Turkish Folk Dance Group Thrives Under Leadership Of Long-Time Director

Nov. 2, 2010

Visitors to this year’s Holiday Folk Fair International will not be disappointed to see a see a familiar figure with the TurAm (Turkish American) Folk Dance Group. That would be Curt Winterfeldt, the group’s founder and long-time choreographer and dancer. This year’s Folk Fair, produced by the International Institute of Wisconsin, will be held Friday, Nov. 19-Sunday, Nov. 21, in the Wisconsin Exposition Center at Milwaukee’s State Fair Park.

Winterfeldt, a music teacher at MPS Hamilton High School, developed a life-long love affair with the people and the customs of Turkey after a casual visit with a friend more than 30 years ago. Since then, Winterfeldt has visited the country thrice yearly, often serving as a guide for travelers. Summers visits, through are generally reserved for spending time with his adopted son, a native of Turkey, and his two grandchildren.

His frequent visits to the country, astute observation of culture, and background in performing arts, ensures everything about the dance group, from top-to-toe dress, to the instruments accompanying the dance, is authentic. “Our group knows dances from 14 regions of the country, from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Our costumes are true to the region we represent in dance. Everything comes from Turkey, even the drums, which will accompany the high school group,” he said.

When in Turkey, Winterfeldt shops for the Holiday Folk Fair marketplace, bringing in new merchandise every year. This year’s selection includes pashminas, scarves, jewelry, handmade socks, gloves and hats, belly dancing coin belts, carpets, pillows, porcelain plates, copper items, Turkish olive soap and embroidered textiles.

“I’ll be in the marketplace between performances, but my main focus is the dance group,” he said. “I'll be doing this for as long as I’m walking.”

Teaching Turkish dancing is not just a once-a-year undertaking for the Holiday Folk Fair. Winterfeldt also teaches a Turkish graduate student group at UW-Madison and an adult group in Chicago. He also participates in the Hart Park Tuesday Nights Folk Dancers. His student group at Hamilton High School, the Horon Turkish Folk Dance Group, rehearses weekly after school hours. “My high school group is a diverse group of Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asians. They are all honors and AP students,” he said.

The TurAm group has performed in many local venues including the Milwaukee Art Museum, and Mitchell Park Domes as well as many out-of-state events.

Produced by the International Institute of Wisconsin, Holiday Folk Fair International celebrates the cultural heritage of the people living in southeastern Wisconsin. This year’s theme, “Celebrate the Culture of Peace,” will allow Fair-goers the opportunity to explore the ways in which music, food, dance, and art enhance racial, cultural, and ethnic cooperation.

Special attractions at this year’s event include the “Art Beyond Borders” and “Invisible in the City” photographic displays, the International Chess Academy, bonsai, and anime.

The three-day event features the All Nations Theater with traditional music and dance, the World Cafe offering traditional dishes, the International Stage where young people perform their ethnic dances, the Music Pavilion with a variety of musical styles, Heritage Lane with unique traditions and customs through interactive exhibits, the International Bazaar where cultural artifacts create a unique shopping experience, and the Callen Construction Cooking Demonstration Stage featuring local chefs preparing traditional cuisine.

Holiday Folk Fair International will also host a United States Citizenship Naturalization Ceremony Sat., Nov. 20, at 10:30 a.m. and an “Around the World” 5K Run/Walk Sun., Nov. 21 at 9:00 a.m.

Hours on Fri., Nov. 19 are 3 p.m. – 10 p.m.; 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 20; and 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Sun., Nov. 21. Advance tickets will be sold for $8 each at Pick n’ Save locations throughout southeastern Wisconsin. Advance tickets for $8 each as well as family four-packs for $28 can be purchased on-line at www.folkfair.org.

Admission at the gate will be $10 for adults; $8 for children ages 6 to 12; children under the age of five will be admitted at no charge. Those 62 and over will be admitted for $8, and all military personnel with a military ID card will be admitted free. Those that bring two non-perishable food items for Hunger task Force will get a $2 discount on a regular adult admission.

For more information on the 2010 Holiday Folk Fair International, visit www.folkfair.org or call the International Institute of Wisconsin at 414-225-6220.

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