San Francisco's 34th Ethnic Dance Festival: Preview

June 1, 2012

Mariam Gaibova

On June 2, San Francisco's 34th
Ethnic Dance Festival
begin its monthlong extravaganza. Thirteen of the 30 companies taking the stage this year
have choreographed works based within Asian dance and music traditions.

Of these 13 stellar performance companies, here are three that have melded cultural aesthetics from disparate Asian traditions. The unique results remind us not only of how diverse
Asian America is, but also how innovative and current the traditional arts
can be. 

Week 1 of the Ethnic Dance Festival opens at San Francisco's
Cowell Theater, where Indonesian gamelan artists and dancers Sekar Jaya and
Pusaka Sunda combine their two distinct styles of gamelan, Balinese and Sundanese
(West Java). Their new work, Bangan Jiwa, asks broad human
questions, with the choreographers employing shadow-light technology to
explore how the human spirit navigates the space between darkness and
light, movement and stillness, sound and silence. Another new work, Kelanguan explores intersecting time
signatures and melodies, and finally, Legong Somia, investigates
massacres that took place across Indonesia in the 1960s. 

On June 30 and July 1, Tajik
dancer/choreographer Miriam Gaibova
will perform with Uzbek percussionist Abbos Kosimov at San Francisco's Yerba
Buena Center. Their performance is choreographed using a dance style
from the Bahara region, an area north of Tajikistan and
Uzbekistan. Created specifically for the festival by Gaibova's mentor and teacher, the composition is a “wish for
peace and unity” between the two countries and hearkens to a historical point before the U.S.S.R drew a border through the
region, creating two republics in an area that shared common languages,
writing, and dances. In light of current political discord, the
performers hope that, by illuminating the synchronization that occurs between
musician and dancer, their work will serve as an agent for change.

Finally, we see the return of a
popular co-performance by San Jose Taiko and Abhinaya Dance Company, a Bharatanatyam
troupe also based in San Jose. Last year, Hyphen interviewed Abhinaya principal
dancer Rasika Kumar, whose insightful comments led us to think critically about
the universality of rhythm even while the two groups held strongly to their
respective genres. The resulting technical proficiency and rhythmic
texture of their collaboration blew audiences away. You can find them opening the final weekend of
performances, also at Yerba Buena.

Check out the festival's website for detailed information on these
collaborations, to read up on other performances happening every weekend in
June, and for ticketing information.




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