On October 4, 1972, the decision to form Tatry Song & Dance Ensemble, under the patronage of Holy Trinity Polish Church, was made at a meeting amongst founding members: Mr. Zenon Kalinowski (the first president), Mr. Kazimierz Zak (the first vice-president), Mrs. Maria Uszynski (financial secretary). Mr. Jozef Rogucki & Mrs. Janina Jaroszewicz (administration/recording secretaries), and Mrs. Irena Zak & Mrs. Victoria Kalinowski (costume designers/seamstresses).
This meeting was a result of an open invitation to Polish Music and Dance Festival occurring in Hamilton the following year that was to showcase Polish folk dance in Canada. This same year the Polonez Orchestra was formed under the direction of Fr. Stan Nierychlewski.
It was a delightful combination of splendid dance and harmonious singing accompanied by a twenty-member orchestra, complete with guitars, mandolins, accordions, a horn section, and drums.
In 1973, Tatry was composed of 63 dancers. The group had to essentially start from scratch. All costumes had to be hand-made by a group of parent volunteers. Initially live music for each dance was provided by the Polonez Orchestra.
The first official local performance by the Tatry Song & Dance Ensemble was on November 30, 1973 at the opening ceremony of Windsor Public Library's main branch. This was a big milestone for the group, as it was the beginning of a number of performances from 1973-1975 in the Windsor and Detroit area. This included participation in the first multicultural festival at St. Clair College in June 1974, which inspired what is now known as the Carrousel of the Nations. In 1974, the growth of Tatry was aided by a federal grant which allowed them to purchase their first authentic costumes and first tape recorder. In 1976, Tatry hosted their first official concert at Centennial High School (which is now Holy Names High School). The event was such a success they held the same event the following year, this time inviting "Galicja" from Detroit and "Bialy Orzel" from Toronto.
Our Aims & Goals
The group's mandate is to preserve and promote the thousand-year-old Polish traditional art of folk dancing. As an ensemble, we are committed to promoting our Polish heritage through song and dance, not only locally, but also on a national and international level. Tatry is not just a dance and song ensemble; it is an organization where young Polish people have the opportunity to learn about their heritage, continue their traditions, and make new and lasting friendships.
Consistently, the Ensemble has had approximately a hundred dancers each year, divided into six groups. All dancers have practice once a week where they learn new songs and dances, preparing themselves for any upcoming performances or festivals where they have the opportunity to express their multiculturalism.
Over the course of the Ensemble's 50 years of existence, they have had the opportunity to participate in a variety of workshops, performances, and dance festivals all over the world. The most significant festival in the world of Polish folk dancing is the World Festival of Polonia Folk Groups in Rzeszow, Poland which happens once every three years. The Tatry Song & Dance Ensemble has attended the festival a total of six times (1993, 1999, 2002, 2008, 2014 and 2017). The festival is not only a representation of the world's finest and most experienced Polish folk dancers but also an opportunity for groups to present themselves as ambassadors of their city and their country. It is the most authentic experience of Polish folklore and a personal experience that leaves all that go with everlasting memories.
Aside from the International Rzeszow Festival, the Ensemble has also been a part of a number of other major festivals. These include annual festivals such as the Toronto Roncesvalles Festival and the Polish Folk Dance Festivals in Nilestown, ON, Troy, MI, and Milwuakee, WI. Performances around the United States include cities such as Chicago, New York and Boston. The group has also been to major international festivals in places like Zielona Gora in 2007, St. Petersburg/Moscow in 2010, and Iwonicz Zdroj in 2012. Participation in these festivals is essential to the growth of the Ensemble as a whole as well as to individual dancers as they have the opportunity to watch and learn from highly experienced ensembles, resulting in higher motivation for what the Ensemble themselves is capable of achieving.
The Ensemble Today
Since 1988, the Ensemble has been under the guidance and direction of the Cultural Committee of Polonia Centre (Windsor) Inc. It was at that time that Mrs. Barbara Koczwara assumed her role as president of the Ensemble for the next 30 years. She was succeeded by Maria Kulesza, Tatry’s current president. Currently the members of the Cultural Committee include Maria Kulesza, Ewa Bednarek (Tatry Vice President), Barbara Koczwara (Tatry Coordinator); Renata Mroz, Aneta Soszynska, Barbara Gorzelski, Janina Lauer, Danuta Kus, Monika Pernal, Elzbieta Stepniak, and Maria Uszynski. This committee plays a major role in planning various Tatry functions, fundraisers, trips, and performances, and helps the Ensemble achieve their goals. Another important part of our Ensemble is our professional team, consisting of our two choreographers, Partycja Mroz and Kinga Rudnicki. They choreograph dances and lead weekly practices for our four groups which have dancers ranging from age four to twenty-four with varying degrees of experience.
The Ensemble is at the point now where some current dancers are second and third generation dancers, which is an inspiring sight to see. It is also not uncommon for dancers to be a part of the group for ten plus years. These are good indications of the future of the Ensemble as they not only contribute to the longevity of the group but are also a testament to their love of singing and dancing, the friendships they have gained, and their respect for Polish heritage.