As “Jeopardy” would put it: Answer — “Depends on who is doing the dancing.” Question — “What’s the difference between ethnic and folk dancing?”
For the next four weekends — longer than ever before — the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina will turn into an Olympiad of folk dance, with performances by more than 500 dancers and a combined audience count estimated at more than 10,000.
Nothing speaks more convincingly of the thoroughly and delightfully cosmopolitan nature of The City than World Arts West’s 30th Anniversary San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. One of the largest such celebrations in the world, the festival has brought together thousands of dancers, musicians and enthusiastic audience members literally from around the globe, albeit with local roots or connections.
This year, there will be an unusual mix of local and invited guests.
Hundreds of Bay Area dancers will rub elbows with 50 famous masters, including Sindhu Ravuri of San Jose, the festival’s first Indian kuchipudi artist. Presenting a classical Indian dance form from the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, she will perform to the accompaniment of her gurus Raja and Radha Reddy, kuchipudi experts who were favorites of Indira Ghandi.
As usual, the variety of shows is stunning. The first program, performed three times this weekend, ranges from Chinese children’s dance from the Dongbei region to Mexican marimba masters accompanying Chiapas dancers.
It also features Miriam Peretz’s Tajik art from Central Asia, the Charya Burt Cambodian Dance company and a world premiere work by the extraordinary Na- Lei Hulu I Ka We-kiu (“the many feathered wreaths at the summit, held in high esteem”) about Hawaiian celestial navigation.
That’s not all —South Indian, Korean, Flamenco, Afro-Cuban/Afro-Haitan dances round out the concert.
Four artists are being honored this year with special awards: Miguel Santos, of Theatre Flamenco; Ann Woo of Chinese Performing Artists of America; Carlos Moreno of Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Carlos Moreno; and Blanche Brown, performing with Alafia Dance Ensemble.
“The San Francisco Bay Area,” says festival executive director Julie Mushet, “is home to the greatest ethnic dance community in the world, with many thousands of people sustaining gorgeous dance forms from cultures near and far. … On this year’s stage, there will be evidence of the many lineages nurtured over the years, with masters and their accomplished students performing throughout the entire month of June.”
IF YOU GO
30th Anniversary San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival
Where: Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes June 29
Tickets: $22 to $44 single; $80 to $158 subscription
Contact: (415) 392-4400 or www.cityboxoffice.com.