Since 1967, The Echoes of Poland, now Toledo’s only Polish dance group, have graced Toledo and surrounding areas with award-winning, authentic renditions of traditional Polish song and dance. On Sunday, June 11 they’ll celebrate their 50th anniversary in a performance with the Polish American Concert Band at the Ohio Theatre on Lagrange Street.
Paulina Tul-Ortyl founded the group 50 years ago, and has never missed a beat. “I’ve been a part of the ensemble for all 50 years”, she says. A group of young girls that performed at Polish weddings branched out from there. “Being a stubborn person,” she laughs “I kept it going.”
One of the group’s first performances took place during the International Festival at the old Sports Arena. Over the last five decades, the group has performed across the US and Canada. In the 70’s and 80’s they traveled several times to Rzeszow, Poland for the Triennial World Festival of Polish Folk Dancers – winning first place on multiple occasions.
The Echoes will showcase dances from over a dozen regions of Poland, including the Polka, the Mazurka the Kujawiak, the Zatanczmy, the Sadecki, and several others. Each one requires a different set of costumes to authenticate the performance. In it’s current form, the ensemble consists of 14 adult couples and 8 teen couples.
Tul-Ortyl both directs the ensemble and curates the costumes worn by each member. Many of the various types of skirts, aprons, and blouses worn by the dancers “are handmade from Poland, and I make additional changes to them,” she explains.
Fun For the Whole Family
There’s a very family-friendly vibe to the ensemble, as “all different ages perform,” says Tul-Ortyl. The adult group is ages 16 and up, then there is a 12 to 15 age group, and even children as young as 6 are involved.
“My kids and my husband and I all dance in the group. My husband joined in 1997,” says Katie Wiercinski. A long-time member of the Echoes, she helps with putting the program together and getting the word out about the group.
All Backgrounds Welcome
“I have no Polish in my background,” says Wiercinski. “You don’t have to necessarily be the ethnicity, you just have to like dancing and want to learn how to do something new.” In fact, since 1997 her husband Rob has danced for both the Echoes of Poland and the Bavarian Sports Club – the German clubhouse on Lagrange Street.
Despite United North’s decision to forego the annual Lagrange Street Polish Festival this year, the Echoes will be performing at many other places this summer. “When you’re a dance group, different festivals are just blips on your docket of events. We’re not tied specifically to them,” says Wiercinski.
Look for the Echoes of Poland to perform at the Polish Picnic at Oak Shade Grove, the Hungarian Festival in August.
3-5pm. Sunday, June 11.
Ohio Theatre, 3114 Lagrange St., 419-241-6875. polishcommunity.org/pact_organization/echoes-of-poland/