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Early Days of JIF
International folk dance has been around Juneau for many years. Max Lewis (1914-1997), often viewed as the father of folk dance in Juneau, remembered folk dancing in his younger days, particularly with the MacKinnons.
But Juneau International Folkdancers as we know it today had its origins in the early 1970’s when Gloria Barclay returned from the university in Fairbanks and organized a small group in Juneau. According to Paul Sargent (1912-2001), we started out in Capitol School, dancing in a hallway the first week, later moving into a classroom and meeting on occasion at Gastineau School in Douglas.
Early members of the group included Paul and Mary Sargeant, Max Lewis, Katrina Murray, Dick Regan, Walt Gnagy and Judy Jones. Soon to follow were Barbara Swedell, Elizabeth Arnold, Cricket Criss, Paul DeSloover and Charlie Northrup.
While the group occasionally danced publicly, there was no exhibition group until September 1978 when a second night of folk dancing was added in order to rehearse. The first participants were Max Lewis, Gloria Ahrensfeld, Rosemary Antel, Al Murray, Terrie Winiford, Mim Robinson, Paul DeSloover, Chuck Nelson, Elizabeth Muktarian, Don and Ellen Greenberg and Bruce Botelho.
In March 1979 we created an association and in July 1979 we formally incorporated as a non-profit corporation. Our first board consisted of Bruce Botelho, President, Chuck Nelson, Vice President, Terrie Winneford, Secretary, Liz Muktarian, Treasurer and Don Greenberg and Al Murray, Directors.
Informal discussions about forming a true performing folkdance company began in Spring 1980. Further impetus to more serious planning came in May after the stimulating Juneau appearance of AMAN, the Los Angeles-based international folkdance company. The Juneau Folk Ensemble formally came into existence in August 1980. Leadership consisted of Lynn Ager, artistic director, Bruce Botelho, business director, Suzie Gaffney, chair of the management committee, Ellen Greenberg and Judy Jones, management committee members, and Terrie Winniford and Sheila Lovelace-Botelho, costume directors.