University.
WHAT AWARDS HAS SUNNI RECEIVED?
In 1967, Sunni was awarded a Fulbright grant to study Romanian folk dance and went to Romania where she met Anca Giurchescu. She visited villages and filmed their dances.
FOR WHAT IS SUNNI KNOWN?
Sunni is known as a specialist of Romanian dance. Sunni brought to her students her enthusiasm for dance and music, her humor, and a belief in the power of dance to transform students into happier, more confident, more cultivated, more alive, and sensitive people.
WHAT HAS SUNNI SAID ABOUT HER CLASSES?
Sunni said, "My classes are not required. Therefore, students enroll in them as electives. In the sixties and seventies, they came to study international folk dance. As an interpreter of various folk dance styles from the Balkans, Central and Western Europe, and American Ballroom, I talked about the historical and cultural context in which dance developed to help students connect to each other and to their own cultural roots.
Used with permission of the author.