The Gandy Dancers
By Dick Oakes
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THIS IS HISTORICAL INFORMATION ONLY
Paul Pritchard was one the founders of the Gandy Dancers. Legend has it that the group was founded over a wine breakfast up the Malibu coast. Probably a tall tale. At any rate, with Paul and others, the Gandy Dancers became one of the leading exhibition groups in southern California, giving exhibitions from Sacramento to Enseñada (yes, they went international!). Paul Pritchard also was active in another group, the International Dance Circle under the leadership of Paul Erfer. The Gandys introduced many fine dances to the Folk Dance Federation of California, South.
Gandys was formed in 1948. Over their 50 years of activity, more than 200 people were members and they had a repertoire of over 60 dances.
According to legend, one of the founders' fathers was employed by one of the railroad companies as a railway track maintenance worker. The "Gandy Dancer” was a small railcar that could hold two workers and the smaller equipment the workers would use for upkeep of the railroad tracks (as shown in the emblem). "FDP&S" means "Folk Dancing Pure and Simple."
According to Isabelle Persh, the Gandy Dancers were important in the beginning of the Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference. She says the annual Laguna Festival was originated as the Elizabeth Saunders memorial festival by the Santa Barbara Folk Dance Conference committee.
The final Gandys reunion in August of 1998 had an impressive 50 people attending, says Lynn Calahan Williams, considering there was a heat wave in San Pedro (106?) and there were only two inadequate fans. What dedication! Anthony Ivancich roasted a lamb.
Lynn goes on to relate some of the better memories, such as the Canary Islands exhibition when Nina Pinthus was ill but sent her costume which Anthony Ivancich wore and did the dance he had directed from a new perspective. Only Ed Feldman seemed to have noticed it. And the time that Bill Bein put his foot through the stage floor doing Oxdans, and many of the dancers on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour decorating the stage in different costumes as Andy Williams wandered through singing "People."
She says we had social dancing after exhibition practice with mostly members of the group teaching which meant Dorothy Daw, Elsie Dunin, Gordon Engler, Ed and Carol Goller, Don Green, Anthony Ivancich, Dick Oakes, Al Pill, Tony Shay, Dave Slater, Avis Tarvin, Chris Tasulis, John Tiffany, Donna Tripp, Al Vincent, Cam Williams the list could go on an on of many of the best and brightest in each era.
Bora Özkök did a beautiful Turkish suite that Bob Bowley directed but they were very physical dances and many dancers opted out of the performance. Bora played for the group's performance at the Laguna Festival where he was teaching in 1976.
And then there were the White Elephant Parties with Wayne Gunderson showing up at one with a whole toilet that someone had ordered but never used.