International festival draws dancers to Poland

By Diana Ashjian
September 9, 2005

Cultural Interchanges

Communication, expression, determination, emotion, passion and skill came together in the purest and most uninhibited of ways when the small town of Ladek Droj in Poland hosted its seventh annual International Dance Festival from July 8-17, 2005.

Not deterred by the barriers of verbal language, dancers from around the world relied mainly on body language to teach one another dance techniques that ranged from soulful hip-hop to proud flamenco. Participants in the different choreographies collectively leaped high past cultural differences and spun fiercely past the scrutiny of words of many different dialects and into one rhythm, if only for the length of one song at a time.

Co-director of the festival, ballet master Jerzy Golek, said, “It is a beautiful thing to watch people develop artistically in my native country. I hope more people will open them-selves to this opportunity in future years to come.”

In the name of dance, a different culture was honored nightly. The Dominican Republic was one of the countries celebrated when dancers of all genres traded in their tutus and tights for salsa dresses and flamenco skirts to tango the night away.

Salsa teacher Jose Ramiro, who lives in Argentina, said, “This is what I love. The combination of art and dancing can take you so many places in so many different ways. Here all you have to understand is the movement of another person, which is most important to a dancer.”

Along with the chance to poeticize their dreams of dance, participants also sought to rejuvenate their minds and bodies with spa treatments, massages and visits to caves with limestone formations.

Magdelena Twasky of Bel-gium, who sought to become more skilled at Latin modern jazz, said, “I come here every year for the dance festival to meet many different people, attend dance workshops and receive the world-class massages because people tell me this town is mystical and it is the oldest spa in Europe. I just like to try new things and this gets better every year.”

This foreign town is also no stranger to South Philadelphia native Dominique Leuzzi, who brought her thirteen-year-old son to the ancient spas twice hoping to help relieve his Multiple Sclerosis.

“One of my son’s doctors suggested that I bring my son, Joey, here to sit in the mineral springs because the thermal, radium, sulphide and fluoride waters might be able to do him wonders. Miracles happen and I’ll do anything it takes to help him,” Leuzzi said. Finally, heads were held high at the closing ceremonies, which showcased a concert that was free to Ladek Droj natives for all of their hospitality as fine hosts.

Seemingly, no other county could have appreciated the value of such a freeing art than one that hasn’t long been free of communism. The aesthetic wisdom that it takes to see into the soul in a way that transcends structure is not only innately held in the artistic nature of the Polish, but also in the air of their breath-taking country side. People from all over the world seemed more than delighted to express their gratitude for having been able to share in such beauty throughout the closing gala.

Michelle Wurtz, an American jazz teacher at the festival, said, “I came back to teach a class for the second year because I fell in love with everything about the festival last year. Anyone would.”

To register for the festival or learn more visit

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Diana Ashjian

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