Posted by Jeremy Hull on 11/17/2018.

For current members of MIFDA, including myself, the history of the organization is not well known. Long standing and former members often refer to the Gimli workshops that they attended in the 1970s or to dance nights that took place at the old YMCA downtown or at the Ukrainian Labour Temple. From time to time I have thought we should celebrate our anniversary, but am never sure which anniversary it would be. A while back I received a box full of old meeting minutes, financial statements, choreographies and other items, so I decided to see what I could piece together. While there are many gaps in these materials, and a lot that was never written down, I was interested to see what I could find out about the mythical history of MIFDA. What I have gathered is that there were maybe two or three distinct periods in MIFDA's evolution.

Period 1A: 1960s

There is a one paragraph history of MIFDA included in a 1977 information brochure for members that says MIFDA was initiated in 1961 by "interested people" in order to organize folk dance workshops for school teachers and community leaders, and to put on an annual Children's Folk Dance Festival starting in 1963. It was said that attendance at this festival reached more than 2000 in 1975. From about 1968 - 1977 MIFDA was also responsible for leading mass dancing on the Legislative Grounds as part of Canada Day celebrations. These celebrations grew out of Canada's 1967 Centennial.

Period 1B: 1975 to 1979

During these four years, at least, MIFDA organized folk dance training sessions at the Gimli Leadership training facility that was used by the provincial government as a training facility. The training sessions were run as a series of 5 weekends, referred to as Levels I - V, from fall or winter through spring. Financial support was provided by the province covering the biggest portion of the cost (room & board), and memberships and fees covered the remainder, such as honoraria for instructors. The program led to a certificate for those who took all five Levels. Participants came from various parts of the province and ranged from about 35-50 people.

During this time MIFDA provided non-competitive dance adjudicators for various provincial music and art festivals and the May 1976 newsletter lists 12 adjudicators. There were also some connections with rural areas at this time. The newsletters report activities in such locations as Birtle, Cranberry Portage, Swan Valley, Boissevain, The Pas, and activities organized in individual schools within Winnipeg. Dance evenings were also organized occasionally it seems, and by 1976 it appears that these were taking place perhaps 5 times a year in various Winnipeg locations. In 1977 MIFDA claimed a membership of more than 100 province-wide. Activity during this period is recorded in the newsletter "Footnote" that was published and distributed from 1976-1978.

Period 2: 1979 - Present

Starting in 1979 MIFDA had to make a transition when it was decided that the Gimli workshops were too expensive and time-consuming to put on. It appears that provincial support for the Gimli workshops ended with the 1978/79 season. In March 1979 MIFDA put on a one-day mini-workshop. The workshop took place at the River Osborne Leisure Centre. It began with mixers followed by twelve separate workshop sessions in three locations and covering Israeli, Balkan, International, English, and Children's dances. Dance performances were also part of the program.

At a general meeting held in April 1979 the transition was discussed and plans were made to offer weekly dancing as well as two one-day mini-workshops and a "residential" weekend workshop during the following year. Starting in November 1979, MIFDA offered weekly dancing in Winnipeg on Sunday nights from 7-10 at the Central YMCA.

Membership then, as now, was $5 per year. The Sunday evening fee was $1.00 for members and $1.50 for others. Teachers were paid a small honorarium. Various formats for the Sunday evenings were tried. In 1980-81 the format began with mixers and reviews from 7:00-7:45, basic and intermediate dance classes from 8:00-9:00, and request dancing from 9:10-10:00. Different teachers took on various months of teaching, with usually 2 or 3 teachers involved each week. Each month ended with a review of the month's dances.

By September 1982 MIFDA had moved to Augustine United Church on River Ave & Pulford St. where it stayed until 2006. Dave Edwards was the organization's president at this time. This was still the location when I began attending MIFDA in September 1991. By that time there had been a transition in the leadership of the organization. Teaching was done primarily by Moira Graham, Bill Newman and Teresa Lobczuk and occasionally others. Weekend workshops were organized every couple of years or so.

In September 2006 MIFDA shifted its regular dance location to Churchill Park United Church on Beresford Ave as a result of indications that we would not be able to continue renting at Augustine.

Participation on dance nights increased between 1992 and 2007. In the early 1990s typical Friday nights had about 15 participants, and there might be 25 on a party night, which would be an unusually large number. Since 2006-2007, attendance has almost always been more than 20, with 25-30 being the norm. It is not unusual for there to be more than 30 participants. Membership as of April 2007 was 52. A review of membership lists over the 10 years shows memberships of between 50 and 60. While the nominal membership has remained fairly steady, the active membership has clearly increased, with much more consistent attendance among those listed as members. Our workshops may have more than 60 participants.

A recent development has been the formation of the MIFDA Village Band. The band started meeting regularly in the fall of 2005, building on previous singing and music parties hosted by members of MIFDA for several years. In 2006-07 the band started meeting twice per month with one session devoted to practicing songs, and the other devoted to instrumental work. More recently the instrumentalists have been practicing weekly throughout the year, with separate practices for singers once or twice a month. The band often performs a set at MIFDA parties and workshops, and once in a while it performs at other events and venues.

MIFDA has developed a tradition of an annual wind-up at the Falcon Yacht Club each year in June. It started in 1993 with a small group of participants, but increased with the size of the group and in recent years has attracted about 20-30 participants, including some non-member friends and relatives. Since 1996 there has been an annual free Open House each September as a way of attracting new people to try international dancing.

Since 1991 MIFDA has put on the following (mostly) weekend workshops:

Feb 1991International with Gail & Ian Tucker
March 1994International with Gail & Ian Tucker
March 1996International with Dan & Mary Garvin
April 1998English & Scottish with Liz Goossen and International with Ann Smreciu
April 1999English, Cajun, Scandinavian, Appalachian, French with Frederick Park (joint workshop with Village Green English Country Dancers)
Feb 2000Bulgarian with Yves Moreau
Nov 2001Klezmer Dance with Steve Weintraub
April 2004Contra and English with David Millstone (jointly with Village Green)
Nov 2004Armenian mini-workshop with Tineke van Geel
Feb 2006Romanian workshop with Sonia Dion & Cristian Florescu
Oct 2006Greek mini-workshop with Yvonne Hunt
Feb 2007International with Edwidge Munn
Oct 2007Romanian mini-workshop with Sonia Dion & Cristian Florescu
Feb 2008International & Contra workshop with Paul Collins
Mar 2009Turkish workshop with Ahmet Luleci
Sept 2009Armenian & other dances with Tineke van Geel
Feb 2010Canadian, Welsh and other dances Dale Hyde
Oct 2010International workshop with Mary Zaleta
Mar 2011Bulgarian workshop with Yuli Yordanov
May 2011Greek mini-workshop with Fr. Theodore Paraskevopoulos
Mar 2012Macedonian workshop with Kete Ilievski
Nov 2012Bulgarian workshop with Yves Moreau
Feb 2014Roma workshop with Kathleen and Patti
Nov 2014International workshop with Lee Otterholt
Mar 2016International workshop with Steve Kotansky
Nov 2016International workshop with Kathleen Mazurek
Mar 2017Bulgarian workshop with Nina Kavardjikova
Feb 2018Bulgarian workshop with Rick King

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