LARSON: 'Romance' springs forth with real Polish accent

Piotr Folkert

Piotr Folkert


WHAT: North Atlanta Dance Theatre’s Spring Romance

WHEN: March 22, 7:30 p.m.

March 23, 2:30 p.m.

WHERE: Gwinnett Performing Arts Center

COST: $15 - $28

INFO: www.gwinnettcenter.com/romance or call 770-772-8000

When I went to Gwinnett’s first Pierogi Festival five years ago, it was to enjoy Polish cuisine. I never imagined what all I would learn — or should I say relearn — about Polish culture.

For one thing, I learned that polkas are not Polish. I wish someone had told Mr. Osiecki, my Polish accordion teacher, that 60 years ago. At my mother’s insistence, I was part of his traveling accordion band. We six little kids of German, Italian and Slavic descent were dragged all over the county playing polkas at Polish festivals where Polish people would clap and dance and yeehaw to our music. We played for thousands of Poles and all of them at least acted like they thought polkas were Polish.

My late-in-life education about Polish music was set straight when Polish-born Dorota Lato, founder and president of the Chopin Society of Atlanta, along with board members Dr. Elzbieta Gurtler-Krawczynska and Anna Holub-Standish, introduced me to what real Polish music is and isn’t. Polkas, they told me are absolutely positively part of the latter. They totally re-educated me and through CSA concerts, I heard Polish pop star Chopin’s greatest hits performed by some of the greatest pianists in the world.

Among the best of the best is Lato’s husband, Polish-born Piotr Folkert, who has won numerous worldwide awards and is regarded by music critics as one of the most gifted pianists performing today. But this phenomenal musician does not limit himself to standard Polish music. Next weekend, with the North Atlanta Dance Theatre, the Johns Creek resident, joined by his daughters Eliza and Emilia, will perform what may be a musical first in NADT’s Spring Concert “Romance.”

“This is a very auspicious occasion,” said Michael Garrison, NADT’s founder and Artistic Director. “Piotr and I have been discussing the idea of collaborating ever since the Folkerts enrolled their daughters in our school, North Atlanta Dance Academy. With my decision to present “Les Sylphides,” I knew this would be the perfect vehicle for us to collaborate. This event is historic for the company on several levels. It is our first occasion to perform with live musical accompaniment. Les Sylphides is traditionally performed with full orchestration. This may be the first time it is presented with solo piano, Chopin’s original composition.”

Garrison also notes that Polish dancers Kristofer Wojtera of the Louisville Ballet will dance the lead role of the poet in Les Sylphides and Norbert Nirewicz will dance the role of Prince Desire in Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty.” Also on the program is “Pas de Quatre” by Italian composer Cesare Pugni.

“I am very excited to present this program,” Garrison said.

And, accordingly, I am very excited to write about it.

Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at susanlarson79@gmail.com.