Elsie Ivancich Dunin born Elsie Ann Ivancich, stage name Elsie Evans (July 19, 1935) is a prominent Dance Ethnologist (a.k.a Ethnochoreologist), choreographer, professor and author specializing in folk dance from Croatia, Macedonia, and Romani (Gypsy) in Macedonia. She is a Professor Emerita (Dance Ethnology) from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and is currently a dance research advisor with the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research in Zagreb, Croatia. The major focus of her research is on identifying social dance changes that are related to cultural changes.
Elsie Ivancich was the older of two children born to Ilona Pazman and Frank Ivancich in Chicago, Illinois on July 19, 1935. Both Pazman and Ivancich had emigrated separately from their homeland of Croatia. As Ivancich was growing up, she was immersed in Croatian culture, spoke Croatian at home and was socialized among the Croatian and Yugoslavian community in Chicago. She also became very interested in dance when she was a young child and began taking dance lessons at Sisters Dance School, a renowned children.s school for dance in Chicago. In 1942, the family moved to Los Angeles, California, and her interest in dance would continue to grow. In California, her parents enrolled her in tap and ballet classes, with the addition of acrobatics. She excelled in all her classess, and by age 14, had improved as a dancer, as well as an acrobat and contortionist. She began competing, and performing in shows while attending Fremont High School. She won The Quest Dance Competition in southern California, and appeared on Television Star Hunt. Ivancich would often perform her spectacular dance and acrobatic routines at USO and Benefit shows. She was also photographed for an article in ..LIFE.. magazine while performing an acrobatic act on the stage in Muscle Beach.
During her junior year in high school, Ivancich and her family traveled to Europe, back to her ancestral homeland of Croatia, where she was greeted with banners that deemed her to be a .Hollywood Performer.. She impressed audiences with her tap and acrobatic shows in Yugoslavia and on the ship SS Liberte.
Her many widely seen performances earned her notice in Hollywood. She acquired a dance part in .A Star is Born. starring Judy Garland, as one of the indian girls. In addition to performing dance and acrobatics, Ivancich was a very dedicated high school student, and she was very involved with her student body government. She served as Student Body: President, Vice President and Secretary during her high school years, and in 1953, she graduated from Fremont High School with honors.
After her high school graduation, Ivancich attended college at UCLA and majored in Language Arts intending to become a high school drama teacher. During Ivancich.s freshman year, she performed with Carol Burnett on a variety show as well as various local productions. However, she did not find her true calling until later in 1956 when she attended a dance performance by Tanec Folk and Music Ensemble, a group from Macedonia, Yugoslavia. The dance group was a sensation with American audiences and became an inspiration for Ivancich. She decided that she would take a trip to Skopje in Yugoslavia to learn all she could about folk dances from the diverse cultures within the country.
In 1957, Elsie met her future husband, Stanley Dunin, who at the time was a math scholar. Dunin was born of Polish nobility and had emigrated to the United States after WWII. He would later become a renowned American mathematician and NASA aeropace engineer. The pair were married in Los Angeles, California, on June 14, 1958, and had two daughters, Elonka and Teresa. The elder daughter, Elonka Dunin, became a very notable game developer, author and cryptographer.
After her children were born, Ivancich continued her education, receiving her Master.s in Arts from UCLA in Dance Ethnology in 1966. This title, Dance Ethnology, was significant because doctoral studies in the field of dance did not exist at that time. Hers was the earliest "dance ethnology" thesis in the Department of Dance that was established in the College of Fine Arts at UCLA in 1962. Ivancich.s attendance at UCLA led to her and her husband.s involvement with the International Student Center at UCLA. The center served as a resource to aid foreign students to become more immersed in American academic culture. She later became the Director of Royce Hall Programs at UCLA and led fundraising efforts for the International Student Center for many years. During this time period, Ivancich also found time to host a weekly half-hour program on Los Angeles public radio, KPFK-FM. Her program was focused on folk dance and culture, and gained popularity and a significant listening audience. She also continued to appear on TV shows like Bill Burrud.s Travel Show, and worked with actress Genevieve Bujold as her dance coach for her dancing part in the 1976 film, .Alex and the Gypsy., in which Bujold co-starred with Jack Lemmon.
Elsie Ivancich Dunin became an assistant professor at Dance Department at UCLA in 1968, and later a full tenured professor. She taught Ethnic Dance at UCLA for a combined total of 30 years, and her work was published in over 60 articles, books and academic publications. In 1992, she was co-chair of the UCLA Department of Dance and then made the decision to retire from UCLA in 1994. In addition to her teaching and academic work at UCLA, Ivancich also chaired several committees and organizations such as the Folk Dance Federation of California (South), and for several years, she directed Betyarok, a performing group dedicated to Hungarian Dance. Throughout her post-retirement from UCLA, Ivancich has regularly spoken, and presented dance research papers at several professional societies, such as the Congress on Research in Dance, the American Folklore Society, the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Gypsy Lore Society, and the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on Ethnochoreology. In addition to speaking engagements, she also regularly organizes dance and Gypsy studies conferences throughout the United States. Currently, Elsie Ivancich Dunin lives in Arizona, and works with several dance groups and associations such as the Slavonijo Dance Ensemble, as well as the International Council for Traditional Music and the Cross-Cultural Dance Resources Organization. In 2003, she was a speaker and an organizer of the symposium for "Applying Dance Ethnology And Dance Research In The 21st Century" and more recently, Elsie has taken the role as the co-chairman of The Congress on Research in Dance.s 38th Annual Conference, which will take place in November 2006.
Special studies include: Cross cultural comparative study of dance change among three generations of Croatian/Americans in the United States (California), in South America (Chile), and three generations of communities in Croatian source areas. On-going, long-term research includes: Spontaneous participatory and organized performance dance in Macedonia (1988-1989); Dance of the Roma (Gypsies) in Macedonia, United States, and Chile; and Sword dance survivals of Croatia and Mexico, 21st to 16th centuries.
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