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Madelynne Greene

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Madellyne Greene


Information: Madelynne Greene, teacher of international folk dance.

Madelynne started folk dancing at the age of four in San Francisco, California. At age seven, she won a medal in a Scottish Sword Dance competition. During her high school days, she began to teach dance and would have serious ambitions along this line. She took up modern dancing and was kept busy giving concerts of her own and teaching students. She lived in New York in 1940 and 41 and noticed all the folk dance events listed in the local papers but they didn't interest her at the time (she called that her "big mistake").

After returning to San Francisco, she was lured into attending a folk dance session at Changs International Folk Dancers in 1942, at that time instructed by Virgil Morton. There she got the "folk dance bug" and continued dancing and teaching folk dancing for the rest of her life, sometimes teaching five days a week. Madelynne received extensive private lessons from Virgil, one of the San Francisco Bay area's early folk dance pioneers, when he realized he was going to join the U.S. Navy, and she became the group's instructor. Her charm and personality drew many devoted followers in the Bay area, and in a few years she was conducting several folk dance groups. She opened her first dance studio in San Rafael, California.

Madelynne was a teacher's teacher, and may be best remembered for her comedic rendition of the Swedish Hambo in which she played several different women's "styles" during the same performance: a gum-chewing girl, an ethereal ballerina, and as the partner of an awkward jock. When Virgil returned from the Navy, he became a dance instructor at San Francisco State University until he retired in 1973. He died February 22, 1981.

As the years passed, Madelynne was sought out as a teacher for folk dance camps and sessions from coast to coast. She was a thorough and understanding teacher. Madelynne was instrumental in the founding of the Folk Dance Federation of California and the teacher institutes the Federation sponsored. She also organized the Festival Workshop group, which worked on the study of costumes, development of dance techniques, and research on new dances that the group presented at Federation festivals.

Madelynne specialized in dance from Mallorca and Portugal but also introduced dances from the Canary Islands, China, France, Hawai'i, Spain, and the Ukraine. She was the director of the San Francisco Festival Workshop (later called the Saltarello International Dance Theatre) performance folk dance ensemble. She not only taught ethnic dance but also developed dance for theater, with folklore scenes, folk singers, and dance as a dramatic presentation. Her principal dance partner was Virgil Morton.

In 1962, she founded the Mendocino Folklore Camp, patterning it after the best features from all the camps she had attended and taught, such as the Idyllwild Folk Dance Workshop, Maine Folk Dance Camp, Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference, and Stockton Folk Dance Camp.

Madelynne married poet Eric Barker in 1937. She and her husband were friends of poet Clark Ashton Smith. Eric, who had been born in 1905, died in 1973. Madelynne died during a dance lesson on February 9, 1970. Her sudden death shocked all who knew her and she was grieved by the folk dance movement to which she had given so much.

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