Midwinter Artistic Staff

Duane & Slavka Tomka
Dance Instructors

Duane Tomka has been Polish folk dancing since the age of eight, first with the P.R.C.U.A Dancers of Milwaukee and later with the Krakow Polish Dancers of Milwaukee from 1983-1999.

In 1999, Duane joined Syrena Polish Folk Dance Ensemble, led by the recognized Ada Dziewanowska. In his first seven years with Syrena, Duane performed and grew his Polish folk dance experience under the artistic direction of Pani Ada and choreographer Konrad Wiecek.   

Following the departure of Konrad in 2006, Duane took over as instructor, initially working with Ada on perfecting and enhancing her existing choreographies. In 2012, Duane obtained his choreographer’s degree in Polish folk dance and assumed the role of Syrena choreographer. 

In July 2021, Syrena’s beloved Pani Ada peacefully passed away at the age of 104.  Pani Ada was not only an artistic director and mentor for Duane, but also a “adopted grandmother”.  Her love of Polish folk dance, customs and traditions left a lasting impression on Duane, one that he intends to carry on during his years as Syrena choreographer. 

Slavka Tomka, Duane’s wife, is a member of the Syrena Polish Folk Dance Ensemble and the group’s secretary. Slavka is originally from Poland and has been folk dancing since she was young. Together Duane and Slavka will share Polish folk dances with us at Midwinter. 

Brendan Taaffe
Singing instructor

Brendan Taaffee

One of Brendan’s greatest joys is leading singing workshops. Through leading singing workshops Brendan has learned that we create something extraordinary when we sing together; that singing is our birthright and is something we can all do; and singing in harmony is a uniquely powerful experience. 

Brendan draws on songs from the ‘American Vernacular’ (gospel, bluegrass, Appalachian and shape note songs), his own compositions, and Zimbabwean makwayera songs. These are songs that come from participatory, community-based traditions: songs that draw people together around the world.

Brendan has led workshops in many places around the world—Bulgaria, Canada, England, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Scotland, Zimbabwe, and throughout the U.S. He is comfortable with a wide range of groups, from established choirs to open workshops to master classes at the university level.

Karen Ann Hoffman

Karen Ann Hoffman has been beading peace, beauty, and meaning through her Haudenosaunee Raised Beadwork since the 1990s. Haudenosaunee Raised Beadwork (also known as Iroquois Raised Beadwork) is unique to the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, characterized by lines of beads that arch above the textile surface for a three-dimensional effect, typically sewn onto velvet. Hoffman is a respected national leader in this art, known for reimagining existing forms to expand their significance for today and the future.

Raised by her first teachers—parents Robert and Betty Ann Messner—as a citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Hoffman grew up in Oshkosh, south of the Oneida reservation. As an adult, she settled in Stevens Point, marrying Michael Hoffman (Menominee/Ottawa) with whom she built a Native tradition-centered life. In the 1990s, she learned Haudenosaunee Raised Beadwork from Samuel Thomas and Lorna Hill, Cayuga artists who traveled to Wisconsin from Ontario to teach.

Retired from a sales career, Hoffman pursues her twin goals of strengthening Haudenosaunee Raised Beadwork within the Haudenosaunee community and gaining recognition for it more widely. She produces two to three large pieces each year, with some in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the Field Museum, the Iroquois Indian Museum, and the Oneida Nation Museum. She teaches and hosts a beading circle at her home. She is a co-organizer of the annual International Iroquois Beadwork Conference and has curated multiple exhibits of work by Native artists.

Johanna Gorman-Baer has been teaching theater in many forms for the last ten years. She is constantly inspired by how collaborative play can challenge the imagination to grow beyond the individual to create artistic community. Folklore Village remains her second home, where for over a decade she’s led workshops for all ages in theater, storytelling, and movement.

Festival Band
Musicians one and all are welcome to join the fabulous Festival Band, led by Maria Terres and Amy McFarland of Rare Privilege. This group is known to have a bit of the shenanigans in them and they meet every afternoon to play tunes together, laugh, and prepare the special music for favorite New Years Eve dances the Française and Heilsberger Dreieck. The Festival Band welcomes all levels and all types of instruments!

Information on additional staff and workshops leaders coming soon.