Michel's Mazurka

Key to the folks in the painting.

The painting Michel's Mazurka depicts a scene from a folk dance camp in 1983 in Mendocino, California, where Vickie Yancy has taught "accordeon diatonique" and French dance since the first year of the gathering.

Musicians in the outer circle of this painting are playing a French Mazurka-Waltz for the dancers. Bagpipe, Hurdy Gurdy, Hautbois (oboe) and Fiddle would have accompanied such a dance when it originated in France, although Accordeon Diatonique, a more modern instrument, is now commonly played in ensembles featuring traditional and contemporary French country dance music. Historically the planks of the dance hall floor struck by dancers' wooden sabots created a characteristic sound and audible symbiosis between dancers and musicians in the performance of the national dance of the French folk culture, the bourree.

Vickie Yancy is the artist and blonde accordeon player in the foreground of the scene, and those in the painting surrounding her are her family and friends. A native of Sullivan, Illinois, Vickie has been a teacher of deaf children and adults and a professor of sign language for many years. Her current research on language acquisition is based on empirical work from three, broad areas of investigation- interdisciplinary cognitive science; special education risk, and disability; and human development.

Not surprisingly Michel's Mazurka was created in honor of teaching, mentors, and students. The French mentor who introduced the mazurka-waltz to Vickie, Michel Raous, although placed prominently in the painting dancing with a woman in red, was actually only there in spirit. In fact the artist who created this scene of warmth and camaraderie was also not present. That night as she heard the music begin Vickie had looked into the hall expecting to be needed to remind her students of the mazurka waltz formation and steps. Instead she stood in awe observing the product of an afternoon's work as a teacher. Her students on this night joined the chain following Michel and Vickie not only taking the dance with them but also passing on the dance to hundreds of other dancers wherever they go.

The original painting, 21 " X 30", was created with prisma-color pencil and hangs in the artist's home. Over the past 30 years Vickie has contributed to friends' recordings of ethnic music playing a variety of instruments in addition to having produced with her own band a CD called, "Tour De France." An eclectic chronicle of the repertoire of this northern California band, the CD also contains two of Vickie's original tunes inspired by years filled with French country dance music, the tall redwoods of the Woodlands campground, and the great halls with the wooden plank floors.

Lark in the Morning folk music and dance camp celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2005.

Listen to Vickie's French accordion music. 


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