Diversity in motion

SF Ethnic Dance Festival triumphs, despite budget cuts and the loss of its main venue

Antoine Hunter of Urban Jazz Dance Company


DANCE Last weekend, World Arts West's San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival closed out four almost completely sold-out weekends of performances. It is tempting to take this 35-year-old celebration for granted. Yet despite universal accolades, excellent audiences, a steadily improving roster of artists, an increase in live music, and ever-better production values, EDF still does not receive the support it deserves.

Consider this: according to its own numbers, EDF's budget this year was two-thirds of what it was five years ago. Foundation and corporate support is down, between 30 and 50 percent. This time around, even Grants for the Arts — a stalwart champion of the festival since the beginning — had to cut its contribution by close to 20 percent.

Add to these challenges the fact that in 2011, due to the complications of the Doyle Drive construction, EDF lost its home at the Palace of Fine Arts. The much smaller Lam Research Theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts cannot make up the lost ticket sales.

Of course, in these mean and lean times, all the arts suffer. But other institutions of similar size, track record, and scope have endowments that help tie them over. Not EDF. It's paycheck to paycheck. One reason for EDF's survival, however, is that the biggest supporters of the arts have always been the artists themselves. Most of this year's 500 dancers and musicians performed for free. (Their companies get a small stipend.)

So perhaps it's appropriate to give a small bouquet to these eminent artists who may have come from places most of us will never visit — 19 countries on five continents — but are bringing to both fellow dancers and audiences their perspectives on what dance can tell us about being human.

While the Palace's loss deprived EDF of its preferred stage, spreading the dance to different venues was a successful experiment. On June 7, a free, mid-day gala opening rocked the rotunda at San Francisco City Hall; the following day, Charya Burt's reimagining of sculptor Auguste Rodin's 1906 encounter with classical Cambodian dance brought East and West together at the Legion of Honor Museum's jewel box theater. Later in the festival, one could walk across the lawn at Yerba Buena Gardens, where Patrick Makuakane was teaching light-hearted contemporary hula — and then, at YBCA, watch Halau o Keikiali'i present dignified re-interpretations of sacred Hawaiian rituals, offering an inkling of the complexities of culturally-specific dance.

EDF presents cultural traditions that range from high classicism (Chinese Performing Arts of America) to folkloric community celebrations (Lowiczanie Polish Folk Ensemble). But the fest also embraces change within continuity. It gives newcomers a chance, and welcomes re-interpretations of the past.

Nine of this year's 33 participants made their EDF debuts. Among them were Colectivo Anqari, which charmed with an urban reinterpretation of popular dance from the Andes in which the men both danced and played the pan pipes. The women's contribution almost looked like an afterthought. Ceremonially stepping dancers, drummers, and a flute player from Ensohza Minyoushu performed Sansador from Northern Japan, its high degree of formality leavened by a leaping masked "spirit." Antoine Hunter's short Risk showed a fascinating mix of jazz and sign language by this deaf dancer. High fives, however, must go to the two dozen youngsters of Mona Khan Company Emerging Performers. Their rousing, Bollywood-inspired Jalsa showed them to be disciplined, tough, and exuberant.


With respect, I don't know if the author fully appreciates what a profound joy it is for Americans of Mexican descent to experience the particular folklórico pieces that are traditionally presented in public performances.

At least for myself, it surpasses mere happiness and seeps deeply into pride and a connection to my heritage tangibly pulsing through my veins.

Thank you!

Posted by Margarita Galindo on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 8:44 am

Your post has moved the debate fowrdra. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Kellsie on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 2:54 am

Just do me a favor and keep writing such trenchant analyses, OK?

Posted by essay on best friend on Apr. 15, 2014 @ 3:15 pm

Now we know who the sensible one is here. Great post!

Posted by best cv writing service in uae on Apr. 15, 2014 @ 3:53 pm

Pleasing to find someone who can think like that

Posted by ut homework services on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 6:11 am

This is an article that makes you think "never thought of that!"

