Here’s John Mazza’s wrap-up report for the 2001 NOMAD Festival, which was held October 26-28, 2001, at the Newtown High School, Newtown, CT.
We began the festival on Friday night with our traditional contra dance party featuring Eric Hollman calling, with music by our favorite local band, The Fiddleheads. We added a Friday night music session this year as well – a “Taste of NOMAD” sampler, with 12-minute mini-concerts by over a dozen of the weekend’s performers. It went extremely smoothly and was enjoyed by all who attended. We’re hoping to make that event a tradition also.
We were pleased to have use of the auditorium this year. In recent years, conflicts with the school’s Drama Department have made that facility unavailable to us, and we have really missed it. Moving the festival date up to October removed the conflict and gave us one very important area back. It’s impossible to dance on a stage full of sets and props. We were delighted to invite back the Monique Legare International Dance Company, who gave us a superb set of dances from Armenia, French Canada, Russia, Ukraine and Hungary, complete with some really fast costume changes. Zolotyj Promin, a group of young Ukrainian dancers from the Hartford area, provided a spectacular demonstration of the vigorous, athletic dances so characteristic of Ukraine. Our NOMAD regulars, the Greater Hartford Scottish Country Dancers and Reel Nutmeg performed their suites of Scottish and English Country Dances. It’s a delight to see these groups return each year with new programs designed just for NOMAD. Nefesh returned to give us an upbeat performance of Klezmer music in their own inimitable style. A surprisingly large crowd of onlookers braved the chilly October winds to view NOMAD’s only outdoor event, the ritual dance performances presented by eight Morris and Sword teams from New York and New England.
The music and participatory dance programs are just too numerous to list here. Our two-hour shanty blast returned, followed by a two-hour old-timey and bluegrass party. Roger Sprung’s open jam had the walls of the music room just bursting with an overflow crowd. The Songs for a Sunday morning song swap, long a NOMAD favorite, was ably emceed by Kathy Westra. It was joined this year by a Saturday morning song swap, led by Liz Lewis. For the dancers, NOMAD offered its customary, wide range of dances from just about everywhere. Contra, Square, English, Scottish, Klezmer, Italian, Bulgarian, Israeli, Scandinavian, Macedonian, Zwiefache, Balkan, Clogging, Morris and a variety of other International kept everyone’s feet moving.
The Family Area kept the children entertained throughout the weekend. Story-telling, family concerts, singalongs and funny songs are the usual favorites at these sessions. Practicing Umoja gave an interesting presentation of the Afro-Caribbean Experience, and Danny Pollock delighted the children on Sunday with his Israeli Dance workshop.
We think we have finally licked the sound problems that have bedeviled us in the main gym for several years. Our several food vendors seem to have offered just the right mix of selections to satisfy everyone. The Scottish Dancers’ Sunday morning breakfast was wonderful, as usual. A bowl of their steaming oatmeal is a great way to start a crisp Fall day. The craft/folk bazaar area just gets better and better each year. Congratulations to long-time NOMAD vendors Folk-Legacy Records, celebrating 40 years in business this October, and thanks to Folk-Legacy’s Sandy, Caroline, Rob and David Paton for all they have done for NOMAD.
But NOMAD just wouldn’t be NOMAD without a last-minute crisis or two. NOMAD 2001 was no exception. On Thursday, the day before the festival, we were told by the Board of Education that our main parking area – directly in front of the main entrance to the High School – would be unavailable to us for most of Saturday. It seems that one of the local school soccer teams made it to the finals. There were two soccer games that day and, since the soccer field is directly behind the main parking lot, that’s where the parking for the games would be. Like most festivals that are located in educational institutions with large, paved, well marked parking lots, NOMAD has never anticipated the need for a parking crew, and therefore we don’t have one. We were given the use of a large field behind the school for parking, but had no one available to coordinate things. After a bit of chaos, we were able to get the cars parked in a more-or-less orderly fashion. Thanks to all festival attendees who were able to grin and bear it.
One other disappointment was that we were expecting a large troupe of dancers, singers and musicians from Bulgaria, a group named Shoumen, to contribute two one-hour sessions. Again we learned, just a couple of days before the festival, that they had encountered problems with their visas and were unable to make the trip to the U.S.
The CONNtras session with Steve Holland and Christine Hale and, on the music side, the humor workshop titled “What’s so Funny?” helped close out NOMAD 2001 on a high note, a nice counterpoint to our rather inauspicious beginning in the parking lots. Thanks to Mike Agranoff, Evy Mayer, Debra Cowan, Payton Turpin and Jean Schwartz for keeping us laughing.
A big thank you to all volunteer performers and staff and to all who attended, for making this year’s NOMAD such a wonderful time for everyone. Planning has already begun for NOMAD 2002. We hope all who were at NOMAD 2001 will return and be joined by many others. We expect that everything will run smoothly, and the only thing keeping us on our toes will be the dancing.