By Dick Oakes
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THIS IS HISTORICAL INFORMATION ONLY
DICK OAKES: MUSICIAN?
Here's a photo taken at the "new" Mike's Camera, Boulder, Colorado, in May of 1973. During a live advertising promotion being carried on Radio KBOL, Jim Turner on the musical saw and Dick Oakes on the dumbek (a goblet-shaped hand drum) gave an impromptu musical performance. Shown in this Jerry Cleveland photo, in addition to Jim and me, are the store's owner Mike Partayan, Mike's brother Albert Partayan, and Mike's wife Helga Partayan.
On March 25, 1969, Jim, with his musical saw, was one of the guests on Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show. On his "Well Tempered Saw," Jim recorded Textures for Musical Saw & Percussion.
Although not a drum expert, with a little training, I played the dumbek (a goblet drum) and the tŭpan (a large Balkan drum) in performance with the Boulder International Folk Dancers in the 1970s.
INTRODUCTION TO FOLK DANCE IN 1950
What was my first folk dance? Well, it wasn't really an entire dance. Here's the rest of the story . . .
At Marcus Whitman Elementary School in Richland, Washington, it seems that we youngsters were expected to have, as part of our physical "education," some kind of dance training. Of course, the person tagged for the job was the physical education instructor.
The PE instructor was comfortable teaching the "manly" sports; after all, he was a man himself. Even to us at our age, it was obvious that this task was an onerous one to him.
His method of attack, probably prescribed by the texts of the day, was to start us out with the simple locomotor actions of walking, running, and skipping. With record player and speakers blaring, we "locomoted" around the gymnasium to the sounds of 78-rpm recordings.
As you can guess, 20 minutes into a 55-minute period, it was becoming a bit boring. Then the instructor put on a lively tune called "Pop! Goes the Weasel" and set us off a-skipping in a large circle. Already having glimmerings of the free-style dancer that I would become later in life, every time the melody hit the first word in "Pop! Goes the Weasel" I would "POP" up into the air. I was feeling quite satisfied with myself as I was going into the fourth or fifth "pop," when all of a sudden, my arms were clamped to my sides by two very strong hands and I was lifted entirely from the floor and carried to one of the walls where I was set down and turned to face our large, burly phys-ed instructor, now quite red in the face.
He grabbed me once more in the same grip, lifted me as high as he could reach, hung me up on one of the climbing pegs by my belt, then turned around and left me hanging there for the remainder of the period. I suppose he expected that he had humiliated me and that I'd never do anything like that again, but I really enjoyed watching the other poor wretches having to put up with his ineptitude until I was lifted off the peg and set down to go to my next class.
I guess you could say that was when I first recognized that I had a "folk dance hang-up."
P.S. I had so much fun "popping" that I went the next weekend to a local recreation center and learned my second dance, a mixer called "Oh Johnny!" (see the dance notes at the right).
MY FIRST FOLK DANCE IN 1958
When I started folk dancing in in San Diego in 1958, the first dance I learned was Mocosita Tango. It had just been taught at the 1958 Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference and was being taught in San Diego, California (click the dance notes at the right to see the entire dance).
I was a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy stationed at the naval hospital in Balboa Park. Being a loner, a tee-totaleer, and a non-smoker, I used to simply walk in any direction from the park during liberty hours. If I found a good place on my "travels," I might take a bus out there the next time. One evening I was walking back through Balboa Park toward the hospital when I heard some music and some happy voices, so I decided to take a look.
In one of the buildings there must have been 50 pianos (there was going to be a piano festival of some sort) pushed to the side. I sat down on one of the piano benches and watched through the music holder. The group of folk dancers had stopped and were teaching Mocosita Tango. I decided to go to town, get some civilian clothes, and come back the next week.
The following week they reviewed Mocosita Tango again. When they went to put on the music, an old man who had been dancing with a gorgeous blond girl decided he couldn't go on and stranded her. Having been a gymnast and diver prior to entering the service, I knew pretty well where my "body parts" went, so I jumped up and asked her to dance. She said that the dance had just been taught, but I assured her that I could do it — and I did (even "leading" her!). Afterward, I went to the drinking fountain, saw they were doing an easy Serbian dance, so I joined in. I joined in several more through the evening. Everyone thought I was some experienced dancer from up north somewhere and when the dance ended, they invited me to go to a double-hamburger joint (the first in San Diego!) and I went in somebody's car.
When they dropped me off there were still several cars in the parking lot and all must have surmised that I would hop in my automobile to head for home. When everyone had left, I walked back to the hospital.
I had very liberal liberty hours, plus I could always swap with someone, so I went folk dancing every week for another three months when someone noticed my "swabby shoes." By then, I was "part" of the group (not one of those Navy guys just looking for "chicks").
During my early folk dance teaching years, I moved around a lot. One of my "homes" was at the Sherbourne Towers Apartments. Here are the rules that were posted in the first-floor hallway.
- No Pets
- No Children
- No Musical Instruments
- No Drinking
- No Hi-Fi
- No TV
- No Parties
- No Visitors
- No Shaving Against the Grain
P.S. Don't read these rules aloud after 10 p.m.