The 82-year-old has been giving free dance lessons in Denver since 1971 – The Denver Post

0


It’s a dry and hot Thursday night, and the man his dance students alternately call “Sugar” and “the guru” stops to call a curious passer-by: “Come dance! Students who have taken the free weekly classes at Washington Park are used to this – Schukr “Sugar” Basanow wants everyone to enjoy dancing.

“People are happy when they dance,” he says. “I always say it’s $ 10 to watch, but the dancing is free.”

Basanow has been giving free folk dance classes every Thursday from 7 to 10 p.m. next to the Boathouse Pavilion in Washington Park since 1971. He is 82 years old.

The self-taught dancer was born in 1933 in the former Yugoslavia, a member of the Mongolian Kalmyk tribe (he says he is a direct descendant of Genghis Khan). Basanow hasn’t exactly had an easy life, but standing next to him – despite using a cane to ease knee bursitis pain, he has an energetic wit and infectious laughter – it’s hard to imagine it. Basanow, who is five-foot-five and now mainly runs sit-down classes, because of his knee, was born into a poor family and spent a year in hospital as a baby. He started dancing at the age of 4. He lost his father at the age of 5.

The Basanow moved from the slave labor camp in the early 1940s in Hungary to various IDP camps (seven in total, he says) from 1945 to 1951 across Germany. He landed at Ellis Island in 1951.

He did not speak English, did not go to school after being in the camps, and permanently lost his sense of taste and smell due to near starvation. In 1952, Sugar landed at Fellowship House, an interracial and interfaith community center in Philadelphia, where his friend Dick Barnes asked him to perform in a theatrical production of “Unborn Child”. He began teaching folk dance at the Fellowship House and other places in Philadelphia, where he met his wife, Bettina Basanow, who convinced him to move to Denver.

“One of the reasons I wanted to marry Sugar was because I was guaranteed to have a partner who loved to dance,” she jokes.

  • John Leyba, The Denver Post

    Schukr “Sugar” Basanow, a former Broadway dancer turned professional dance teacher of Mongolian descent, dances in the setting sun as he teaches a dance class on July 7, 2016 in Wash Park. He has been giving public lessons (ranging from folk to ball) since 1970.

  • Schukr “Sugar” Basanow, a former Broadway dancer turned professional dance teacher of Mongolian descent, is hosting a dance class on July 7, 2016 in Wash Park. He has been giving public lessons (ranging from folk to ball) since 1970.

  • Dancers hold hands while dancing to a folk song. Schukr “Sugar” Basanow, a former Broadway dancer turned professional dance teacher of Mongolian descent, smiles into the setting sun as he teaches a dance class on July 7, 2016 in Wash Park. He has been giving public lessons (ranging from folk to ball) since 1970.

  • Schukr “Sugar” Basanow, a former Broadway dancer turned professional dance teacher of Mongolian descent, is hosting a dance class on July 7, 2016 in Wash Park. He has been giving public lessons (ranging from folk to ball) since 1970.

  • Surai Quimby (left) and daughter Mikayla Quimby dance in a dance class hosted by her father Schukr “Sugar” Basanow, a former Broadway dancer of Mongolian descent turned professional dance teacher, in a dance class. dance on July 7, 2016 in Wash Park. He has been giving public lessons (ranging from folk to ball) since 1970.

  • Schukr “Sugar” Basanow, a former Broadway dancer turned professional dance teacher of Mongolian descent, smiles as he teaches a dance class on July 7, 2016 in Wash Park. He has been giving public lessons (ranging from folk to ball) since 1970.

  • Dancers hold hands during a sunset song during class. Schukr “Sugar” Basanow, a former Broadway dancer turned professional dance teacher of Mongolian descent, is hosting a dance class on July 7, 2016 in Wash Park. He has been giving public lessons (ranging from folk to ball) since 1970.

  • Sharon Willliams Larson applauds as Lynette Emerson (R) learns the steps during dance class. Schukr “Sugar” Basanow, a former Broadway dancer turned professional dance teacher of Mongolian descent, is hosting a dance class on July 7, 2016 in Wash Park. He has been giving public lessons (ranging from folk to ball) since 1970.

  • Schukr “Sugar” Basanow, a former Broadway dancer turned professional dance teacher of Mongolian descent, dances in the setting sun as he teaches a dance class on July 7, 2016 in Wash Park. He has been giving public lessons (ranging from folk to ball) since 1970.

  • Surai Quimby (left) dances with Dean Nye in a dance class hosted by his father Schukr “Sugar” Basanow, a former Broadway dancer of Mongolian descent turned professional dance teacher, in a dance class on July 7, 2016 in Wash Park. He has been giving public lessons (ranging from folk to ball) since 1970.

Just three days after moving to Denver, Basanow started giving free folk dance lessons (donations are accepted) and continued to do so every Thursday night in Wash Park from May through September – thanks to his old friend Barnes , who became the executive director of the Washington Park Community Center.

Since then, Thursdays are the day of the sugar. In 1991, for the 20th anniversary of the dance classes, there was a celebration of 500 people in the park with a tree dedicated to Basanow (now affectionately called “Sugar’s Tree”). There, Mayor Federico Peña announced that Basanow would be allowed to dance in the park for life. “As long as I was alive, Parks and Rec gave me permission to stay and teach,” he says. A plaque on the wall of his Montbello home in the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation (September 1995) reads: “In honor and thanks for 25 summers of fun and dedication in teaching folk dance to Washington Park to the citizens of Denver. “

Now with his knee he is no longer able to stand or dance as much, but he still leads the class sitting down and has other seasoned students help him.

“When I came to America, I remember when I started teaching, people said, ‘Why don’t you charge? You can make money, ”says Basanow, who worked on an assembly line for 23 years. “Why charge? ” I tell them. I like to teach for free. I do not want any money. I want to teach people that there is more to life than burgers and hot dogs. There are China, Japan, Russia and other countries. I teach them to love life, to discover other countries, to be kind to people and to be compassionate by dancing.

For lessons, Basanow played old records and tapes of folk dances from Russia, Germany, Africa, Greece, Romania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Now he has help with equipment and installation from various students, as well as his daughter, Nora Nye, who he hopes will carry on the legacy at Wash Park.

“We have built a core of about 40 dancers and more join us every year,” she says. “Everyone loves to dance under the stars. Plus my life was directly influenced by it – including meeting my husband Dean Nye there when I was 3 and he was 5. We started dating when I was 23 and he was 25, and now we’ve been together for 25 years and still go to folk dancing every Thursday in the summer. I can’t imagine my life without it, and I know my dad really wants us to continue after he’s gone.

Basanow breaks the ice by asking everyone to hold hands in a circle.

“I always say, if you can walk, you can dance,” he said. “And, after 46 years, I still talk to my students, and to the people passing by, and I tell them that people are equal and the same, and that the prejudices are there,” he says, pointing to his head, “but not in your feet.


Source link

Share.

Comments are closed.