This summer, World Arts West offers a dazzling display of diverse dance traditions from around the globe. The San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival showcases the ethnic dance companies present in the Bay Area. The theme of the festival is “Intersections: Time, Place, and Spirit.” It features performances by 31 groups which are separated by the three distinct themes every weekend June 10 through June 25.
Since its inception in 1978, the festival has reached out to include over 600 dance companies and 14,000 dancers performing at least a hundred different genres. The annual event includes traditional, classical, sacred, vernacular, social, and folk dance forms. In this year’s festival, one can see performances of three Indian classical dances among many other dance traditions. Performers Izumi Sato (bharatanatyam), Parna Basu (kathak), and Amanda Geroy and Shalini Goel, who are students of Jyoti Rout (odissi), were chosen after an audition. These artists are extremely dedicated to the task of passing on and preserving their craft. Not only do they see teaching of, and performing their chosen dance forms as their duty, they also praise the festival’s organizers for providing a platform where they are able to present the richness of these forms to an audience that is appreciative and eager to learn.
Parna Basu, a student of the Birju Maharaj, was a celebrated kathak dancer in India before she moved to the United States. She feels that venues such as the Ethnic Dance Festival serve a very useful purpose for dances and dancers not familiar to the American audience. “Kathak is a performing art and audiences play a vital role in development of such art forms. In India, there are many platforms where a dancer finds a knowledgeable audience. There are various organizations like the India Habitat Center, and the India International Center that provide not just a launch pad for upcoming dancers but also serve the purpose of educating the audience. Ethnic dance festival is serving the same noble cause here,” she comments.
Jyoti Rout, an odissi dancer and teacher, learned her craft from the three greats of the odissi dance tradition: Pankaj Charan Das, Kelucharan Mohapatra, and Deva Prasad Das. Two of her students, Amanda Geroy and Shalini Goel, are performing in the festival. Her thoughts on the festival are similar to those of Basu’s, “I think that the Ethnic Dance Festival is a wonderful venue for it allows a much more diverse audience to appreciate our work. Not only are other artists within the ethnic dance community being exposed to the dance form, but because of the high quality of the production, we have exposure to a larger audience pool.”
Izumi Sato, who is of Japanese origin, found her calling in bharatanatyam and her guru in the illustrious Saroja Vaidyanathan. A relative newcomer to the festival, she says, “I want to introduce bharatanatyam as cultural heritage of India to multicultural communities. It is an art of dedication and devotion, not entertainment. In addition, I would like to foster bharatanatyam and other dance forms becoming more known, supported, and funded in the USA.” Her performance at the festival will certainly be a step in that direction.
Besides the Indian dance performances there are several other dance forms from around the world like the Hahbi’Ruth from Egypt, Pasión Flamenca from Spain, and Minoan dancers from the island of Crete, that the audience can enjoy and experience at the festival each weekend.
June 10-11, 17-18, 24-25. Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.; with Opening Night Gala festivities beginning 6 p.m. on June 10. Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon (at Bay), San Francisco. $22, $28, $36.
(415) 392-4400, (415) 474-3914.