San Francisco's 33rd Ethnic Dance Festival: Behind the Scenes!

June 5, 2011

                                                 Hui Tama Nui


The San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, now in its 33rd year, is a huge, 5-weekend extravaganza that features 50 performance companies working within traditional music and dance genres. But as many of us living in the Bay Area already know, it is also a showcase for virtuosic local talent, for every single "traditional" dance performer must also be a Bay Area resident.

This year, over 30 percent of the companies are made up of local Asian Americans performing within Asian movement traditions (and a few more than that outside of them!).

I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and interview 3 truly passionate artists about what motivates them and what they hope their works will achieve. Through our conversations, we peek through yet another window into the diversity that is the Asian American (artistic) experience and practice.

An interview with Eric Solano, artistic director of Parangal Dance Company (Filipino/San Francisco), reveals a company deeply connected to his community's ancestral roots and to dialogue between elder tradition bearers at every step of the choreographic process. Aaron Sencil's story of creating work for Hui Tama Nui (Tahitian/Solano) is a testament to artistic vision within traditional practice and the strength of one's own narrative within the communal act of creating dance. Finally, an interview with Rasika Kumar, choreographer for Abhinaya Dance Company (Indian Bharatanatyam/Santa Clara) and collaborator with San Jose Taiko, presents us an example of synergy (also the name of their piece!) between cultural groups as well as innovation within and between artistic mediums.

Look for all interviews this coming week, and don't miss these performers on June 11-12 at Berkeley's Zellerbach Theater! The festival runs from this weekend until July 3. More information about performances and tickets can be found here.