Ethnic Dance Finds Legitimacy

World Dance has finally found its place in a major concert venue.


De Rompe y Raja Cultural Association will perform at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival.

Photo by RJ Muna

Ethnic Dance—or World Dance, the preferred definition today—has had a difficult time being accepted in concert environments. Somehow being tagged as “folkloric” in origin put it in the category of special interest only and considered nonprofessional and therefore not programmable for general audiences.

But World Dance—and in major parts thanks to the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival that has supported, promoted, and showcased it since 1983—has finally found its place in a major concert venue. This year’s San Francisco Ethnic Dance—stuck with its name, because that’s what it is known as—will move into the hallowed environment of the San Francisco Opera House. It’s called becoming legit.

The two programs also point out that the San Francisco in the name is somewhat misleading. It may have been true for the first half dozen years, but the SF Ethnic Dance Festival has long welcomed participants from around the Bay Area.

Participants from the East Bay have always made major contributions. Dimension Dance Theater and the Congolese Dance and Drum Workshop were among the festival’s first hits. This year Naomi Diouf, artistic director of Oakland’s Diamana Coura West African Dance Company, will the receive The festival’s Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in the field of ethnic dance and music.

Stepping for the first time onto the Opera House’s huge stage, being supported by fully professional production values also will be:

Ballet Folklorico Mexico Danza, from Hayward, with regional dances from Mexico at their most colorful and joyous.

Natya at Berkeley, 12 young very contemporary women who, nevertheless, have been training for years in the one of the oldest surviving dance traditions, southern India’s Bharata Natyam.

• Walnut Creek’s Te Mano O T Ra celebrates its 10th anniversary of resurrecting and spreading the word about Tahitian dance from (French) Polynesia. No doubt a young princess by the name of Moana has helped along.

• Berkeley’s most-beloved Gamelan Sekar Jaya will bring its musicians for pre-concert performances.

Maybe the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival might consider a name change to Bay Area World Dance Festival.

San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. July 8 and 15, 8 p.m.; July 9 and 16, 2 p.m, $25-$45, War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, City Box Office, 525-392-4400,


This report appears in the July edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.


Published online on July 5, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.‚Äč

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