The Heart + Soul of the Bay Area

Welcome

Welcome to the 41st Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival!

We are excited and honored to present the extraordinary dancers and musicians of this year’s Festival.

These artists are the heart and soul of the Bay Area. Their breathtaking artistry is deeply inspiring, incredibly uplifting, and reminds us of the power and importance of gathering together to celebrate the many artistic expressions throughout our diverse communities. We thank the artists for all of their hard work and for sharing the joy and beauty of their cultures with us. Please take the time to read about each of the artists and the dance and music with roots in China, East Turkestan, Egypt, India, Japan, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Republic of Congo, Tahiti, the US, Venezuela, and West Africa.

Congratulations to our Festival Awardees: Ron Wallace, Artistic Director of Dunsmuir Scottish Dancers, Festival photographer extraordinaire RJ Muna, and David Lei, who has served the Festival and many other Bay Area community organizations for over four decades.

We offer many thanks to the Festival’s staff, board, production team, volunteers, donors, and funders, and a special thank you to Cal Performances for their warm welcome and support!

We hope that you enjoy your Festival experience!

 
 
(L to R) Artistic Directors Māhealani Uchiyama, Patrick Makuakāne, and Latanya D. Tigner

(L to R) Artistic Directors Māhealani Uchiyama, Patrick Makuakāne, and Latanya D. Tigner

From the Artistic Directors

Not now, but RIGHT NOW, marks a critical time in our society when we must wield the most powerful tool in our humanity to arrest the fog of incivility crawling unchecked across our nation. This tool? Dance. Dance – no matter the why, when, how, or what – creates spaces and opportunities for us to witness our commonalities and respect our differences. Our humanity: our spirituality, our socialization, our courage, our literacy, and our traditions reflect deeply within our dances. Dance invites us into the realms of our higher selves; the self that engages humanity with civility, respect, kindness, and love – humane. Not dancing denies you compassion.  

Māhealani: I can honestly say that I do not think I would be here without dance in my life. At the very least, I would not be the mother, wife, or teacher that I am now without it. Dance provided the structure, focus, and inspiration this former little girl needed to offset an otherwise chaotic childhood. It also encouraged me to be curious about the world outside of my own little corner of it. When I think about the children attending this Festival who are exposed to forms of music and dance they may not have otherwise known existed, I am filled with hope that the experience will spark something in them as it did for me.

Patrick: Dance is the only tool in my tool box. I don’t know a crescent wrench from a socket wrench. I dance all the time: while teaching or choreographing, in broad grocery store aisles, while alone in a moving elevator, when vacuuming the living room. I dance in my head. At every single concert I attend, no matter who is singing or playing. While sometimes having conversations with people (bad!). When Beyoncé sang “At Last” at Obama’s inauguration ball. And with every artist you’ll see on stage while we visited their rehearsals. I dance when I don’t even think I’m dancing.

Latanya: I witnessed my father grooving and Camel Walking in the living room; I discovered my essence in an impromptu dance battle in high school; I honed my skills at the parties and in the clubs; I came to know my ancestors in West African dance class; I drew lines between  the Smurf and Sounou; I connected the dots between Mandiani and the Roger Rabbit; I made connections  between a pas da bourrée in ballet and a pas da bourrée in jazz, and back-side-front in Mandiani, and step up in House; I embodied the origins and purposes of the dances; I learned that most if not all groups of people have war, work, communal, courtship, healing/medicine, spiritual, imitation, and commemorative dances; I see the commonalities across cultures through dance. Dance introduced me to my humanity, and connected me to the humanity of others. 

The dancers and musicians of this 41st Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival are all of us. They are both our history and our dreams of a better world. This Festival is our declaration that we can and will do more than to simply tolerate our differences. Instead we take delight in our diversity and recognize our unique cultures as what they truly are; a beautiful gift to each other.

 


 

Māhealani Uchiyama

Māhealani Uchiyama is an award-winning dancer, musician, composer, choreographer, recording artist, author and teacher. An advocate for cultural understanding, she is the founder and Artistic Director of the Māhea Uchiyama Center for International Dance in Berkeley and is Kumu Hula of Hālau Ka Ua Tuahine. Ms. Uchiyama is also the creator and director of the annual Kāpili Polynesian Dance and Music Workshops. She holds a BA in Dance Ethnology and an MA in Pacific Island Studies from the University of Hawaiʻi. In addition to her hula and Tahitian dance training, she has performed professionally in the genres of Caribbean and North African dance. As Kumu Hula, she has led numerous performance tours to Tahiti, New Zealand and the islands of Hawaiʻi, and has taught workshops throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada. She has been an instructor of Hawaiian Language at Stanford University, contributed a chapter on the hula for the publication Dancing on the Earth and authored the Haumāna Hula Handbook for Students of Hawaiian Dance (published by North Atlantic Books / Penguin Random House.) Her CD A Walk by the Sea was awarded the 2007 Hawaiʻi Music Award for Best World Music Album. She is the 2009 recipient of the Aloha Spirit Award and has been presented the 2015 Ke Kanaka Poʻokela (The Person of Distinction) Award by the Berkeley Hawaiian Music Festival. She has also served on the panel of dance experts for the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival and the Tahiti Fete of San Jose and Hilo. Ms. Uchiyama is the former President of the Board of Directors of World Arts West, the producers of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival.

