Infinitely Curious

Seeking a Renaissance in San Francisco

San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival

32nd Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival

The 32nd Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival is running at the Palace of Fine Arts the entire month of June – the 5th-27th!  Established in 1978, the festival has presented over 14,000 dancers and 600 dance companies, performing traditional, classical, sacred, vernacular, social dance and folk dance.  Initially run by a city grant, the festival has been hosted by World Arts West since 1982.

I missed last year’s festival, so I’m hoping to catch a show or two this weekend!  Here is the schedule (and descriptions from World Arts West) of the performances:


  • CPAA Youth Performing Group (China)
    • Enter the world of a Beijing Opera training session, and watch portrayals of some of the many playful and heroic characters of this traditional Chinese art form.
  • Chandra Ayu Davies (Indonesia)
    • This Balinese condong was once danced in the ancient palaces of Bali. Performed since the 19th century by young girls known for their beauty and grace, the choreography of our eight year-old soloist was the creation of I Dewa Manggis, King of Gianyar.
  • El Tunante (Peru)
    • Handkerchiefs spin and swirl in old and new versions of marinera norteña, a graceful, elegant, and romantic courtship dance. One of Peru’s most popular dances, the marinera was named in honor of the Peruvian Navy in 1879. Our dancers are champions from Lima, and the live music is exhilarating.
  • Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose (India)
    • Danced to honor this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Mythili Kumar, Prithvi Sooktam is a bharatanatyam piece from Southern India depicting verses from a 4,000 BCE Hindu hymn that pays reverent homage to Mother Earth, her creatures and the diversity of races.
  • Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Carlos Moreno (Mexico)
    • Three folk dances from the southern Sotavento region of Veracruz, Mexico—La Carretilla, La Iguana and El Zapateado—demonstrate Spanish-influenced intricate footwork, with a little teasing and a competitive spirit.
  • Parangal Dance Company (Philippines)
    • Based on rituals of the Lumad people of the Palawan and Mindanao Philippines, these dances portray a babaylan, a female shaman, interceding between the deities and her community to ensure a good harvest, health, and the healing of warring factions.
  • Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco (Spain)
    • In a passionate collaboration, the dancers, singer, and guitarist express flamenco’s joyous side. This dance shows the highly polished flamenco from Andalusia, Spain, as it is danced in community to celebrate births and weddings.
  • Ong Dance Company (Korea)
    • Based on Korean court and folk dances that go back 2,000 years, The Last Empress tells the story of beloved 19th century heroine Queen Min, her struggle to bring her kingdom toward modernization, and her unfortunate demise.
  • Fua Dia Congo and Cultural Heritage Choir (Congo)
    • Performed by the Mbeti people of Congo-Brazzaville, Nzobi ritual dances are a call for spiritual protection and purification and are accompanied by Linda Tillery’s Grammy-nominated Cultural Heritage Choir, singing traditional Congolese music.

WEEKEND 2:  JUNE 12 & 13

  • Mexican Bicentennial Tribute (Mexico)
    • This special commission commemorates both Mexico’s Bicentennial and the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. It focuses on Mexico’s revolutionary heroines, courageous women soldaderas. This inspiring new work brings together acclaimed choreographer Zenón Barrón and dancers from six local companies:
  • Ballet Folklórico Alma de México of South San Francisco
  • Ballet Folklórico de Carlos Moreno
  • Compañia Mazatlán Bellas Artes
  • Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco
  • Los Lupeños de San José
  • Grupo Folklórico Raíces de Mi Tierra
  • Hearan Chung (Korea)
    • In this traditional dance from Korea, a shaman channels spirits in a dramatic attempt to send the soul of a playful child to the next world, but the soul mischievously escapes being captured.
  • Natyalaya (India)
    • Originating in Indian classical dance and narrative drama, this kuchipudi piece celebrates the goddess Parvathi, the Divine Mother, using fast rhythms, vivid expressions, and complex yet delicate movements.
  • Tara Catherine Pandeya/Doira va Raqs (Uzbekistan & Uyghur Autonomous China)
    • A young woman playfully attempts to find the sweetest grapes, showcasing movement from Uzbek and Uyghur dance, and accompanied by extraordinary master drummer Abbos Kosimov on the Uzbek percussive instrument, the doira.
  • Rara Tou Limen (Haiti)
    • Powerful rada drums begin this depiction of an initiate’s Kanzo ceremony into the Vodou tradition of Haiti, where dancing and drumming become a channel of communication with the Lwa—spiritual entities—and the ancestors.
  • LIKHA-Pilipino Folk Ensemble (Philippines)
    • Two dances from the Philippines’ Northern Luzon showcase the dexterity of Kalinga women handling and balancing banga (earthenware pots) on their heads, accompanied by mesmerizing live music, including gansa (gongs), pattangok (bamboo drums), flute, and song.
  • Eszterlánc Hungarian Folk Ensemble (Transylvania)
    • This energetic piece offers a glimpse into Hungarian village life with traditional celebratory dances and song from the Magyarszovát region, performed in beautiful authentic costumes with live music passed down through many generations.
  • Halau o Keikiali‘i (Hawai‘i)
    • A stunning ancient Hawaiian hula tells the story of the Goddess Hi’iaka, Pele’s sister, as she battles fiercely with the divine ancestors—rain, wind, lightning, and earthquakes—during her journey to fetch Pele’s lover Lohi‘au from Kaua‘i.
  • Mona Sampath Dance Company (India)
    • Inspired by the haunting melodies of A.R. Rahman’s Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, The Shapes of Dreams is a journey through the movement of Bollywood dance, combining Indian classical, contemporary, and folk dance forms with modern dance and hip hop.

