San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival Celebrates 40 Years

By Dancers' Group


three female Cuban dancers in brightly colored dresses and headbands


This July, the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival will return to the War Memorial Opera House for its 40th anniversary as the largest, longest-running, and most comprehensive world dance and music event of its kind in the US.

“[The Opera House] is a magnificent setting to celebrate the awe-inspiring Bay Area artists who are sustaining the world’s cultural traditions, shining as a powerful beacon for the power and beauty of diverse cultural inclusion,” said Festival Executive Director Julie Mushet. “It’s deeply gratifying to celebrate four decades of presenting these inspiring artists to ever-growing audiences, from the Festival’s modest beginnings in community centers to the grandest stage in San Francisco.”

two Eskimo dancers, one standing, one seated

One of the highlights of this year’s Festival is the performance by Chuna McIntyre and the Nunamta Yup’ik Eskimo Singers and Dancers, who will present a dance that will be seen for the first time in over 200 years, in regalia that has taken nearly four decades to create.

Additionally, the Festival has announced a trio of new Co-Artistic Directors: Patrick Makuakane, Latanya d. Tigner, and Mahealani Uchiyama, as Carlos Carvajal and CK Ladzekpo become Artistic Directors Emeritus after 12 seasons as Co-Artistic Directors.

two ballet folklorico dancers, one male with a straw hat and tied scarf, one female with a flower headdress

Makuakane is founder, Artistic Director, and Kumu Hula of San Francisco’s renowned Na Lei Hulu i ka Wekiu Hawaiian dance company; Tigner is a dancer and choreographer at Oakland’s venerated Dimensions Dance Theater, directs Dimensions’ youth company, and serves on the dance faculty of UC Berkeley; Uchiyama is founder and Artistic Director of the Center for International Dance in Berkeley, Kumu Hula of Halau Ka Ua Tuahine, and is an award-winning choreographer and composer.

AERODANCE – Indian Folkloric (Gujarat)

AguaClara Flamenco – Spanish Flamenco

Ananya Tirumala – South Indian Kuchipudi

Antara Asthaayi Dance – North Indian Kathak

Arenas Dance Company – Afro-Cuban

Bolivia Corazón de América – Bolivian Folkloric (Tarabuco and Potosí)

Caminos Flamencos – Spanish Flamenco

two female flamenco dancers in blue and white polka dot dresses and 1 male musician


Charya Burt Cambodian Dance – Cambodian Classical

Chinyakare Ensemble – Zimbabwean Traditional

Chitresh Das Youth Company – North Indian Kathak

De Rompe y Raja Cultural Association – Afro-Peruvian

Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco – Mexican Folkloric (Tabasqueño)

female Tahitian dancer with bright orange and purple grass skirt and headdress

Hermanos Herrera – Mexican Folkloric

Kim Shuck ‡ – Poet Laureate of San Francisco

Leung’s White Crane Lion & Dragon Dance Association – Chinese Dragon Dance

Los Danzantes de Aztlán, Fresno State – Mexican Folkloric (Huapangos)

Mussel Rock Cloggers – Appalachian Clogging

Nimely Pan African Dance Company – Liberian Folkloric

Nunamta Yup’ik Eskimo Singers and Dancers – Alaskan Yup’ik Eskimo

OngDance Company – Korean Traditional and Contemporary

Parangal Dance Company – Philippine Folkloric (Meranao)

Te Pura O Te Rahura’a – Tahitian ??te’a and ?Aparima

Vinic-Kay (La Gente y El Canto) – Mexican Folkloric

Ye Feng – Chinese Contemporary


The Festival’s Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in ethnic dance and music will be presented to four artists who have had extraordinary impact on the field:


This article appeared in the May 2018 edition of In Dance.