Wanda Kaniorowa – pedagog, twórca i kierownik zespołu artystycznego (1912-1980)

Luiza Drela


Wanda Kaniorowa (1912-1980), the founder of amateur artistic movement in the Lublin region, was born and spent her childhood in Kiev. Between the two World Wars she graduated from pedagogy, choreography and direction departments; she also gained her first experiences working as a teacher. She considered this job the most important one during all her life, and she thought educating the young generation well was the most important problem and the basis for all other achievements. In her work she was distinguished by initiative, efficiency, and willingness to act in difficult, dispiriting – it would seem – times, as well as by unselfish, welfare involvement. During World War II she took part in the resistance movement, as she belonged to the Home Army.

In each place she lived in (first in Polesie and then in the Lublin region) Wanda Kaniorowa, working as a teacher, at the same time established an artistic ensemble, often made up of not only children and youths but adults as well, even of people who never went to school. She popularized in their circles theatrical forms, recitation, dance and singing. With the plays she herself wrote and then put up with amateurs she had local and national successes. The performances, at first with patriotic, religious and fairyland subjects, in the Communist Poland assumed forms and contents that supported the building of a new, secularized reality.

In 1948, influenced by a group of children who wanted to have a closer contact with art, she established in Lublin the Theatre of the Young Spectator. At that time she was an employee of the Culture Department of the People's Provincial Council in Lublin and the work with amateurs was her welfare work. The rehearsals before the numerous performances of the Theatre were most often held in the hall of the Provincial Office. With a natural talent of a manager W. Kaniorowa won financial means for the work of the group that was deprived of any premises. The latter were given to the theatre in 1953, when after its artistic successes (the second place in the National Contest in the category of Song and Dance Ensembles) the members of the Presidium of the State and Welfare Employees Trade Union Headquarters changed the name of the ensemble to the Dance and Song Ensemble of the Lublin Region of the SWETU and affiliated it to the Presidium of the PPC in Lublin. W. Kaniorowa was given the job of the artistic manager of the formation and a real school of education by means of art and dance was established in this way. Professionals collaborated with it, but the members of the group were amateurs. The manageress had a high opinion of their freshness, strength and authenticity of experiencing the art and elicited these features on the stage (in folk and national dances). She formed her actors as human beings and influenced their artistic tastes, and she herself found her vocation in the activity.

After the “Polish October” of 1956 the Lublin ensemble, like all the ensembles belonging to the trade unions, lost its subventions and it faced the threat of being liquidated. In 1957, owing to the aid, among others, of the then Lublin voivode, Paweł Dąbek, the group, as well as its output and belongings (costumes and the premises in I Armii Wojska Polskiego Street), managed to survive. The members of the Ensemble's idea was put into practice – a self-dependent Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Lublin Region Association was established; it was independent economically and only partially was it subsidized by the People's Provincial Council.

The artistic development of the Ensemble was so rapid that in 1959 the group of Lubliners (chosen by the Ministry for Culture and Arts) represented Poland in the prestigious Folklore Dance Contest in Agrigento in Sicily. The representative of the authorities, when bidding them good-bye, said: “Do not return without the first prize”. Under the pressure of these words, starving during the journey, they struggled ambitiously and won the first prize, sharing it with another, professional group.

In 1972 the Ensemble managed by W. Kaniorowa already represented Europe. At the Folklore Festival in Japan the representatives of the Emperor's family, organizers and sponsors of the event decided that it was the best one of all taking part.

In sum, up to 1980 the Ensemble prepared and staged over 90 different performances, including 44 ones directed by W. Kaniorowa; also with her choreography. It gave 2987 concerts: 2560 in Poland and 418 during its abroad tours – there were 43 of them. It was seen by about 2 million spectators.

W. Kaniorowa's contributions include: her care of young people's education, achieving a high artistic standards with a group of amateurs, establishing its high prestige, ensuring financial means for many years of the Ensemble's work, creating the atmosphere of “a great family” in it, mutual help among the members, educating people devoted to work, representing the Lublin region, Poland and Europe on the world's stages.

In 1978 W. Kaniorowa was decorated with the Commander's Cross of the Order of Poland's Revival.

Among the issues concerned with the Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Lublin Region that have not been studied yet the following ones should be mentioned: defining W. Kaniorowa's worldview, examining the facts in the light of source materials, gathering information about people aiding the Ensemble in crisis situations and about the employees who were significant for the Ensemble's work, examining the changes in the ideological conception of the Ensemble, ways of gathering and using the folk materials and of collecting the costumes. It will also be purposeful to make research into the question of what integrated the members of the Ensemble as well as what – in the field of work organization – made the work unusually effective, and how the artistic tours affected the young amateurs, or what they taught them about the world. People and facts connected with the Lublin Ensemble surely deserve to be presented in an academic monograph.

Słowa kluczowe

Wanda Kanior; edukacja artystyczna; amatorski ruch artystyczny; zespół folklorystyczny; tancerze; choreograf

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