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The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)

Folk Dance House

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Michael and Mary Ann Herman

BACKGROUND

Information: On October 15, 1940, Michael and Mary Ann Herman opened a folk dance center in the Ukrainian National Home on East 6th Street. Although the original turnout was disappointing, attendance grew and Folk Dance House became known throughout the folk dance world. From a weekly class, the center grew to daily classes, workshops, teacher-training courses, and festivals. They moved to Polish Dom, and finally found a building on 16th Street at 6th Avenue where they opened their soon-to-be-famous Folk Dance House.

Everyone from dancer to musician was always welcome at Folk Dance House. Attendees included Burl Ives, Gene Kelly, Peter Lorre, and Damon Runyon. Andor Czompo created a dance in tribute to Mr. Herman, naming it "Michael's Csárdás." Michael was a featured personality in a Rek-O-Kut Company's advertisement for their Rythmaster phonograph, which said "Michael Herman, Editor of Folk Dance Magazine and one of America's foremost Teachers of Folk Dancing."

Michael Herman's Folk Dance Orchestra was a featured group on many of the folk dance recordings that Folk Dance House put out through Sonart Records on the Folk Dancer label, which he co-founded with Dave Rosenberg. Several hundred excellent folk and contra dance recordings were produced, frequently with himself on violin, Mary Ann on piano, and the extraordinary Walter Erickson on accordion.

During World War II, Michael entered the Armed Forces and Mary Ann led the sessions at Folk Dance House. She taught children's daytime classes in folk dancing and arts and crafts. She collected folk art, authentic costumes, and ethnic literature. After Michael's return, he resumed teaching, making records, and writing folk dance books. The couple began teacher training courses which started many folk dance teachers on their way. In addition to their weekly folk dance sessions, the Hermans also occasionally conducted family folk dancing on Sundays. They incorporated a year-end Festival and Workshop into their schedule, with Dick Crum being among the first of the workshop leaders. Others included Michel Cartier, Andor Czompo, Steve Glaser, David Henry, Çavit Kangüz, Yves Moreau, Ralph Page, and Dave Rosenberg.

Interestingly, when the Moiseyev Dance Company first performed in New York, they visited Folk Dance House to learn American dances!


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