A History of the Gypsy Folk Ensemble (Page Two)
New school assembly programs and themes:
In the mid-1980s, Gypsy re-imagined its school assembly programs with the help of Wayne Cook from Performing Tree. The narrative was made more cogent and educational, a recap of important points in the assembly was added and, most importantly, audience participation became part of the presentation. Written materials for teachers and students were also prepared. The resultant assembly program was called "Dances From Around the World" and it presented dance vignettes from village life in Romania, the Middle East, and Greece. In the following years, a number of additional new programs for schools were created around various central themes.
In January of 1994, "Echoes of Polynesia" was debuted, using the company's recently acquired Polynesian dances. The narrative stressed the importance of the island environment in shaping the music, instruments and dance of the various cultures of Polynesia. The next year, in November 1995, the ensemble premiered the "Pictures From the Past" assembly program which highlighted the important contributions of some 19th century immigrant groups to American culture. A third new assembly program, "Roots of American Dance", was first performed at the Long Beach Museum of Art in September 1998 and reached schools in January 2000. This show traced the origins of several American folk dances back to their "roots" in Europe and elsewhere.
Requests from schools for a program appropriate to the December holiday season led to yet another program "Holidays With the Gypsy Folk Ensemble" in December of 1998. Here, the company portrays in dance four important Southern California holiday celebrations: Las Posadas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas. A few years later, once again requests from schools (and libraries) for a special presentation for the Cinco de Mayo holiday inspired Gypsy to initiate a new assembly program "Mexican Mosaic", exploring the various influences on Mexican dance and music, some European and some Native American. The program was first performed at schools in May 2002.
1994 - "Echoes of Polynesia" school assembly
"Pictures From the Past" - Audience participation
1998 - "Roots of American Dance"
Arts Community Partnership Network (ACPN):
The late 1990's were a boon period for school presentations for Gypsy. New programs were being added and school appearances averaged over 125 annually for the period 1996 to 2000. However, ICAP ceased operations in 2000 and Performing Tree followed a few years later. By 2003, deprived of two of its major sources for school funding, the ensemble's programs at schools had dropped to less than fifty, though the group still performed extensively at concerts, private parties, and retirement and nursing facilities.
In early 2004, the LAUSD's Arts Education Branch, under director Richard Burrows, invited proposals from local artists for a new project, the Arts Community Partnership Network (ACPN). This initiative was meant to enrich arts education in Los Angeles schools by enlisting the aid of the local arts community to share their expertise while presenting programs for Los Angeles schools. The Gypsy Folk Ensemble responded to the request and was admitted into the program as one of the charter members in late 2004. This gave the company a chance to offer a comprehensive program of dance education including assemblies, student instruction, and staff preparedness through Professional Development. Gypsy presented its first ACPN program in January 2005 and by June 2008 had brought its full arts program to more than 130 schools. Unfortunately, because of a California state budget crisis, funding for the ACPN was suspended in December 2008 and the project was never restarted.
Gypsy and Estonia:
Gypsy had already had an involvement with Estonian dance for several years when the company applied to perform at the Estonian Song and Dance Festival held in Tallinn, Estonia in 2009. Gypsy's history with Estonian dance and the Estonian community, including the group's two trips to the Estonian festival, are covered in detail in two separate feature articles The Road to Estonia 2009 and Time to Touch Estonia 2014.
Rehearsing dances at the Estonian Hall, Los Angeles
Arts Community Network (ACN):
The Arts Education Branch of the LAUSD inaugurated the Arts Community Network (ACN) in 2015 to provide arts education programs for underserved schools in the district, in part by bringing Arts Community Partners to serve in high-need schools. The Gypsy Folk Ensemble joined the project in 2016 and presented our first programs in February 2017. The company is continuing to provide arts education for the LAUSD through the ACN into the 2018-2019 school year.