Diversity name of fest’s game

This year’s 29th annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival is as loud and colorful as ever. The regular audience already knows what to expect: men beating the drums and women shaking their coconut shells. For newcomers, here is a guide to the festival, which runs weekends through June 24 at the Palace of Fine Arts.

Each weekend offers its own program that delicately balances East with West, soloists with groups, and live guitarists with recorded beats. Although the performers are a very diverse group — diversity being the single most important idea that underlies both the ingenuity and the triviality of the concept behind this festival — all of them are from Northern California. Many have appeared in the festival before, but some are newbies.

Shabnam, a distinguished belly dancer from Oakland, made her first appearance at the festival’s opening last weekend. Swirling with her fiery red scarf and shaking her hips, Shabnam was the most cheered performer of the night and is sure to come back to future festivals. Also dancing for the first time are highly sought out Palestinian ensemble Al Juthoor and Tajik soloist Tara Catherine Pandeya, accompanied by a famous Uzbek musician on a doira drum.

Those looking for a break from strictly traditional moves have a chance to see a few pieces of original choreography. San Francisco-based Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company is known for combining traditional Chinese and contemporary American dance techniques. In the festival’s final weekend, Cai, who was a principal dancer at the Shanghai Opera, will present a fun new piece about the spirit of village girls in modern China.

Charya Burt Cambodian Dance Company, performing this weekend, is another unique work of choreography to look out for. While most Cambodian folk dancers died during the communist rule in the 1970s, Burt continues the tradition as an American immigrant. In her new work, “Blue Roses,” a princess conceals her unhappiness by surrounding herself with familiar things; Burt draws a parallel between Tennessee Williams’ “Glass Menagerie” and the fate of Cambodian women.

Although this is a dance festival, the music is often just as important as the dancing, with live musicians sparking up the stage presence of the featured performers.

But when the dancing itself stands out behind all the feathers, masks and full skirts, it is because it reveals the amazing things the body can do and the mind can create.

San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival

Where: Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco

When: 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; closes June 24

Tickets: $22 to $36

Contact: (415) 392-4400; www.cityboxoffice.com; www.worldartswest.org

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A pile of refuse that includes car parts, tires and other items stands on a sidewalk on Egbert Avenue in the Bayview District on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
New surveillance effort aims to crack down on illegal dumping

’We want to make sure we catch people who are trashing our streets’

Health care workers treat a Covid-19 patient who needs to be intubated before being put on a ventilator at Providence St. Mary Medical Center during a surge of cases in Apple Valley, Dec. 17, 2020. Confronted with surging infections, California became the first state in the country to mandate coronavirus vaccines or testing for state employees and health-care workers. (Ariana Drehsler/The New York Times)
In California, a mix of support and resistance to new vaccine rules

By Shawn Hubler, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Soumya Karlamangla New York Times SACRAMENTO… Continue reading

Dave Hodges, pastor at Zide Door, the Church of Entheogenic Plants that include marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms, holds some psychedelic mushrooms inside the Oakland church on Friday, July 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Psychedelic spirituality: Inside a growing Bay Area religious movement

‘They are guiding us into something ineffable’

Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news conference at Kaiser Permanente facility in Oakland on Monday, July 26, 2021, where he announced a new state requirement for all state employees and health care workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular, frequent testing. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)
What to know about new masking guidelines in California

By Jill Cowan New York Times The delta variant is really throwing… Continue reading

Most Read