Wyczinanki for Colombia 001

Richard Schmidt

Celebrating over 45 years in the world of folklore, this dynamic director has been teaching dance every week for 35 years. He is admired and praised for his work as Artistic Director of major International Folk Concerts in Montreal, Canada, where he resides. His experience, organisation-skills, patience and diplomacy have brought success to every producer he has worked for, including FCI (Folklore Canada International) and SPEQ (Société du patrimoine d’expression du Québec). Involving thousands of artists from many cultural backgrounds, Richard manages to make the experience for all an enjoyable one and works every week with well over a 100 young people who share the beauty of Polish folk with him.

From an early age Polish folklore became his passion when at the age of four, his father, a Polish war veteran enrolled him in a local amateur Polish dance group under the auspices of the Polish Veterans Society. His very first teacher (Mrs. Boniecka) came from the theatre in Poland and she quickly taught him the discipline and entertainment value needed to be a performer. His next instructor (Mr. Rożycki), a dancer from the Polish State Ballet Company “Mazowsze” recognised Richard’s talent, even at that age, and took him under his wing and taught him many tricks of the trade. In 1973 Mrs. Leokadia Magdziarz became his teacher. She had been Artistic Director of the Bandoska Folk Ensemble in Rzeszów, Poland and was a graduate in Polish Ethnographic Studies. Her knowledge and talent for teaching, quickly became a strong foundation for Richard to base his passion. He also complimented his dance talents with years of music lessons which enabled him to interpret the measures and rhythms of folk and classical music with ease.

In 1980, at the age of seventeen he took on the role as assistant choreographer and quickly learnt the intricacies of teaching dance. Mrs. Magdziarz encouraged her young protégée, as did her peers in Poland who invited him to study under them. As a specialist in national dances and the folklore of Rzeszów she taught him everything she could and he then complimented his studies by traveling regularly to Poland to study under many of that country’s top specialists – Broda and Budzinski (Mountain regions), Korytek (Kurpie), Kujawski (Kaszuby), Marcinek (Cieszyn and Śląsk), Marek (Wielkopolska, Lachy Sądeckie), Mazurkiewicz (Opoczno and Łowicz), Nachszter (Sieradz), Pogonowski (Podlesie), Stepowicz and Wachowiak (Lublin). Many of these great Masters have now passed on, but their knowledge and expertise live on with Richard and he is forever grateful for his time with them.

Throughout these early years, Richard also continued his academic studies in finance and business and he worked his way up the corporate ladder. In 2001, as General Manager for an electronics firm his final task with them was to shut down production and move the many jobs overseas. This was a heartbreaking job to do and discouraged by the politics and backroom deals of the corporate world, he decided to jump out of the pool of sharks and dedicate the rest of his life full time to his passion – Polish Folklore! Anybody who has made a complete career change in their late thirties or early forties can relate to how scary this can be. It continues to be financially-challenging, but the rewards of opening up and sharing the creative spirit of people of all ages to the beauty of folklore far outshine the needs of material things.

Richard soon became a well-known and permanent fixture on the International Folk Dance Scene across North America, with many repeat visits to dance camps in Quebec, Ontario, British Colombia, Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oregon, New Jersey, New York, California as well as in Poland, Japan and Hong Kong. His expertise in working with people from all different backgrounds is a major reason that Richard has been invited for nine years as Artistic Director of the Folklore Canada International Show held annually in Montreal, as well as, coordinator for the 3-day cultural shows given at the Tourism Show at Place Bonaventure held each October. In 2015, Richard was honored to be invited back to Japan for another 2-week teaching tour with a 4-day intense schedule in Hong Kong. All of his workshops were well attended and so appreciated that he has been invited back to Asia in the spring of 2017.

37 anniversary

The joy of working with young people has always been his driving force and he has been hired by numerous folk ensembles – The Podhale Folk Dance Company of Montreal (Artistic Director 1990-2010), Tatry Folk Ensemble of Oshawa (Artistic Director 2008-2013) , The Polish-Canadian Folk Ensemble Lechowia from Toronto (Artistic Director 2011 to present), Karolinka from London England, Łowiczanie from San Francisco, Dawne Tance from Washington D.C., Les Pieds Legers de Laval, Pomorze from Halifax to name a few along with countless other groups and thousands of dancers from a huge spectrum of cultures who have participated in his productions. His business background, organisational skills and decades of experience are a bonus! As Artistic Director of Podhale in Montreal for more than 20 years he not only created dozens of full-length productions and theme-based specialty numbers along with a regular repertoire, but he took on the role of General Secretary and incorporated the company and successfully attained Charity status for them.

In 2008, Richard founded AKADEMIA BIAŁEGO ORŁA (WHITE EAGLE FOLK DANCE ACADEMY), with experienced dancers. His “Academy” has since been registered as a non-profit organisation and Canadian Charity and in 2013 the Academy was awarded with a Bingo license from the Quebec Government to raise funds on a weekly basis. They quickly received high acclaim for their diverse and technically-challenging repertoire and magnificent costumes, which include interpretive choreographic pieces from not only Poland, but several other European countries. That same year, Richard accepted a 5-year contract as Artistic Director and Choreographer of the Polish Folk Song and Dance Ensemble TATRY of Oshawa, Ontario and has expanded their repertoire extensively. In 2011 Richard also became Artistic Director of the Lechowia Polish Folk Ensemble, a 300-member ensemble in Mississauga, Ontario. 

Richard has conducted   Folk Tours of Poland, with guests from around the globe in partnership with Jim Gold. These tours showcased the beauty and history of Poland along with nightly folk dancing and meet-and-greets with the locals. Please visit our Youtube Channel to see the 20-minute highlight video. In 2016, another Folk Tour of Poland is planned with Richard and in 2017 we venture to Japan. Richard will also be conducting workshops in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan over 4 weeks in February and March.

In the year 2000, Richard was presented with “The Lifetime Achievement Award” and Silver Medal from the government of Poland. In January of 2014, he was honoured to receive an award from SPEQ for his years of contribution to the promotion of folklore in the province of Quebec. SPEQ AWARD Jan 2014 With over 35 years of experience as a teacher of Polish folklore he has become a true Master and there are no signs that he will stop any time soon. Tens of thousands of stude!cid_7A9015D7-7110-4336-852F-816D89C69109@wireless_pacificnts have benefited from him and have come to know and fall in love with the beauty and majesty of Polish culture through him. His creations are always thoroughly researched and original and he is considered one of the most creative choreographers of our time. If you haven’t had the opportunity to work with Richard, then what are you waiting for? See you at the next event! STO LAT! 

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