Patrick Makuakāne

Patrick Makuakāne, Founder and Director of the Hawaiian dance company Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu, is a creative force in the hula world, known for innovative choreography and groundbreaking theatrical performances. Originally from Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, Mr. Makuakāne studied intensively with two of Hawaiʻi’s most revered hula masters, Robert Uluwehi Cazimero and Mae Kamāmalu Klein. In 2003, under the tutelage of Mrs. Klein, he graduated as a Kumu Hula, or traditional master of dance, in the ritual ceremony known as ʻailolo ʻūniki; in 2013 he received a kīhei (symbol of honor) from Mr. Cazimero. In recognition of his cultural and artistic impact, Mr. Makuakāne has received, among other honors, Dance/USA Fellows Award in 2019, The San Francisco Arts Commission 2018 Legacy Award; numerous Isadora Duncan Dance Awards, culminating in a Sustained Achievement Award in 2016; the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation Artist Fellowship in 2014; and a Choreographer Commissioning Award from the Hewlett and Gerbode Foundations in 2012. He was honored with the Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2006 San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. He serves as the spiritual advisor and Kumu Hula for the Native Hawaiian Religious Spiritual Group at San Quentin State Prison. In passing down the customs of his own hula lineage, Mr. Makuakāne is helping to preserve a dynamic cultural heritage; in experimenting with music, dance, and multimedia, he is crisscrossing between native tradition and artistic evolution. The surprising result is the subject of the award-winning book, The Natives Are Restless: A San Francisco Dance Master Takes Hula into the Twenty-first Century.

Latanya d. Tigner

Latanya d. Tigner has performed professionally with Dimensions Dance Theater since 1986, and has studied and toured nationally and internationally, performing multidisciplinary works rooted in African diasporic dance forms. Ms. Tigner holds a B.A. in Physical Education/Dance, a Master’s Degree in Arts Administration, directs Dimensions’ youth company, and teaches at UC Berkeley.  She has worked with numerous choreographers and dance companies, including Kendra Kimbrough Dance Ensemble, Art of Ballet, Robert Henry Johnson, El Wah Movement, Housin’ Authority, RaRa Tou Limen, Fua Dia Congo, Urban Bush Women (SLI), Kiandanda Dance Theater, Soul Nubian’s Global Street Dance, and many more. Ms. Tigner has created commissioned works for Dimensions Dance Theater, Black Choreographers Festival, Robert Moses’ Kin, and has presented work in the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, Cuba Caribe, and Mabina Dance Festival (Congo-Brazzaville).  She has also set choreography for Cal Shakes’ production of black odyssey, SF Shakespeare’s production of A Winter’s Tale, Ubuntu Theater’s production of Dance of the Holy Ghost, Delina Brooks’ An Open Love Letter to Black Fathers, Contra Costa College’s productions of In the Blood, For Colored Girls, and Godspell, and Li Smith’s production of Purlie Victorious. Ms.Tigner’s current research and study include New Orleans Second Line parading traditions, traditional dances from the Kongo Kingdom, and African dance retention in various African American social dances. She recently accepted the opportunity to be the first Artist in Residence at Mills College’s newly renovated Lisser Hall. Latanya honors her position as co-artistic director of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival for a second season alongside Māhealani Uchiyama and Patrick Makuakāne.

Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Awards


Ron Wallace

It is our honor to present this year’s Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in World Dance and Music to Ron Wallace, Artistic Director of Dunsmuir Scottish Dancers.

Over some fifty years, Ron has created choreographies for countless stages and performed in many festivals in the US (including ours!) and Europe. He is a beloved and inspiring performer, teacher, choreographer, and musician. His professional associations include: Fellow of the United Kingdom Alliance of Professional Teachers of Dance; Member of the Scottish Dance Teachers’ Alliance; Member of the British Association of Teachers of Dance; The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society; and Member Adjudicator Scottish Official Board of Highland Dance.

Ron was born in southern Minnesota into a family of musicians and dancers—parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. His mother was a dance teacher and in 1959, at a young age, Ron began studying with her. His older sister was his first bagpipe teacher. “I knew Scottish music and dance was what I wanted to do; it was how I grew up—or how I didn’t grow up.” As a teen, Ron taught his mother’s students, and in the 1970s, he toured with the Glen Lomond Dancers.

Ron’s love and understanding of Scottish dance and music have also made him a familiar name on workshop staffs in Scotland, North America, Asia, Australia, and Europe, teaching thousands of dancers in over 300 courses in 17 countries. He teaches in Sonoma County and San Pablo—Scottish Country Dance, Highland Dance, Cape Breton Step Dance and Scottish Step Dance; he’s trained over a hundred teachers across North America; and he examines teachers for the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. Ron says, “When I travel I get to see new feet and sharpen my skills. I learn so much from other dancers, from their presence. Dancers age four or five have such absolute freedom, and senior citizens bring a kind of joy. Everyone finds their own dance, from a mathematical, patterned, percussive dance like step dancing, to soft lyrical dances.”  

