35th Anniversary of the Southwest Center of Polish Dancing (SWCPD)

Southwest Center of Polish Dancing of the PRCUA cordially invites you for its 35th Anniversary Concert. The event will be held on Sunday, March 22, 2020 at the Mother McAuley Theatre, 3737 W.99th St., Chicago, IL. On the stage 150 dancers including the Wesoły Lud of PRCUA.

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The history of the Southwest Center of Polish Dancing (SWCPSD) of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America begins in 1985 with the merger of three existing PRCUA Dance Schools:

· PRCUA Five Holy Martyrs Youth Dancers was organized and opened on October 20, 1956.  At that time, Stella Wisniewski was PRCUA Vice President, Helen Tadda was District 8 Director, Apolonia Owczarek was School Director and Emily Mucha was Dance Instructor.  In 1966, Virginia Sergeant became School Director and continued for 16 years until she became District 8 Director, followed by Barbara Frankowicz and Barbara Sergeant (Rustik).  Dance Instructors included: Veronica Mazur, Ricky and Lorrie Wisniewski, and Nancy Latuszek-Golemo assisted by Veronica Brzezniak (Crouchelli).

· PRCUA Chopin Dancers, which was organized in 1974 by Martha Kwiatt at St. Turibius parish. At that time, Stella Nowak was PRCUA Vice President and Regina Ocwieja was District 8 Director.  Mrs. Kwiatt was School Director until she became District 8 Director. She was succeeded by Phyllis Wasacz, Jackie Pawlowski, Janice Judeh and resumed her position at the time of the merger.  Dance Instructors included: Zena Kaminski, Gertrude Weber, Misia Jaminski, Jeanine Binkowski (Leonhard), Janice Rejman (Adam) and Nancy Latuszek-Golemo who was assisted by Veronica Brzezniak (Crouchelli) and Peter Hinch.

· PRCUA Pani Nowak Polish Dancing School, which was organized in 1974 by Jane Peckwas at St. Daniel the Prophet Parish.  Claudia Kondersack was the first School Director.  Two years later, Patricia Lochen became the School Director and continued until the merger.  Dance Instructors included Ola Siemaszko, Jeanine Binkowski (Leonhard), Janice Rejman (Adam) and Misia Jaminski (who changed the name of the school to “Mlody Lud Dancers”) assisted by Barbara Wargacki (Skrzypiec).  Conversational Polish classes were conducted by Jean Binkowski for a time.

In the Spring of 1985, the Women’s Department of the PRCUA, under the guidance and leadership of Vice President, Regina Ocwieja, sponsored the “PRCUA Youth Gala”.  Misia Jaminski was the Program Coordinator.  In preparation for this concert, Pani Misia traveled to Poland.  It was in Lublin, Poland, that inspired by the Polish Folk Dance and Song Ensemble “Land of Lublin”, she came upon the idea to unify the children dancing schools from the south side of Chicago under one roof.  A very popular Polish Folk Dance Choreographer, Ignacy Wachowiak, was the Artistic Director of the “Land of Lublin” group, which consisted of 600 dancers – children and adults.  Pani Misia introduced the concept to Mrs. Ocwieja whose support was matched by the cooperation of then District 8 Director, Virginia Sergeant, and the School Directors of FHM Youth Dancers, Chopin Dancers and Mlody Lud Dancers.  In the summer of 1985, the idea was put to the test for one year.  All the schools pooled together their assets – namely, costumes and funds.  His Excellency, the Most Reverend Bishop Alfred L. Abramowicz, permitted SWCPSD to use the facilities at Five Holy Martyrs Parish.  Mrs. Frankowicz and Mrs. Lochen became the School Directors of SWCPSD with support from Mrs. Kwiatt and Ms. Sergeant (Rustik). Pani Misia became the Artistic Director and Choreographer.  Nancy Golemo continued as Dance Instructor.  Peter Hinch was the Singing as well as Dance Instructor.  Assisting them were Barbara Wargacki (Skrzypiec), Gregory Skrzypiec, Veronica Brzezniak (Crouchelli), Elizabeth Wargacki (Cislo) and Geniene Lochen (Uram).  SWCPSD passed the test of the first year with a two-hour concert entitled “Na Wesolo, Na Ludowo” held on April 27, 1986 at Morton East High School in Cicero.

And that’s how the Southwest Center of Polish Dancing of PRCUA began.  Each group of children – KrasnoLUDki (preschoolers), LUDziki, Maly LUDek, Mlody LUDek, LUDki, LUDkowie, Wesole LUDki, Wesoly LUDek – learn ballet and dance basics, singing and Polish folk dances. The training received at SWCPSD has qualified many dancers to join the international ambassadors of PRCUA, the “WESOLY LUD” Polish Folk Dance Company, and in some cases, become Dance Instructors and certified Choreographers.

