In 1954 Sonny New
man was walking by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Spokane when he heard music coming from the basement. Knowing a bit about Greek dancing, of course he went in. This experience expanded his career to include performing and teaching Greek dance.
Sonny studied Greek dance with Ted Petrides and Athan Karas in New York City and danced in a performing group there.
In 1961 Sonny traveled to northern Greece to study the mountain dances of Thraki and Macedonia. On one occasion while he was hitchhiking with a group to a panigiri, a bus stopped for them and Sonny’s group joined the passengers dancing up and down the aisle of the bus. Only after his wife tried to speak in several languages with the travelers did they learn they were from Turkey. The music and dance had transcended any language barrier. Upon arriving at a church, many locals in traditional dress appeared including a Gypsy musical group. It was an unforgettable and festive event for Sonny and began his lifelong interest in the costumes and textiles of Macedonia.
During this time in Greece Sonny collected all the costumes he could find and believes that most had been in families for generations. Sonny believes they were about 75 years old at the time he purchased them. The collection includes about 12 sets of aprons and vests, a number of sashes and additional separate pieces.
Members of a small dance company in New York City that Sonny headed used the costumes from 1962 to 1966. He then went to Stockton, California and from there taught Greek dance workshops around the United States and in Canada until 1970. After a 15-year hiatus while living in the Northwest Territories he returned to the U.S. In Washington State Sonny taught mostly in Seattle and Tacoma.
He now resides in Seattle, continuing his 60-year career at Sonny Newman’s Dance Hall in the Greenwood area. http://www.tangoseattle.comBy John and Joann Nicon, February 2011
1 Sonny Newman showing one of the aprons
2 The apron collection
3 Another apron
All photos by John Nicon SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, February 2011