Ron plays Great Highland bagpipes and recorder and writes tunes, traditional in style with his own signature. One dance Ron wrote, “Mother’s Garden,” is now danced around the world. He says, “To express some things, language is useless, and the physical experience of dance and music becomes the language. Scottish jigs, reels, and driving strathspeys have a strength to be expressed in only that way, a graceful strength and power.”

Three members of Dunsmuir Scottish Dancers – Levi, Jared, and Ethan Bailey – dance in Ron’s honor during Weekend One of the Festival, presenting a Highland-style dance, Treskele, choreographed by Jennifer Schoonover. Ron plays the bagpipes for this performance.

 


RJ Muna

It is a great honor to acknowledge the breathtaking work of photographer RJ Muna with a Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award for Artistic Achievement. RJ has been the Festival’s photographer since 2006 and we are deeply grateful to him for all he has contributed to our dance community.

RJ has been photographing dance in the Bay Area for twenty-five years. Combining the physical energy of dance with the keen observation of photography allows him to move seamlessly between still and moving images. His distinctive lighting techniques complement the human body, capturing the muscular yet graceful movements of the dancer. RJ’s approach begins with an understanding of how the human body interacts with light and movement, combined with a strong conceptual foundation. His many collaborations over the years have resulted in creative relationships that influence the artists on both sides of the camera.

RJ has won over 150 national and international awards, among them the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award, a Clio Award, and a Lucie Award. His work has appeared in numerous photography competitions, including American Photography, Lürzer’s Archive 200 Best Ad Photographers, Communication Arts Photography Annual, Graphis Photo Annual, PDN Photo Annual, and The APA National Awards. RJ’s images have been featured in several industry publications such as At-Edge, Black & White, Camera Arts Magazine, Communication Arts, Lürzer’s Archive, Photo District News (PDN). His film work has been featured in many festivals including Dance On Camera Festival, Dance Camera West, San Francisco Dance Film Festival, AI-AP International Motion Art Awards, and Art Basel Switzerland. 

Community Leadership Award


David Lei

We are excited to present this year’s Community Leadership Award to David Lei, a passionate community leader with a longstanding commitment to many San Francisco Bay Area arts and cultural organizations He has worked to help the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival for over twenty years in various capacities, including serving as a key member of the Board of Directors for a decade, generously volunteering his time and expertise. He remains an active member of the Festival’s Advisory Council.

David immigrated to the US from Taiwan at the age of seven, and just ten years later, he co-founded the Chung Ngai Dance Troupe, a nonprofit performing arts organization, specializing in Chinese Lion Dance, that continues to provide free dance lessons to youth in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

David has a passion for building communities, social change, youth education, and the arts, and has been actively involved with numerous nonprofits, including the Asian Art Museum, the Chinese Performing Arts Foundation, the Chinese American Community Foundation, the Bancroft Library, and the Center for Asian American Media, among others.

Since his retirement as an accomplished entrepeneur in 2005, David’s focus has been on developing sustainable funding models for community-based organizations.

Dance and Music Origins

Nearly 500 Northern California artists presenting dance and music from more than 17 world cultures spanning 4 continents.

Weekend 1


  1. Kanyon Sayers-Roods
    – Indian Canyon, Hollister area
  2. San Francisco Taiko Dojo – Japan (Tokyo)
  3. O D K – Ghana
  4. Kiazi Malonga – Republic of Congo
  5. Nicole Maria + Georges Lammam Ensemble – Egypt
  6. L’Emir Hassan Harfouche + Georges Lammam Ensemble
     – Lebanon
  7. Gâta Bantu – Brazzaville, Republic of Congo
  8. Chitresh Das Institute – North India
  9. Los Lupeños de San José – Nuevo Léon, Mexico
  10. Kohaku + Shiho Tendou – Japan
  11. Jubilee American Dance Theatre – Louisiana, US
  12. Afro Urban Society + Bearettes – Louisiana, Berkeley, West Africa, the Caribbean, and Brazil

Weekend 2


  1. Ballet Folklórico Nube de Oro – Durango, Mexico
  2. Jackeline Rago – Venezuela
  3. Tara Catherine Pandeya + Ali Paris
    – East Turkestan (Uyghur Autonomous Xinjiang)
  4. Guru Shradha + Antara Asthaayi Dance + Navia Dance Academy – India
  5. Cunamacué – Peru
  6. Te Mana O Te Ra – Tahiti, French Polynesia
  7. Parangal Dance Company
    – Basilan, Sulu Archipelago, Philippines
  8. Awon Ohun Omnira – Georgia, US, and Nigeria
  9. Feng Ye Dance Studio – China
  10. Diamano Coura West African Dance Company – Guinea, Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Niger

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The mission of World Arts West is to support local artists sustaining diverse world dance and music traditions by providing needed services and performance opportunities, while deepening the public's support of and engagement with these inspiring culture bearers.