Posted by custom writing review on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

That's the best answer by far! Thanks for contributing.

Posted by essay writers on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 6:25 am

A provocative insight! Just what we need!

Posted by do my homework on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 8:14 am

Now I feel stupid. That's cleared it up for me

Posted by writing services on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 9:42 am

Articles like this make life so much simpler.

Posted by helpmewithhomework.net on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 10:15 am

I have been so bewildered in the past but now it all makes sense!

Posted by write thesis now on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

That's really shrewd! Good to see the logic set out so well.

Posted by buy tadalafil on May. 05, 2014 @ 2:31 am

That's not even 10 minutes well spent!

Posted by findcollege4you.com on May. 05, 2014 @ 3:41 am

Going to put this article to good use now.

Posted by turn twenty on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 9:15 pm

I read your post and wished I was good enough to write it

Posted by car insurance quotes on Jul. 18, 2014 @ 12:36 am

Yup, that'll do it. You have my appreciation.

Posted by homework before on Jul. 18, 2014 @ 4:12 am

Thinking like that is really impressive

Posted by doors however on Jul. 24, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

Heck yeah bay-bee keep them coming!

Posted by anabolic result on Jul. 28, 2014 @ 2:48 pm

This info is the cat's pajamas!

Posted by feel muscle on Jul. 28, 2014 @ 3:18 pm

Learning a ton from these neat articles.

Posted by spending time on Jul. 28, 2014 @ 11:35 pm

Perfect shot! Thanks for your post!

Posted by rewards program on Jul. 29, 2014 @ 3:11 am

Hats off to whoever wrote this up and posted it.

Posted by compared them on Jul. 29, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

For the love of God, keep writing these articles.

Posted by growth check on Jul. 30, 2014 @ 8:24 pm

Yours is a clever way of thinking about it.

Posted by raw garlic on Jul. 31, 2014 @ 11:15 am

Ho ho, who woulda thunk it, right?

Posted by considerable damage on Jul. 31, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

That's a knowing answer to a difficult question

Posted by vaginal estrogen on Aug. 03, 2014 @ 8:31 am

Sounds like you are driving yourself crazy, person who posted all these comments (except for the 1st one)

Posted by Guest on Aug. 03, 2014 @ 9:29 am

Your answer shows real intelligence.

Posted by mostly relegated on Aug. 03, 2014 @ 11:55 am

That's a posting full of insight!

Posted by human involvement on Aug. 03, 2014 @ 12:19 pm

That's an ingenious way of thinking about it.

Posted by other hubbers on Aug. 03, 2014 @ 4:20 pm

To think, I was confused a minute ago.

Posted by ot on Aug. 03, 2014 @ 10:53 pm

Taking the overview, this post hits the spot

Posted by anorgasmia lack on Aug. 04, 2014 @ 2:55 pm

Finding this post has solved my problem

Posted by settle on Aug. 05, 2014 @ 2:58 am

Now that's subtle! Great to hear from you.

Posted by dionysiac on Aug. 07, 2014 @ 9:30 am

HHIS I should have thought of that!

Posted by cheater back on Aug. 07, 2014 @ 6:58 pm

Related articles

  • From the ground up

    Stanford's Festival Jérôme Bel celebrates the 'non-dance' pioneer

  • Hold 'Steady'

    Alonzo King's new work mixes dark threat into tenderness

  • Goldies 2014 Performance/Music: Brontez Purnell

    "I romanticize the outsider. There's always going to be this running theme of me versus the world."

  • Also from this author

  • In tune

    Dancers explore fresh rhythms at the Music Moves Festival

  • Great leaps forward

    Emerging choreographers present new works at SAFEhouse for the Performing Arts' SPF7

  • New classics

    Melody Takata brings traditional Japanese dance into the 21st century, plus a benefit for SF dance vet Enrico Labayen