The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
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Information: Nelda Guerrero Drury, organizer and teacher of Mexican dance.
Nelda was the daughter of Adelfa Gonzalez, sister of María and Aminita Gonzalez, the latter two prominent Laredo, Texas, school teachers. At the age of five, Nelda gave her first dance performance during a celebration in a small town in Texas. She grew up learning a wide variety of Mexican dances. Serious study of dance began for Nelda at the University of Mexico in Mexico City under the late Alura Flores de Angeles.
While teaching Mexican dance at the Texas Folk Dance Camp, Jane Farwell invited Nelda to teach at the Mt. Horeb camp in Wisconsin. Invitations to other camps on the east and west coasts followed in close succession. In 1956, Nelda traveled with Michael and Mary Ann Herman on a State Department sponsored trip to Japan, where she shared the Mexican culture with enthusiastic dancers. Nelda taught Mexican, modern, and ballroom dance full time as Professor of Dance at San Antonio College in San Antonio, Texas. She earned her bachelors degree from the University of Texas, then headed the girl's Physical Education Department at Martin High School, then the only high school in Laredo, Texas. She left to study at Columbia University in New York where she earned her masters degree. She did additional post graduate work at the University of Mexico.
Nelda did extensive research in Mexico, Central American, and South American dance. Her teaching took her throughout the United States, Mexico, the Orient, and Europe, presenting her seminars and displaying her dance form. She had a wealth of dance costumes that she collected on her round-the-world travels.
Nelda was an instructor at Columbia University's Summer Graduate Seminar of Dance; an instructor at the University of Texas Graduate Seminar of Dance; a guest instructor at the universities of Wisconsin and Mexico; the American University in Beirut, and the Texas Women's College in Denton, Texas. She also was a guest instructor at folk dance camps: Maine Folk Dance Camp (now Mainewoods Folk Dance Camp), which she was instrumental in founding; Folklore Village Camp; Idllewild Folk Dance Workshop; Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference; University of Pacific Dance Camp (now Stockton Folk Dance Camp); Los Alamos New Mexico Institute; the National Folk Festivals in Washington, D.C., New York, and St. Louis; Lighted Lantern Folk Dance Camp above Boulder, Colorado; The Folk Arts Center in Boston; and the New England Folk Festival, also in Boston.
She wrote, "I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to be involved with folk dance since the late 1940s, early 1950s, and to have gotten to know, work with, learn from people such as Vyts Beliajus, Dick Crum, Jane Farwell, Alura Flores de Angeles, Madelynne Greene, Michael and Mary Ann Herman, "Uncle" Ralph Page, Dave Rosenberg, and so many other wonderful folk dancers."
Nelda retired from her faculty position as head of the Danced Department at San Antonio College in Texas in 1986, but in 1995 she received the Ford Salute to Education, presented by Ford vice president Ross Roberts, which reads, "Nelda Guerrero-Drury is recognized nationally and locally as one of the most prominent figures in performing arts specifically International Folk Dance. She is an inspiring individual who has contributed over 40 years of her life teaching folk dance to many students and educators in San Antonio and throughout the world. Her folk dance teaching skills and talents have been a "passport" to such countries as Japan, Switzerland, and Germany. Nelda is a retired Professor Emeritus from San Antonio College where she founded the Annual Folk Dance Festival. She continues to stay active by teaching in folk dance conferences and generously volunteering her time at the Westminster Square Senior Citizens Apartments and Our Lady of the Lake University."
She was conferred with the National Dance Association (NDA) with its highest award given for a distinguished record of accomplishment at the NDA's annual meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Saturday, March 31, 2001. This award was not only a great honor for the personal affection and regard of her colleagues in the dance world, but also the first time the award has gone to a teacher with a community college career. She received the "Heritage Award" from the National Health Physical Education and Dance Association, during which she was given a scrap book filled with congratulatory letters from other dance enthusiasts and teachers. In 2008, Nelda received an award for "special recognition for her 50 years of dedicated work" for the San Antonio Folk Dance Festival. In 1994, she received the National Folk Organization's "Certificate of Merit" and in 2014 their "Preserving Our Heritage" award.
Nelda was the Vice President of the International Folk Culture Center in San Antonio, Texas, where she directed the weekly International Dance Program and its outreach programs.
Nelda wrote, "A bad left knee keeps me from hopping around like I used to do. I'm a professional volunteer now!" She continues to organize folk dance workshops and seminars in Texas while her son Jimmy Drury and daughter Liz Drury continued the family teaching tradition.
Nelda Drury passed away on Thursday, February 21, 2019.
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