More About The Ensemble
The New York Times
Dance: From Yugoslavia
NEW YORK CITY -- The George Tomov Yugoslav Folkdance Ensemble, which appeared at the Theater of the Riverside Church on Wednesday, has a great deal going for it. First, there is Mr. Tomov himself, a former member of the Lado national Yugoslav folk dance company, who is now teaching in New York. Tiny, rotund, and possessed of an apparently inexhaustible fund of good humor, Mr. Tomov was in unobtrusive command.
The costumes were colorful and the well-trained company, a multi-ethnic group of 33 men and women, performed dances, which, in their variety and understated intricacy and charm, made for one of the richest evenings of folk dance seen here in many seasons.
The Tomov dancers provided glimpses of the folk-dance traditions of six areas of Yugoslavia, as well as important Middle European and Turkish influences. Precise, delicate footwork of surprising rhythmic complexity, bent-kneed emphasis on the upbeat, and floor patterns of long, looping circles and quick shifting phalanxes were elements common to most of the dances. Here, too, the men were given the more vigorous steps and "display" dances.
For sheer dance power, the intricate circles within circles of the Povardarie "Pletenica" and the extreme, ritualistic simplicity of the Glamoc stood out. The latter was performed in silence, but for the thudding of feet and jingling of the women's coin breastplates, and the men moved with controlled ferocity. The very good program notes told of the Glamoc being done secretly, due to a Turkish ban on native Bosnian music and dance.
There were also glimpses of social custom. In a Macedonian wedding dance the women's hesitantly extended feet and swiveling hips suggested modesty, the circling feet and arms of the East Macedonian "Zetvarki" ritualized work motions of an agricultural society. And Mr. Tomov's flirtatious peasant in the Croatian Dupljaja was a comic delight.
Folk dance performance fulfilling
WOODSTOCK -- The Tomov Yugoslav Folk Dance Ensemble presented a totally fulfilling theatrical evening Saturday at the Woodstock Playhouse.
The authentic nature of the dances, the live music, and the dazzling costumes successfully transported the audience to another time and place - a festival far, far away from the usual dance experience.
Under the artistic and choreographic direction of George Tomov, the ensemble was established in 1974 and has rapidly developed into one of America's foremost ethnic dance companies.
It consists of 40 dancers, singers, and musicians who convincingly appear to have been freshly delivered from mountain towns and regions of Yugoslavia. Performed are songs from Macedonia and dances from Serbia, Dubrovnik, Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia. Unbelievably, the ensemble is not imported but resides in New York State.
The performers are not paid. They work through sincere devotion and love and, thus, project an individual pride in their professionally executed hobby.
The performers understood subtle mannerisms, affectations and styles often overlooked in character and folk dance. The footwork was impeccably clean with the delicate, velvety characteristics of refined Asian ethnic dances while the merriments were typically European. The highly controlled movements created images influenced by Aegean, Persian, Baltic, and nomadic tribal cultures. With his special style, Tomov's personable performance created impressions of 18th century paintings and engravings.
The blend of cultural influences were also apparent in the generous display of over 200 authentic handmade costumes. The brilliant array was consistently awesome throughout the program.
An impressive collection of uncommon and exotic musical instruments, under Aaron Bussey's fine direction, enhanced the mesmerizing and hypnotic effects created by the music's haunting tonality, progressive tempos, and the intricately choreographed floor patterns and footwork.
The lighting designs by Maury Englander were appropriate and effective.
Pace, interest, and excitement were constantly maintained by careful direction and programming. A masterful feat in itself was placing 40 performers on the Woodstock Playhouse stage while avoiding a cramped look. This company would look perfectly at home on the Radio City Music Hall stage or in a small village square.
With his Yugoslav Folk Dance Ensemble, Mr. Tomov has achieved an impressive program of educational and entertaining appeal.
Perspectives - New York
Bounce is what puts the fun and excitement in Yugoslavian dancing. When the George Tomov Yugoslav Dance Ensemble had its New York debut at Hunter College on April 25, there was lots of bounce. There were little bounces and big ones, but most of the time the dancers looked like drops of water on a hot griddle. Every once in a while, they would spring straight up into the air only to return immediately to busy little bounces, keeping their weight on the balls of their feet. Most of the dances were done in soft, embroidered moccasins which seemed perfect for the up-and-down movements. A few of the men's dances were done in heavy, riding-style boots.
In many dances there was flirting and other bits of mime that helped to unify the performance. The most convincing mime was by Tomov himself. He has one of those cherubic, ruddy faces that make you wonder just what kind of mischief he is going to get into next. Naturally, after wreaking havoc, he assumed an air of angelic innocence. Many of his pranks looked unrehearsed and caught some of the dancers amidships, but it was obvious that his enthusiasm infected dancers and audience alike.
A word on the choreography. Folk dances often lose a great deal when they are transposed to the stage. It is hard to keep the original ethnic feeling and yet present something that an audience will sit through. Tomov arranged chains, circles, lines, couples, and groups in seemingly endless combinations which kept things lively but did not destroy the fantasy of being at a folk festival. Dancers occasionally shouted stage directions to one another when they were unsure of a step and nothing could be more folksy than that.
Between dances there were interludes of live Yugoslavian folk music and songs. Original instruments were used, including simple bagpipes and a flute played diagonally in the mouth. The singers wore different regional costumes and sometimes gave introductions to the dances that were to follow. All of the songs and music were in a minor key and had a plaintive sound reminiscent of the Near East.
Virtuoso dancing was not lacking, but thankfully, it was not overdone. One of the most spectacular moments was in a dance suite from Croatia. The whole group first swooped around the stage in a huge circle, periodically charging in to the center. Finally, with arms around shoulders, they broke into rings of three couples each. When these groups were really whizzing around, the women let their feet leave the floor and went sailing up, supported by the men. The stage looked as if it were covered with multi-colored, spinning parasols.
In "Bunjevacko Kolo" (Bachelors' Dance), one of the dances in riding boots, the men wore bells around their ankles, making all sorts of rhythmic embellishments as they moved. Several sequences of very smart heel-clicking brought waves of spontaneous applause from the audience.
"Povardarje" (from the Valley of the River Vardar) had some really fast footwork by the women. The men did a lot of showing off, including knee drops, squat-thrusts, and so forth. Everyone bounced along, and on top of that, their arms were swinging like those of happy children. Best of all was the hilarious, mimed surprise ending involving an ubiquitous scarf. Mischief-maker that he is, George Tomov was behind the whole thing.
NEW YORK CITY -- Yugoslav dancing was well represented by visiting native companies and local ones. The Tomov Yugoslav Folk Dance Ensemble becomes more remarkable when compared to Zivili, a U.S. group, and Frula, a native one. Tomov choreographs with great restraint, allowing generous stretches of the same step performed by the whole group or large subsections of it. This provides just enough for the viewer's kinesthetic responses to identify with the step and the formation but not enough time to weary of them. Line dances predominate, but much is made of them. Zivili, from Columbus, Ohio, made its New York debut at Brooklyn College. Dances of Croatia were the most persuasive in an evening that left one nearly, but not quite, elated. The big contrast is with Frula, a professional company from Belgrade. Here the intent was to dazzle - with fragments of dances, acrobatics, flash, unrelentingly quick pacing, much partnering and many shifting formations. The men are clearly trained athletes; the women are pretty. The costumes were splendid. There was no doubting the entertainment value of their performance. But I somehow preferred the quieter virtues of Tomov.
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