Highlights from the Ethnomusicology Archive: the Irwin Parnes collection

Los Angeles-based impresario Irwin Parnes (1917-1994) was best known for pioneering the staging of multicultural, multiethnic productions.  Parnes was the longtime managing director of the International Concerts Exchange Foundation.  He was also the manager of the Performing Arts series at the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University, Los Angeles).  From 1947 to 1992, Parnes presented 45 International Folk Dance Festivals in Los Angeles' old Philharmonic Auditorium, the Shrine Auditorium and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Parnes called on major talents to help him spread music and dance through culturally diverse Southern California, hiring such festival narrators as Greer Garson, Ginger Rogers, Edward Asner, Edward G. Robinson, Eartha Kitt and Ruby Keeler. In 1988, Parnes and his wife, Joy, wrote an autobiography of their adventures, Bull by the Horns.  In 1991, he drew together the jokes and stories of his long life with entertainers to present the show Jokes, Kosher & Traif at the Westwood Playhouse.  His collection was donated to the Ethnomusicology Archive by his son Sam Parnes (Ethnomusicology Ph.D. 1999). 

I thought I would highlight several of the recordings.


45th Annual International Folk Dance Festival at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, May 23, 1992.  Tonantzin -- Strathleven -- Tokuyae Classical Dance Group -- Fil-Am Family Cultural Group -- Royal Academy of Belly Dancing -- Korean Classical Music and Dance Company -- Lula & Afro Brasil -- Sevan Dance Ensemble and Orchestra -- International Children's Choir and Dancers -- Krakusy Polish Folk Dance Ensemble -- Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble -- Beverly Hills Cotillion Dance Ensemble -- Howard "Sandman" Sims & Art in Motion (Black and White Ballet Jazz).  Narration spoken by Mr. Edward Asner.


Dances of the World, University of Judaism, January 8, 1995.  Note, there are ten tapes, so if you want to see, for example, Black Ballet Jazz,  go to tape 5.  If you want to see the Shazula Boot Dancers, go to tape 9.  Introduction -- Scandia Dances -- Clog Dances -- Fiddle -- Hwa Yi -- Sephardic Flamenco -- Black Ballet Jazz -- Inca Peruvian -- Beverly Hills Cotillion -- Scots -- Shazula Boot Dancers -- Gypsy Dance. 



Chester Whitmore's Black Ballet Jazz, Gindi Auditorium, University of Judaism, February 2, 1991.  Dancer, teacher, performer, choreographer, director, stunt man and entertainer Chester Whitmore is a protégé of Fayard Nicholas (of the Nicholas Brothers).  His choreography can be seen in music videos for Boys II Men, Sugar Ray, and Teena Marie.  He has worked with artists such as Savion Glover, MC Hammer, and Prince.  Also a renowned drummer and band leader, he has performed with his own dance company Black Ballet Jazz, the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra and Mile Davis.

If you want to learn more about Chester Whitmore, check out his video, The History of The History of Black Dance in America: Chester Whitmore

The History of The History of Black Dance in America: Chester Whitmore

If you want to learn more about Irwin Parnes, check out, for example...

Shay, Anthony.  2006.  Choreographing identities: folk dance, ethnicity and festival in the United States and Canada.  Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co.

or look at local newspapers like the California Eagle, the Los Angeles Sentinel or the Los Angeles Times (don't forget to look at the ads, which show concert promos).  And if you need a refresher on using newspapers as a primary source, check out the Ethnomusicology Research Guide, go to the tab "News."


Photo at top of page:  Irwin Parnes, right, with Ervin Nyiregyhazi (in a black hood at "Mr. X" concert), May 1946.  (Photograph From Irwin Parnes Takes the Bull by the Borns)

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