SF Ethnic Dance Festival

June 5, 2009 7:40:20 PM PDT
There's an inexpensive way you can enjoy cultural experiences from around the world every weekend starting Saturday, June 6, 2009. It's thanks to the 31st Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. It begins a four-week run at the Palace of Fine Arts. ABC7 got a sneak preview of one of the many dance companies that will be performing.

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The Halau o Keikiali'I Hawaiian dance troupe came from South San Francisco to show us a sample of what their group will be performing at the Palace of Fine Arts in the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival.

"The name of our group is Halau o Keikiali'i," says Kawika Alfiche, Kumu Hula.

Kaveeka Alfeechee is the Kumu Hula -- the hula teacher -- and the festival is important to him, because his first teachers were a part of the first dance festival 30 years ago.

"I was able to be a part of it as a kid, and now I'm here as a teacher, so it's an honor," says Alfiche.

The Kumu Hula told ABC7 the dancers dye their own materials and sew their own costumes. They learn to grow the products they use for their performances. They grow the corn that provides the shucks for their headdresses.

"Something like this, it's called an ipu heke, it's two gourds and we grow these on the land," says Alfiche. "The dancer's relationship with the land is so important because most of our songs and dances involve what happens to us in the environment, whether it be the wind, or rain, or a lot of times, the plants."

"This festival represents over 20 countries," says Susan Somaya, the World Arts West president.

The ethnic dance festival is produced by World Arts West. Somaya says it's tough for dancers to make the cut. Auditions start every January.

"This year we had 110 dance groups. We had over 1,000 dancers and they auditioned for two weekends, three days each weekend, in front of a panelist of 5," says Somaya.

Thirty-seven groups will be opening the festival over four weekends and now it's even more family friendly.

"This year we have every Saturday, is target matinee family day and the children are half price," says Somaya.

"If you love dance, you've got to come. We have Rita Morena, who is our honorary chair," says Sheree Chambers from World Arts West.

The public is also invited to the festival's gala event June 13, 2009. Diplomats from the San Francisco Consular Corps will be there for live and silent auctions, featuring a trip to ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" competition later this year. The money raised supports the festival.

"It's about all the different cultures, all the different dances that come together as one," says Chambers.

"The people who dance in the festival are holding on to traditions and values they have chosen to retain and carry on. They believe that by understanding each other, we'll all live in a better place, better time, and a better world," says Somaya.

Ticket Information:
www.worldartswest.org
Tickets can be found through the site or City Box Office at (415) 392-4400 or www.cityboxoffice.com
www.tickets.com
Package deals are available. Saturday matinees offer 50 per cent discounts to children 16 and under.

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