Oktoberfest International Dance and Music Weekend

2023 Staff

Bianca de Jong (leader: International dance)

  • Bianca de Jong has been teaching folk dance since 1977. In 1981 she qualified as a folkdance teacher, officially recognized by the Ministry of Culture in the Netherlands.
    In 1987 the Ministry graduated her on the level of the Dance Academy in the Netherlands with the so-called "Benoembaarheidsverklaring." The same year, Bianca passed the examination for the degree of Doctorandus in the Sciences of Education, mastering in Orthopedagogy at the University of Amsterdam. After that she qualified post-doctorate as a health care psychologist and specialized child psychologist.
    Bianca studies Bulgarian folklore and travels to Bulgaria. She visits amateur and professional ensembles, researchers, and (village) dancers, she visited Turkey regularly to study folklore, has organized folklore tours to Bulgaria and Turkey.
    Bianca is active in several aspects of teaching folk dance. Besides Bulgarian folk dance, she teaches folk dances from different countries on all levels and various occasions in Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Canada, England as well as she did in Australia, Belgium, Finland, Hongkong, Israel, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United States. She has taught at the dance academy in Tilburg (Holland) and Koupio (Finland) and was a guest teacher for folklore dance techniques at the professional "Het Internationaal Danstheater" in Amsterdam.
    Bianca is actively involved in training folk dance teachers. Teaching folk dance is a great passion of hers and she considers the teaching as an art and craft in itself that brings a lot of fun! Her basic philosophy in teaching is that it should be done in such a way that you can describe it as “learning by dancing”.
    She has been head of the teaching staff of a two year part-time education in Holland in the past and more recently active involved in training young folk dance teachers in Holland. Bianca taught several times folkdance teaching techniques to Japanese folkdance teachers during their study trips in the Netherlands as well as in Japan. She developed and executed one-year trainings for recreational folkdance teachers in Switzerland.
    She was a member of the teaching staff of the three year teacher training for meditative dance teachers in Germany on the subjects of folkdance and it’s teaching techniques. She developed and executed teaching technique courses in Italy. She performed with the Dutch group Praznik, specializing in Bulgarian dance, and in 1987-1991, she performed in the Turkish group Tozak. She was the co-founder of both groups.
    Bianca has published articles on Bulgarian folklore and teaching techniques in The Netherlands and abroad. She has choreographed for amateur performing groups in Australia, Holland, and Hongkong as well as for “Het Internationaal Danstheater”. She has been member of several juries at folk dance festivals and at the Dutch national championship of Turkish folk dance.
    Some of the dances she created based upon her knowledge of folklore are Tu Romnie, Valse d’Adieu, Ya ein Moulayeten, Nie bouditie, Ashun daje Mori, Ušti Baba, Cumajle.

Alex Cumming (leader: English Ceiligh Dance, singing)

  • Alex Cumming is a traditional singer, accordionist, pianist, dance caller, teacher, and workshop leader, hailing from Somerset, England, now living in Brattleboro, VT. He performs songs and tunes from around the United Kingdom and America with a great depth of knowledge of the tradition. Alex has made his mark on the folk scene with his rhythmic dance-able accordion style, strong voice and his fun and engaging stage presence.
    Along with solo performances and calling work, Alex is a member of award winning a Capella quartet The Teacups, Fiddle and Accordion duo Alex Cumming & Nicola Beazley, transatlantic trio Bellwether and various high energy dance bands.

Patrick Yacono (leader: The Flying Squirrel Orchestra)

  • Patrick Yacono has been playing for international folk dances since the early 90's, mostly on clarinet, piano, and assorted Bulgarian wind instruments. He is a member of several bands, including Zdravets, the Pinewoods Band, Shining Moon, and the Flying Squirrel Orchestra, and has been playing international folkdance music at Labor Day camp since 2009.

Ralph Iverson (musician)

  • Ralph Iverson started playing for the international folk dance community in 1985. He has been orchestra director of the Mandala Folk Dance Ensemble, and was and is in many folk-dance bands. He predominantly plays music from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia, and Romania, on a variety of classical and folk instruments including violin, flute, penny whistle, sax, gadulka, tambura, prim, and kaval. He does not play accordion or banjo.
    Ralph has been to Bulgaria and Macedonian over two dozen times, generally to perform or study gadulka and tambura. Starting 2011, he has entered his own compositions in a series of “New Bulgarian Music in 7/8” competitions in Bulgaria, regularly winning awards. He has been a soloist with orchestra playing his Concerto for Gadulka: with the Refugee Orchestra Project in Boston and Brooklyn; with the Waltham Philharmonic Orchestra in Waltham, MA; and, with the World Civic Orchestra in Prague.

Julia Poirier (musician)

  • Julia Poirier has been providing live music for dancing for nearly 3 decades. She sings and plays things with strings and frets, and is a member of several Boston-area dance bands, among them The All-Girl Band, the Goat Bands, The Pinewoods Band, The Flying Squirrel Orchestra, and the Pixton-Poirier Trio.
    Her current fixations (aside from music) include turning her back yard into a pollinator haven, losing the Covid Forty Pounds (which somehow began accumulating long before the pandemic actually hit), and finding the time to write her job description so that she can retire.

David Skidmore (musician)

  • David Skidmore has been a folk dancer, teacher, and dance musician in the Boston area since the early 1970s, performing with the Mandala Folk Dance Ensemble and playing in various bands based in Boston, including the Cambridge Folk Orchestra, the Pinewoods Band and Zdravets, a group that plays traditional Bulgarian & Macedonian dance music. He is primarily a percussionist, playing Bulgarian tapan and dumbek, but he also plays clarinet, pennywhistle, kaval and floyera.

Dana Sussman (musician)

  • Dana Sussman has been singing for as long as she can remember. So after discovering international folk dancing in 1992, starting to learn the music came shortly thereafter. She currently sings with Shining Moon, Zdravets, and the Flying Squirrel Orchestra.

Brian Wilson (musician)

  • Brian Wilson has been playing for international folk dances in the Boston area for more than thirty years, as a member of Flying Tomatoes, Pinewoods Band, Shining Moon, and the Flying Squirrel Orchestra.
    He is equally versatile on fiddle and clarinet, but also enjoys singing and playing a variety of other instruments. He particularly loves to play Hardanger fiddle or nyckelharpa for Scandinavian dancing when the opportunity arises.