The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
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Information: Jeff O'Connor, teacher of Big Mountain Circle Clog and international dance.
Jeff O'Connor is a native of California and has been dancing from the age of five. He comes from a family where music and dance played an important role. While growing up in Stockton, he performed as a child and later taught Highland school and college folk dance groups.
During high school he joined Camtia Ensemble of Sacramento, performing Bavarian dances. After graduating, he toured Europe, observing the various cultures and performing groups. Upon returning to the United States, he was invited to join Westwind International Folk Ensemble in San Francisco. In 1976, he was appointed as Artistic Director. Under his direction, Westwind performed throughout the Bay Area. In 1977, Westwind toured Southern France and Northern Spain, performing their collection of American material.
For many years, Jeff has been active at the Stockton Folk Dance Camp. It is at Stockton Folk Dance Camp that he met the Glenn Bannerman family who sparked his interest in Big Circle Dance. He has been teaching Big Circle Mountain Clog dance and singing at Stockton since.
He has made several trips to North Carolina to study and research the Appalachian mountain culture with the Bannerman family. Jeff subsequently developed his own teaching techniques in Big Circle Mountain Clog dance and has taught workshops throughout Northern California. In 1979, he was hired by Stanford University as a specialist in teaching American Dance. Jeff has inspired thousands of students in a vast array of dance classes at Humboldt State University, broadening the University's dance curriculum to included dance classes dedicated to Irish Step, French Canadian Clogging, International Folk, Swing, Big Circle, Jazz Tap, Country Western Line, Latino, Vintage Ballroom, and Mexican Folklórico.
Jeff's professions are many. In 1981, he completed working at Stanford University, managing the "Lou Henry Hoover House," the President's residence, where he was in charge of all the formal events. His other interests are art, carpentry, cooking, Nordic skiing, and wind surfing. He has cooked at Mendocino Woodlands for English and American camps, as well as cooking for weddings and other special events.
In 1982, he moved to Eureka in Northern California, and opened a catering business and has cooked for many years at Skandia Camp. He was director of the Northcountry Folk Dancers of Arcata and the Ballet Folklorico de Humbolt. Jeff served as panelist and performance director for the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival.
On July 13, 2002, a big party, in planning for two years by Susan Cashion and Sarah Shelley, was held for Jeff at the Roble Dance Studio in Stanford, California in recognition of his many accomplishments. Jerry Duke opened the evening with a tall tale about Jeff. Susan and her partner, Larry Estrada, danced a Mexican dance, at the end of which the Mexican hat was given to Jeff. Mary Tobak spoke of Jeff's commendation from Hungary for his work on Báratság Camp. Dancers from The Ethnic Dance Festival, Fia Duo Congo, and San Francisco's Westwind International Folk Ensemble performed. Ken Olcott called contras, and Barbara Babin's musical ensemble played for everyone's dancing pleasure.
In 2012, Jeff succeeded Bruce Mitchell at the helm of the Stockton Folk Dance Camp as director and president of the board of directors.
Dances Jeff has taught include Big Circle Mountain Clog.
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