Dancing Queens from left: Adélka Hančová,Hilda Bájová, Sydney Hill, Claire Torres, Kateřina Čapková, Daniela Olszová, Veronika Alliamus Pazdírková, at the feet of the Queens, Markéta Hančová
That dance lifts you from your chair to see better those nice long stocking-clad legs ! And here they come shaking dancing smiling moving in their sheek dress and the charm of decently seducing choreography by the lovely Claire Torres. They are Queens, the Dancing Queens, a cosmopolitan pack of pretty Czech, Slovak and American women who love to dance FOR YOU with the only purpose: to make you smile, to make you tap your feet, to make any dull moment to be sent away! Where they may lack in expertise, their passion steps in!!
You would catch them on Saturday evening, the seventeenth of February, in the busily bustling Hall of Nation in San Diego Balboa Park. In spite of a long weekend calling for adventure out in the country, we had more than enough guests to make the Hall lively, happy and eventful! And there it was: a homemade Slovak dinner
(halušky, small potato dumplings with sauerkraut and bacon), a typical horse-shoe shaped and heavily decorated cake , blueberry crumbled cake, strudel, Czech tap beer... The MC of the evening, that would be me, tries to entertain in various ways like usual Trivia game, this year the history of Olympics, an apt choice. The guests always play in earnest and contagious competitive spirit! And the knowledgeable ones are awarded gently by Swiss chocolate! (One question I did not ask but should have! Who is the only athlete in the history of Winter Olympics that competes in two disciplines? The Czech snowboarder Ester Ledecka who decided to enters Super G , ranking 43rd, on hand-me-down skis and... wins the gold!! Her snowboarding event is to come!)
In between dancing, the Hall witnesses several contests. Like who will be first to open a tight pack of bubblegums while wearing oversized skiing gloves....that was the kids-guests favorite... and we had fifteen childern at the party ages four to eighteen! We love them around as they are well behaving and engaged! Nothing is more pleasing than to see the entire families to have fun.
BUT! The most important reason for happy ambiance & fun was a wide repertoire of live music by Poe Street Band that can now, after several years playing together, offer many songs for diverse audience: from Americana to Eastern European folk, from blue-grass to rock-and-roll, from polka to waltz to czardas, from jazz to blues. The Hall was filled with happy music, the dancing floor became slowly but surely crowded with dancers and before we knew it it was midnight and the dancers were so inspired that the Band was sweating to hapilly fulfill all of those wonderful requests! Thank you, dancers & listeners, we love you all and we are humbled when you come to listen to us, we truly are!!
Not professionals by any mean, Poe Street Band strives on love for music that has meaning for them, music they associate with their past, their old or new country, important events or simply music that just have the right vibes for the musicians. The band consists of good friends, Czech, Slovak and Americans; the idea of the Band was speared by Vladislav and Markéta Hanč, who opened their house at Point Loma on Poe Street for rehearsals, hence the name! And the rest is history and with mutual respect and friendship we enjoy playing together very much, supplying music for community from childrens' event to public ones!
Poe Street Band musicians: drums Ambrož Krutý, solo guitar, vocals Tomáš Májek, guitar Vladislav Hanč, banjo,vocals Pavel Chvístek, base, vocals Lou Shlotte, solo guitar Alex Skultety, vocals Markéta Hančová.
And a short interesting side story why we sing many songs in Czech that are actually American songs. Czechs
are buffs for blue-grass thanks to Pete Seeger who came to Czechoslovakia in 1964 and for the first time introduced blue grass, folk, and a five string banjo. (Czechs built the banjo by refering to a photograph taken during the concert!) Seeger’s performance electrified Czech music fans to the point that the Czech Republic boasts more bluegrass bands and banjo players per capita than any other country!! The Czech bluegrass scene is so strong that when I moved to USA and heard Johnny Cash songs, or songs like Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Cotton Fields, Swing low; Suzanna and many others in English, I was shocked "that Americans have those Czech songs in English". Yes, I was that innocent coming from the secluded world behind the iron curtain!!!
So this past Saturday we met, we talked, enjoyed good food and drinks, striked conversation with new guests, we sang and danced in a great spirit of friendship and camaraderie. Our dancing party fulfilled the very purpose for which the Hall of Nation was designated: A place for newcomers to this country and their offsprings to share their heritage, culture, lifestyle, history and food with Americans and other nationalities. What a unique place the Hall is; its concept having no replica anywhere in the world. Adjacent to the Hall is an International Village built in attractive Spanish style, that goes under the name House of Pacific [meaning peaceful] Relations established for the California Pacific International Exibition held in Balboa Park in 1935. The father behind the entire successful exhibit was Paul Drugan who not only succeeded in making the Exhibit reality but with the support of the government built within the exhibit that mentioned international village as a symbolic way toward peace among all nations. In 1935 there were 13 cottages, Czechoslovakia was one of the original members, today 34 nationalities sharing the village consisting of 22 cottages, an outdoor stage for performances and the Hall for
events. Each cottage, upon the opening in 1935, was an legitimate embassy for the very country, how wonderful! Today it is a place sampling the heritage of each country and is open for public every weekend from noon to four. Poe Street Band loves the mission of the House of Pacific Relations, under which the
Village strives, and of which we are members. You can catch the Band play in the Czech cottage or in the Park
several times a year.
I think it is fair to say that our fun February event fulfilled the wonderful important attractive mission of the cozy Village and the Hall: “... to create a spirit of understanding, tolerance and goodwill..."