Elsie Ivancich Dunin

The ethnochoreologist Elsie Ivancich Dunin was born into a family of Croatian immigrants in Chicago in 1935. She is one of the founders of dance ethnology as an academic discipline in the USA. Ivancich Dunin graduated from Fremont High School in Los Angeles in 1953. She defended her master’s thesis, Silent Dances of the Dinaric Mountain Area: Analysis of the Purpose, Form, and Style of Selected Dances, which was the first master’s thesis in the field of dance ethnology, in 1966, at the newly-founded Department of Dance at UCLA’s College of Fine Arts. Together with Allegra Fuller Snyder, she was the first professor of dance ethnology at UCLA, starting in 1968. She retired in 1994 as “professor emerita”.  

Ivancich Dunin is an external associate with the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research in Zagreb. She investigates dance in a macro-cultural context; by observing and participating in dance events, she interprets human behaviour, revealing dance as an important link between the private and public life of an individual, the family, and a community. Following the changes in dance brought about by changes in location, she conducts comparative research of dance in various cultures. In this respect, she observes and compares three generations of Croats in Croatia, and three generations of Croatian emigrants in California and Chile. Her studies focus on sword dances – i.e. military dances (moreška) and chain dances (kumpanija-moštra) – in Korčula and in the Americas; how the custom, originally from Dubrovnik, of celebrating St Blaise (or St Vlaho) takes place on the three continents; spontaneous and organised dance performances in Macedonia; and Romany dances in Macedonia, the USA and Chile.

Ivancich Dunin has modernised dance ethnology by creating the computer programme LCs LN for writing Labanotations (kinetographs) on Apple Macintosh computers. Also, as a member of the Study Group on Ethnochoreology set up by the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM), she has created a database containing information on dance research throughout the world. Together with Candi Harrington de Alaiza, she has put together rules for the bibliographic notation of published or publicly presented dance research. She is the author of several bibliographies. Ivancich Dunin curated the exhibitions Dance Occasions and Festive Dress in Yugoslavia in Los Angeles in 1984, and Gypsy St. George’s Day. Skopje, Macedonia, 1967-1997 in Skopje in 1998. She also contributed texts for the catalogues of both exhibitions. She has contributed to the publications Makedonski folklor (Skopje 1971, 1973, 1975, 1999); Matica. Iseljenički kalendar (1976); Dance Research Journal (Toronto 1981-82, Honolulu 1990); Folk Dance Scene (Los Angeles 1984, 1998); Glasnik. Sociedad Yugoslava de Antofagasta (1986); Dance Research Annual (New York 1987); Narodna umjetnost (1988); Migrations in Balkan History (Belgrade 1989); Studia musicologica Academiae scientiarum Hungaricae (Budapest 1991); Yearbook for Traditional Music (New York 1991); Dance Ritual and Music (Warsaw 1995); International Encyclopaedia of Dance (New York 1998); to the ICTM symposia and conferences’ publications; and to the publications of the North American branch of the “Gypsy Lore” organisation. As a dancer, she performed in Zagreb in 1961 (tap dance), in George Cukor’s 1954 film “The Star is Born”, and in the Macedonian professional folklore ensemble “Tanec” in Skopje in 1957.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Makedonski narodni plesovi (Macedonian Folk Dances, with co-authors M. Dimoski and S. Višinski), Zagreb 1973. South Slavic Dances in California: A Compendium for the Years 1924-1977, Palo Alto 1979. Yugoslav Dance: An Introduction and List of Sources Available in United States Libraries (co-author N. Lee Chalfa Ruyter), Palo Alto 1981. Starobosansko Kolo in Yugoslavia and in California, San Carlos 1988. Guide to LCs LN, Los Angeles 1988. DdA Reference Format for Dance (co-author C. Harrington de Alaiza), Los Angeles 1989. Dance Research Published or Publicly Presented by Members of the Study Group on Ethnochoreology: 1-2, Los Angeles 1989-1991; 3. Zagreb 1995; 4 (co-author T. Zebec), Zagreb 1999. Dance Abstracts and Index: 1989, English–language Publications in the United States, Los Angeles 1991; 1990, English–language Publications in the United States and Canada, Los Angeles 1994. Dance Source: UCLA Libraries and Archives, Los Angeles 1991. Dances in Macedonia: Performance Genre – Tanec (co-author S. Višinski), Skopje 1995.

Elsie Dunin

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