WEEKEND 3: JUNE 19 & 20

  • Jun Daiko (Japan)
    • Dancing and drumming become one in Tatsumaki, or Whirlwind, a North American taiko performance with roots in the kumi daiko tradition of Japan, full of fast-paced rhythms and synchronized movement.
  • Melissa Cruz (Spain)
    • Dramatic flamenco from Spain is marked by the percussive sound of a hammer striking an anvil, evoking its origins in the Romani forges. Cante jondo—mysterious and dark “deep song” vocals—and percussion fuse with an intense and dynamic dance tension and release.
  • Afoutayi Dance Company (Haiti)
    • Through traditional poly-rhythmic drumming, call-and-response singing, and ceremonial ritual dance, Simbi Dlo, the Goddess of Water, is honored in the hope that she will bring water to the community, in this powerful Haitian dance from the Vodou religion.
  • Sri Susilowati (Indonesia)
    • From West Java comes this relatively new Sundanese dance form, jaipongan, which blends the simple and sensual movements of traditional Indonesian folk dances and the power of martial arts to showcase the soloist’s grace and strength.
  • Xpressions (India)
    • A medley of folk songs and dances represent different regions of Gujarat in Western India: Garba—incorporating earthenware lamps and clapping; Tippani—named for the tip-tip sound of mallets; Manjira—utilizing brass hand-cymbals that create a jingling beat; and Dandiya Raas — danced with colorful sticks in praise of the Hindu deity Krishna.
  • Barangay Dance Company (Philippines)
    • A male Tagbanua tribal leader dresses as a priestess and asks for blessings from the gods in this Pakidwa ritual dance from the highlands of Palawan, an island in the south of the Philippines. Musicians keep the pace on traditional instruments—a babandil and bamboo karatung, both known to delight the gods.
  • Presidio Dance Theatre (Turkey)
    • Thirty-four exuberant dancers perform a suite of Turkish dances celebrating a traditional wedding, the energy and joy of women working in the home, and fishermen netting a lively fish in the Black Sea.
  • Asociación Cultural Kanchis (Peru)
    • In this joyful dance from the highlands of the Peruvian Andes, young, single women don hats decorated with colorful flowers in hopes of attracting suitors, who enthusiastically dance with vigor and charm, clearly enjoying the festivity.
  • Hui Tama Nui (Tahiti)
    • An impressive fifty dancers and musicians fill the stage to present evocative scenes depicting the mysterious journey of the ubiquitous moth featured in Tahitian mythology. Authentic early Tahitian instruments and chanting complement the ori rau dances that blend modern and classical styles.

WEEKEND 4: JUNE 26 & 27

  • Tonatiuh (Mexico)
    • As a symbol of their conversion to Christianity, the indigenous Cora people of Nayarit, Mexico, perform this religious Danzantes del Quinto Sol of the Pachitas every day from February 2 to Ash Wednesday.
  • Hai Yan Jackson Chinese Dance Company (China)
    • With the use of brass hand bells tied to long braided ropes, a young shepherd girl (Shannon Tse) expresses gratitude and honors the achievements of her ancestors in a joyous dance from the Qiang ethnic minority group of China, whose history can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty, from 1,600 to 1,100 BCE.
  • The Chinyakare Ensemble (Zimbabwe)
    • Two powerful dances from Africa highlight aspects of the indigenous culture of Zimbabwe: Mhande is a Shona ceremonial dance to bless seeds and petition the ancestral spirits for rain, and Hoso/Amabhiza is a healing Ndebele dance, for families displaced by colonialism, to connect to what was left behind.
  • Charya Burt Cambodian Dance (Cambodia)
    • Intersection Through Time is a highly personal piece, as the choreographer moves beyond the restrictions of traditional Cambodian classical dance to reflect on her own experiences and changes as an immigrant artist.
  • Ballet Afsaneh (Afghanistan)
    • This piece is a celebration of the beautiful culture of Afghanistan showing the positive face of its rich heritage through dance and live music.
  • Bolivia Corazón de América (Bolivia)
    • A magical dance set in the high Andean plains of Bolivia, Suri Sicuri dates back to 800 BCE and tells the story of a woman who befriends a suri (ostrich), her effort to be accepted by his pack, and her eventual transformation into a beautiful bird.
  • Wan-Chao Dance (Eurasia)
    • A nomadic people’s struggle to maintain their traditional lifestyle and identity is portrayed through ethno-contemporary choreography infused with dance styles from the Central Asian Steppes to the Balkans, featuring original live music by the band Stellamara.
  • Imani’s Dream (United States)
    • A rose that grows from the concrete…Thirty American inner-city youth overcome often difficult backgrounds to allow the lessons of life to plant new seeds and bring forth their true selves, expressed through their own mix of hip-hop and modern dance.
  • Shabnam (Middle East/USA)
    • Quiver, glimmer, flutter, and shimmer! An innovative baladi belly dance inspired by the undulating swells of the Red Sea, with fluid, rippling movements reflecting the grace and power of the sea.
  • Las Bomberas de la Bahia (Puerto Rico)
    • In a friendly challenge between dancer and drummer, this improvised interaction featuring intricate footwork and dramatic skirt flourishes speaks to the struggles of the Puerto Rican people—danced by the Bay Area’s first and only all-women bomba ensemble.

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This entry was posted on June 17, 2010 by in San Francisco, San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, World Arts West.

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