The artistic direction at SWCPSD prides itself on its carried program which, through the years, included dance and song suites from many regions in Poland including Beskid, Cieszyn, Eastern Krakow, Kaszuby, Kielce, Krakow, Leczyce, Lowicz, Lublin, Nowy Sacz, Orawa, Podlasie, Przeworsk, Pszczyna, Rzeszow, Upper Silesia, Warmia, Wielkopolska, Zywiec City, and Zywiec Mountain; as well as the National dances—Polonaise, Mazur, Kujawiak, Oberek and Krakowiak; Polish traditions such as “Gaik i Kogucik”, “Szopka Krakowska”, etc.; in addition to more contemporary selections such as “Polka Jazzowa”; the Chicago Polka, Square Dance (the national dance of the USA), the Charleston Polka, etc.

The success of SWCPSD is largely due to the people who are devoted to it, especially the current (2019-2020) staff:

Anna Kraszewski-Winkler, Manager/School Director (since 2011)

Misia Jaminski,  Founder/past Artistic Director/Choreographer

Richard Jaminski, Artistic Director/Choreographer/Musician/Recording Engineer

Danielle Lech-Kroplewski, Dance Instructor

Camilla Steczek, Dance Instructor

Michael Dziadkowiec, Choreographer/Dance Instructor

Sylvia Kupiec, Dance Instructor

Weronika Niedzielski, Dance Instructor

Ania Cieplucha, Assistant Dance Instructor

Izabella Pikul, Assistant Dance Instructor

Mitch Gajda, volunteer Assistant Dance Instructor

Dominika Gornikowski, volunteer Assistant Dance Instructor

Arthur Rykala, volunteer Assistant Dance Instructor

Andrew Handzel, volunteer Assistant Dance Instructor

Throughout the past thirty-five years, there have been many others who shared their administrative or artistic talents with the children of SWCPSD.  Other than those previously mentioned, they include:  School Directors: Patricia Lochen (1985-1999), Krystyna Lech (1999-2011), Barbara Frankowicz, Elzbieta Brzezniak, Janina Wargacki and Maria Wandas;

Stage Director: Monica Pazdziora (Reiser);

Administrative Assistants: Jadzia Rafalo, Barbara Krynski, Alice Czepiel, and Jolanta Stanek;

Instructors: Nancy Latuszek-Golemo, Peter Hinch, Basia Rozwadowski (Eckert), Jadzia Koszalka, Alina Bencik (Pearson), Nicole Bencik (Turkiewicz), Renee Bober (Kroplewski), Robert Kroplewski, Jola Lech, Monica Pazdziora, Elizabeth Sliwa (Tomala), Virginia Gavaghan (Stekala), Kalina Dziadkowiec,(Gorczyca), Andrew Lech, Anna Kraszewski (Winkler), Aleksa Herdzik (Haun). 

Dance Assistants: Angelika Bugajski, Danielle Crouchelli, Krysia Frankowicz (Burd), Bart Guziak, Ted Konopacki, Dorothy Krynski (Fabbi), Nathalie Pietura (Skowyra), Elizabeth Poznanski, Ricky Skowyra, Gabriela Szewczyk, Basia Wilk, Kasia Avila, Megan Richardson, Evelina Pabijanski, Kasia Bialas, Stephanie Anhalt, Sylvia Kupiec and Kacper Kaczmarczyk,

Vocal Instructor: Witold Socha (September 2008-May 2009).  Annette Zurawski-Nowakowski (2010-2015)

SWCPSD annually presents Christmas Programs and Spring Recitals where the dancers show the fruits of their labor to their parents and guests.  In addition to these performances, SWCPSD participated in the 1989 PRCUA Gala of Polish Traditions, performed at the Museum of Science and Industry, Polish Museum of America, and on television programs such as the Bob Lewandowski Show.  SWCPSD performed for many government officials including the Mayor of Chicago and the Governor of State of Illinois.   SWCPSD participated in Polish Folk Dance Festivals in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan as well as the International Festival in Kansas City, Kansas.  It received an award for professionalism from the Polish Highlanders Association at its Polish School Competition for its rendition of the “Krakowska Szopka”.  Wesoly Ludek made its international debut at the V International Festival of Children’s Polish Folk Dance Ensembles in Iwonicz Zdroj and performing also in Dabrowa Tarnowska in 2003; participated at the VI (2006), VII (2009), IX (2015), and X (2018) Children’s Festival in Iwonicz Zdroj, as well as performing in cities throughout Poland such as, Rzeszow, Krosno, Chorkowka, Polanczyk, Rymanow Zdroj, Konskie, and Wielopole, joined by Wesole Ludki in 2009.  For 27 years, SWCPSD held its classes on Saturdays at Five Holy Martyrs Parish in Chicago.  In September of 2000, a second branch was organized at St. Albert the Great Parish in Burbank, IL later relocated in September of 2003 to St. Joseph Parish in Summit, Illinois; in 2008-2009 to the Willow Springs School, Willow Springs, IL; and in 2009, returned to St. Albert the Great Parish in Burbank until 2014. In 2012, SWCPSD consolidated the Thursday and Saturday classes to Thursdays only at St. Albert the Great, acknowledging the support of Five Holy Martyrs Parish for so many years.  Since 2015, SWCPSD’s classes are held at Our Lady of the Woods Parish in Orland Park, Il.   In 2018, SWCPSD updated its name to Southwest Center of Polish Song and Dance, and, as a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, gratefully acknowledges the sustaining contributions of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America.  On March 22, 2020, the school will be celebrating its 35th Anniversary!

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