San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival

Sorry, but the village square has gone the way of stoop sitting
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Rethinking traditional forms
Photo by RJ Muna

PREVIEW World premieres are not what you expect in traditional, culturally specific dance. But the myth of the unyielding art form passed from generation to generation dies hard, perhaps because there is comfort in believing that "some things don't change." Sorry, but the village square has gone the way of stoop sitting. So-called ethnic dance started to change the minute it moved from the grange to the stage. What's great about the enduring appeal of World Art West's San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival — celebrating 30 years this year — is that its producers encourage rethinking traditional forms so that they honor the past while embracing the future. It's the only way an art can survive. To put more than moral support toward that effort, SF EDF gave out four 30th-anniversary commissions this year. Ensambles Ballet Folklorico de San Francisco presents its commission, Las Cortes Mayas, a celebration of Mexico's regal past, this weekend. Another highlight is the first appearance of one of India's classical dance genres, Kuchipudi, which is related to but faster-paced and more feathery than Bharatanatyam. Sindhu Ravuri's solo is inspired by Indian temple sculptures. Hailing from Oakland is hip-hop/modern dance troupe Imani's Dream in a premiere that reflects the youth group's everyday reality. What else can you expect on this second of four weekends of cultural dance offerings? Afro-Peruvian footwork, Middle Eastern belly, Korean memorializing, Chinese court, Caribbean-flavored flamenco, and Scottish ritual dance. You'll also hear a lot of live music: these days, EDF is almost as much a world music as a dance festival. And if that's not enough to lure you in, throughout the month of June, World Arts West is offering a series of low-cost participatory workshops that welcomes all comers.

SAN FRANCISCO ETHNIC DANCE FESTIVAL June 1–29. This week: Sat/14–Sun/15, 2 p.m. (also Sat, 8 p.m.). $22–$44. Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon, SF. (415) 392-4400, www.worldartswest.org

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