The distinctive folk dance and music of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and the Soviet Union, performed by the Zivio dancers, their choir Pjevaci and orchestra Dobri Denek, will attract an enthusiastic audience this weekend if history repeats itself.
The Zivio Ethnic Arts Ensemble, a company of 45, will present its annual spring concert at the University of Utah's Kingsbury Hall on Saturday, April 6, at 8 p.m.Among new dances this year are fast, shaking dances called "drmes," from the Posavina area of Croatia in Yugoslavia. These jubilant dances will be accompanied by the folk band playing tamburitzas - strummed instruments similar to Western mandolins. From Hungary comes a dance cycle from Szekely, in which smooth, graceful turning motions alternate with quick stamping steps.
Pjevaci's traditional and modern arrangements of folk songs will range from a woman's solo from Romania to full women's choir singing music of Bulgaria, the sort recently heard nationally. Klapa (a cappella vocal quartets for men) are reminiscent of Italian Renaissance canzonetti.
Dobri Denek musicians will contribute trios for violin, chord fiddle and bowed bass, along with Gypsy Rom music, with its rolling vocal percussion, and Slavic music with the exotic gadulka, tamburitza and bagpipes.
Among guests on the program will be child dancers Eszter and Krista Pungor in the Hungarian dunamenti, a typical folk dance. The Pungor girls' father is teaching bio-engineering at the University of Utah this year. Also programmed is a new Appalachian dance suite, with which Zivio received help from Ed Austin, director of the Brigham Young University Folk Dancers and a frequentcollaborator. When the Zivio troupe travels abroad it must dance American folk only.
"We are dancing more Yugoslavian than usual this time, in deference to the many Yugoslavians in the valley - a whole new suite for Utah Slavia, but we will premiere it now," said artistic director Barry Goldman. "Our choreographer was a soloist with Lado, the best-known Yugoslavian troupe in the world."
Zivio grew out of Folkdance Underground at the U., which started back in 1980 with 10 dancers, said Goldman. "We discovered our original name had sinister connotations for some people," he laughed, "so we changed in 1987 to Zivio, which means `to life.' And we celebrate every culture with music and dance.
"We have some members who have been active since the beginning, including Bonnie Baty, the first director of the group, who now leads the chorus. We think it's important for members to be more than dancers, so we encourage them to play music and sing, be as versatile as possible. Almost everyone can do two things, and five or six of them sing, dance and play."
Other leaders of Zivio are general director Craig Kuramada ("without him, we wouldn't be anywhere," said Goldman); Lisa Whicker, dance director, and Chris Sadler-Porter, music director.
Goldman is proud that Zivio is one of only four companies in the country that has authentic, live music.
Authenticity is Goldman's highest priority. "We aim to maintain and improve authenticity and increase our professional level. If we find we have been doing something wrong, we will change it," he said.
Zivio learns its dances on tour of the countries where they originate, from choreographers, singers and musicians who come here to work with them, or at workshops here in America.
"We especially favor the very popular gathering in Mendocino, Calif., every summer, to which we send 10 or 12 representatives," said Goldman. "It's expensive, but the work is good. People come from all over the country, and they are surprised when they see so many of us. They ask, `What's going in on Salt Lake City?' "
For Goldman, folk dancing is a passionate hobby that he took up 17 years ago. "But before that I had trained in ballet and modern dance as well," he said. He graduated from the University of Washington in botany and is now seeking a doctorate from the U. in genetics.
Goldman is not alone in dividing his allegiance, for Zivio members come from all walks of life - students, doctors, scientists, teachers, counselors, secretaries, even a cello maker and an architect.
"During the past year Zivio members have produced five babies," he said. "When they come to rehearsals it causes some confusion, but it's interesting to see how babies of 6 to 8 months instinctively move to the music. One baby a year old cries when the music stops."
Goldman has prepared himself for his frequent choreographic stints by trips to Europe (four times), the last time spending six weeks in Szeged, Debrecen and Budapest, Hungary. He's studied in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Romania as well. But he sometimes learns just as much from a teacher from one of those places who comes here to give his undivided attention.
When members of the company travel abroad, they pick up original instruments and costumes wherever possible. But few are available, and many of those are prohibitively expensive.
"It's not uncommon for a full folk outfit to cost $2,000 to $3,000," said Goldman. "Sometimes they are part of a dowry, treasured family possessions, even illegal to take out of the country, so we sketch and try to replicate them here. Lisa Rogers is our costume director, and she does a fantastic job. For example, the skirts for the Szekely segment don't have black ribbon banding over the red; they are pieced like a quilt. She also had to make Croatian skirts, with hundreds of pleats."
The successful company generates considerable income from ticket sales and grants from many sources, including the National Endowment for the Arts, Utah Arts Council and Salt Lake City Arts Council. Zivio has been on the Utah Performing Arts Tour for the past five years and will continue, doing as many as four concerts a year. Also, their Utah Slavia Festival is a fund-raising activity. "But our expenses are great; we more than plow the money back in," said Goldman.
The Greek Dionysios Dancers, originally announced for this program, have withdrawn, and will not appear.
Tickets are available in advance at Kingsbury Hall, Acoustic Music and Soundoff Records, $8 for adults, $5 for seniors, students and children 12 and under.