Groups in Southern California

Polish Folk Dance Ensemble


Introduction Cybulski Hoffman Perzyna

The remarkable history of Krakusy - an institution in Polish-American cultural life in Southern California - was made possible by a great number of volunteers, dancers, managers, costume-makers, parents supervising their children, artists, and many others. It would be impossible to give credit to all of them in this short entry, but some people should be mentioned by name, or provided with a short biographic note. The group's founding members were actively involved in its projects for a long time after they stopped to dance. In 1956, the first four couples of the newly established dance ensemble included: Henryka and Kazimierz Cybulski (see an Interview with them for more information), Barbara and Tadeusz Sarnecki, Zofia and Wiesław Adamowicz, Krystyna Janiszewska and Zbigniew Szumański. Wanda Gwoździowska accompanied the dancers on the piano during their rehearsals and performances. In December 1956 the group performed in Disneyland (with three more couples - Katarzyna and Maciej Bielski, Ewa and Andrzej Janczak, Kazimierz Walczak and Anna Salwarowska).

In the late 1950s, the artistic director of the troupe was Henryk Jankowski who came from England in 1957 (he had been active in a dance group there). Jankowski's "right-hand" was his wife, Krystyna, who had danced in the State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble Mazowsze and had defected to the West during one of the ensemble's tours. According to Kazimierz Cybulski (one of Krakusy's founders), Krystyna Jankowska's defection right at the beginning of the first tour of Mazowsze in the West was widely publicized. The Polish American press and many American newspapers wrote about her decision to stay in the U.S. Cybulski stated, "she knew a lot of dances from the Mazowsze repertoire. They met and married in California and worked together. Her defection case was highly publicized, as much as that of Baryshnikoff from the Russian Ballet."

Krakusy in the góralski, 1985.
    In 1966 Polish dancer Stanisław Danko joined the Krakusy. Originally from the Podhale area, Danko had danced as a soloist with both the State Folk Song and Dance Ensembles Śląsk and Mazowsze. In 1967 Maryla Klimek-George became the choreographer for the Polish Folk Dance Group which simultaneously changed its name to the present one, i.e. to Krakusy. As the artistic director and chief choreographer of the ensemble Klimek-George was assisted by Danko; they used recordings of the state ensembles and recreated the choreographies they knew from Poland.

The first executive director of the ensemble was Zofia Adamowicz, followed in this function by Kazimierz Cybulski (2 years in 1970s), Nina Wilczyńska (1 year), Andrzej Niżyński (over a decade in 1970s and 1980s), Roman Sobański (1980s), and Bogna Szupińska (1990s). The group's coninuing growth was due to a significant involvement of the members of the Polish-American community who worked as volunteers, seeing in the Krakusy an opportunity to express their Polish heritage.

Krakusy in the polonez, 1996.
    The dancers of the Krakusy come mainly from Los Angeles County and vary in age from 6 to 30 years. The group is split into three smaller subgroups: the youngest group, the middle group and the oldest group. The dancers are young; the volunteers that make the group's activities possible, include the dancers' parents, siblings, and friends.

The late 1980s and early 1990s were the years of internal turmoil in the group which resulted in the departure of some dancers and the foundation of a separate Polish folk dance group. These dancers led by Roman and John Sobański (father and son) created the Podhale Polish Folk Dance Company in 1991-1992. This loss of some of the best talent resulted in a crisis in the Krakusy, which it succeeded to overcome by returning to its roots in the Polish community and its primary function of teaching Polish children about Polish history, music and customs. Gradually, new members replaced the departed ones, and the group was able to rebuild its high artistic standing and enrich its repertoire. The choreographers and artistic directors were the only paid employees of the ensemble; their involvement was characterized by a whole-hearted dedication, reaching well beyond duties of salaried employees. Polish folk dance was, and is, their passion.


    Edward Hoffman, Krakusy's new choreographer and artistic director, has collaborated with Krakusy on several occasions in the past. Edward has been dancing since age 10. In 1969 he joined his first professional ensemble in Rzeszow, Poland, travelling all over Europe. He completed his dance studies and became a choreographer and instructor for several groups in Krakow, Rzeszow, Szczecin and Tarnow. His groups received honors and prizes in many festivals in Poland and abroad. Mr. Hoffman received individual prizes for his choreography of Mazur and dances of the Rzeszow region. For eight consecutive years he ws an instructor and choreographer for Polish folk dance groups form other countries during the International Polish Folk Dance Festival in Rzeszow. His students now dance all over the world including Asia and Africa. In 1990 he was invited by the Polish Folk Dance Association of the Americas to teach in New York. During the last eight years he worked with Piast , a group from Massachusetts.


Renata and Stefan Perzyna both joined Krakusy at age 10. Dancing soon became their favorite pastime. both studied folk dancing and choreography at the Maria Sklodowska-Curie University in Lublin, Poland, as well as with many well known teachers and choreographers. For the past few years, Renata has been teaching the oldest group. Stefan teaches the youngest group and performs with the eldest. Krakusy have been a part of Renata and Stefan's lives for 22 years. They were "Krakusy sweethearts" for six years before their marriage in 1987. The wedding features Polish traditions and costumes. Today, their three children dance in the group.

Bibliography PMRC Main Dance Page Other Dance Links
Polish Music Center Flora L. Thornton School of Music
University of Southern California Southern California Studies Center

Copyright 2001 by the Polish Music Center. Send your comments and inquiries to: polmusic@usc.edu
This page created by Maja Trochimczyk. Editorial Assistance: Joanna Slusarz.
Updated in August 2001. Illustrations from Polish folk art (straw cutouts);
PMC Collection; Krakusy Archives (courtesy of Bogna Szupinska, Kazimierz and Henryka Cybulski).