The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
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Information: Alexander Ross "Alex" Wilson, teacher of Hungarian and international folk dance.
Alex\was born on July 28, 1929 in Syracuse, New York. He was called "Tinker," and more formally "Ross." As a young man, "Tinker" was shortened to "Tink" by which he was known for many years. For two years, he "rode the bench" in football and was a member of the rowing crew at South Kent Preparatory School.
He had a bachelor of arts degree in history from Syracuse University in 1953. While there, he joined the Outing Club which featured canoeing, hiking, mountaineering, folk dancing, and folk singing which led to a life-long love of folk dance and folk music.
After two years of study at General Theological Seminary in New York City, Alex decided he had made a wrong choice and headed west to "climb mountains." Alex went to Colorado to pursue rock climbing, skiing, folk dancing, and singing.
For two years, he lived in one of the shacks at Winter Park that had originally housed Moffitt Tunnel construction workers. Heat came from a pot-bellied stove and light came from a Coleman lantern. While in Winter Park, Alex traveled to Boulder weekly to folk dance and to arrange for climbing partners. His favorite climb was the north face of the Grand Teton. After breaking a leg skiing and spending six months in Denver recovering, he moved to Boulder permanently in August, 1951. Having lost several companions in mountaineering accidents, Alex limited his climbing to rescue work.
Alex was an accomplished dancer, specializing in Eastern European and Scandinavian dance. Along with Dick Oakes, Alex hosted two Floating Kolo Party sessions in 1972 and 1973 in Boulder. With Ingvar Sodal and Tom Masterson, he hosted a series of folk dance workshops at the Pearl Street Studio in Boulder on Wednesdays.
Alex was married from 1978 to 1981 to Naomi Katzir, a music teacher, folk dancer, and folk singer from a pioneering Israeli family. In the 1980s, Alex hosted the KGNU program "Walkabout," a listening tour of folk music from Scandinavia through the Balkans.
He traveled to Europe a total of four times. His trips to Hungary during the Easter seasons of 1982 and 1983 provided him the opportunity to pursue his fascination with that country's folk dancing. After the first trip, he designed T-shirts to give as gifts and in the process found that the men of the photo he had redrawn were friends from the first trip. The second trip also included an excursion to Transylvania, then under communist dictator Ceaucescu. His friends remember stories of his travels to Romania where having a foreigner in your home overnight was against the law. Alex stayed the night in the hayloft of a barn to avoid detection. Finding his Hungarian travel companions at the station on his way out the next day, they insisted he return to the farm with them where he stayed another night in the barn. Upon hearing music in the village square, he stole out to watch some of the last examples of local folk dancing as it had been a part of village life for a thousand years.
He worked on numerous buildings designed by Chuck Haertling, considered to be one of Boulder's best far-out architects. Having met Jofrid Sodal, a Norwegian-born Boulder County architect through folk dancing, Alex learned of an opening in construction work in the Architects Division. In late February, 1988, he joined the construction crew involved in remodeling the Jail into the Justice Center and the old Elks Building into the West Courthouse Annex. In August, 1992, Alex was designated Carpenter I and was assigned to do "work orders" throughout county buildings. A year later he was advanced to Carpenter II. He worked in the building trades until his retirement at age 79.
Alex contributed to the international folk dance community and the thriving folk song movement in Boulder. At any party he would always have a harmonica ready and he also played guitar. He provided inspiration for the founding of the Village Arts Coalition in 1989 and the leasing of the Pearl Street Studio a year later. As a skilled carpenter, he rebuilt the interior of that drab, cinder-block building into a pleasant dance space for folk dancing. He was passionate about including all who wanted to dance as well as encouraging those who wavered on the sidelines.
Alex was one of the founders of the Mapleton Home Association (MHA) in Boulder, which was incorporated in May 1996 with the purpose of buying Mapleton Park.
At various times, Alex traveled across country to participate in protest activities. In November, 1999, he was among those in Seattle protesting the World Trade Organization. He also attended seven rallies, including the half-million-person rally held in Washington, D.C. in 2002, to express his own strong opposition to the war in Iraq.
During a trip to Scotland in 2000, Alex visited the Applecross Peninsula, a wild an beautiful area in the Western Highlands. Upon his return to Colorado, he discovered that it was the seat of Ross, his own clan, and had been presented to the first Earl of Ross by Alexander III of Scotland in 1234. Alex then understood why his own name was a popular family name. It was after his Scotland trip that he decided to adopt his birth name shortened to Alex.In 2004, Alex hosted an extravaganza on his 75th birthday (photo at left) with a party at a Boulder Park by organizing and funding a three-day party which brought in musicians from around the country. He was joyous, energetic, and welcoming others to join in.
Alex contracted Parkinson's Disease which brought diminished activity in dance to the point where he decided to close out his life before losing independence. With his declining health on his mind, he passed away on May 13, 2012, of a self-inflicted cause. Alex had an older brother, William Dexter Wilson (deceased), a younger sister, Christina Wilson Adams, and a younger brother, John Mark Wilson, plus ten nieces and nephews.
A two-evening celebration of Alex's life was held in Boulder on Friday, June 15th, 2012 at the Pearl Street Studio (complete with a catered dinner by Donald Vuković) and on June 16th at the Avalon Ballroom. Both evenings were filled with singing and dancing to which all his friends were invited.
A memorial bench and tree were placed in Eben Fine Park in Boulder in memory of Tink.
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