Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.
By Dick Oakes
THIS IS HISTORICAL INFORMATION ONLY
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Polskie Iskry (initially Orange County Folk Dance Workshop, Gwiazdy [star], then Polski Iskry, and Polski Iskrie, and finally Polskie Iskry), was active in the Orange County area of Southern California from 1967 until 1996. The group was founded by Eugene "Gene" Ciejka, a Polish-American from New Jersey who moved to California in 1960. Polskie Iskry means "Polish Sparks," and honored Gene's maternal grandmother, whose last name was Bosinska-iskra, and who introduced him to dancing when he was a small child in New Jersey.
He began teaching children at the Dom Polski (on 1342 West 3rd St.) in Los Angeles. These classes were presented under the aegis of the Polish Women Alliance (ZPA). The children's group did not have an "official" name. They initially had just one costume for the Krakowiak and their repertoire was small. These classes ended in 1966 when the ZPA sold the Dom Polski, at which time Gene moved to the Orange County area.
In 1965 and 1966, Gene taught at the Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference in Santa Barbara.
In 1983 the group performed at the Viva Ventura concert organized by the Tchaika Folk Dance Club and co-sponsored by the Folk Dance Federation of California and Ventura College.
In 1986, Gene's list of performance items included 60 dances which grew to 66 dances in 1996. Many of these dances were variants of the same type set to different music, e.g., various krakowiaks, obereks, or polkas.
In 1985 the group danced during a Country Fair in Westminster. This performance took place outdoors. In California weather such performances were rather exhausting for the dancers: Polish costumes - made of many layers and thick wool fabric - did not adapt themselves easily to heavy use under the scorching sun. This was one of the reasons the group discontinued its appearances at Polish community events where all the dances took place on a stage outdoors.
In 1993, 1994, and 1995, Gene taught three times in Taiwan where they wanted to start a Polish dance group.
Gene passed on in 2007.