Karolinka is a large, South London based Polish song and dance company. It was established in 1978 by Maura Kutereba and Jurek Pockert as a result of a group of young people coming together, wishing to celebrate and promote their Polish cultural heritage. With Pani Maura as the Artistic Director and Jurek as the Musical Director during its first 20 years Karolinka established an unenviable reputation for authenticity and excellence. For 40 years, Karolinka has travelled nationally and internationally, performing at a wide variety of corporate and private events, festivals and competitions where the group has achieved wide acclaim, won awards and gained invitations to high profile events, especially in Poland. The group has made numerous television appearances and continues to be highly ambitious.
Karolinka is not just a song and dance company, nor is it just a hobby. It is an essential part of our existence and our identity. It is in our hearts and our souls and part of the fabric of our lives.
Jolanta Kutereba has been the Artistic Director of the company for 20 years. Jolanta began teaching and choreographing for the junior and adult groups in her late teens and continues to be the instructor and choreographer of the adult performing group. She is a highly qualified dance teacher by profession and her considerable talent, fortitude and skill have ensured that Karolinka continuously achieves high levels of excellence. She studied dance at Roehampton, Bedford and the Laban Centre, and qualified with a BA, a PGCE and an MA, all in dance studies. She also completed The Lublin Folk Dance Instructor’s course and has been actively involved in teaching dance professionally for the last 30 years. Jola has been recognised for her efforts in the field of promoting Polish folk culture - badges achievement from PMS, a decoration from the Embassy and also recognition with the title of Polka 100, like Pani Maura.
Ś.P. Maura Kutereba 1937 - 2015
Maura Kutereba was born in pre-war north eastern Poland but as a result of the events of the Second World War came to the UK. Maura’s patriotism grew whilst she attended one of the schools set up for Polish refugees by the UK Government. She learned both the Polish and English school curriculum. Maura remained in the UK and became a teacher by profession and was always passionate about sharing knowledge. In addition to the singing and dancing, Maura was a keen etnographer and was fascinated by the detail of the costumes specific to each region. As funds were limited for costumes, particularly in the early years, Maura would research a region, talk to local experts, visit museums and collect as much information as she could to ensure costume reproduction was as authentic as possible. Over the years, Maura was honoured personally with several accolades for her contribution to Polish culture in the UK, including Krzyż Kawalerski Polonia Restituta na wniosek Ministerstwa Oświaty, which is the Polish equivalent of an MBE. Maura was also instrutmental in the creation of Federacja Polskich Zespolow Folklorystycznych in the UK which aimed to unite folk dance groups.
Maura was diagnosed with a brain tumour in late 2014 and passed away peacefully on 24 April 2015 surrounded by her family. Maura Kutereba was a truly inspirational woman who is dearly missed by her family, friends and Karolinka family, but she has left an amazing legacy for which we are all eternally grateful.
Jerzy Pockert was one of the founders of Karolinka and was its musical director for 20 years. Currently he successfully leads Ave Verum, a choir based at the Polish Community Centre of South Norwood.
Jurek had an extensive musical education in piano, classical organ and composition. He trained from the age of 7, attending Trinity College of Music in London, completing his studies at London University. His musical interests include various forms of entertainment music such as jazz piano, classical and Hammond organ and contemporary Polish songs. His extensive musical knowledge, skill and creativity are truly admirable.
Karolinka remain in his debt for the amount of commitment, energy and creativity that he brought to the company in the first 20 years.
Ania Szpek grew up in Leicester and danced with ZPiT Polesie She completed the dance instructor's course in Lublin in 1997 after which she moved to London and joined Karolinka as a dancer. In 1999 Ania began teaching the junior groups. Over the years Ania also took on administrative responsibilities in Karolinka as well as assisting Pani Maura with the management of costumes. When Pani Maura passed away in 2015, Ania took over responsibility for maintaining and managing Karolinka’s extensive collection of costumes as well as overseeing all new additions. Ania is active in the field of promoting Polish folk traditions and is currently Chair of the Federation of Polish Folklore Groups in Great Britain. By day, Ania works in the legal profession as a Chartered Trade Mark Attorney.
Karolinka's music is arranged, produced and recorded by Krzysztof Kramek, a professional, published folk musician from Poland who works tirelessly to ensure regional melodies used for folk dance productions are authentically reproduced.
Krzysztof Kramek is the Musical Director at the Uniwersytet Przyrodniczy in Lublin and he leads the kapela for ZPiT Jawor. Karolinka has a special relationship with Krzysiek which has spanned many years, for which the group is truly grateful.
Internal teachers and choreographers:
Jerzy Starzynski i Andrzej Peregrym (Lemko)
Janusz Chojecki i orkiestra Bogdana Bracha(Huculy)
Maria Wnek (Spisz, Jurgow)
Jan Pogonowski i Miroslaw Stojak (Podlasie)
Zofia Marcinek (Cieszyn)
Alicja Haszczak (Rzeszow)
Zenia Stepowicz (ziemia Lubelska)
Jan Brodka (muzyk, Zywiec)
Wlodek Kozbiol (Zyweic)
Marek Kozlik (Zywiec)
Michalina Wojtas (Sacz)
Slawek Mazurkiewicz i Janusz Kazmierczak (Lowicz, Opoczno)
Krzysztof Kubala (muzyk)