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Dance, Dance, Dance

January 10, 2013

San Francisco Ethnic Dance FestivalThe 35th Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival runs from June 1 to 30, but auditions are being held this weekend and next. If you enjoy dance or you’re curious about the auditioning process this is a “must-see.”

The festival, which is open only to soloists and groups from the Bay Area, including Sacramento, was founded in 1978, and was the first multicultural, ethnic dance festival in America sponsored by a city, in this case through the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund.

Those who wished to be in this year’s audition paid $30 in the fall to get a spot. More than 100 groups, duets, and soloists have entered. The largest number represents Indian, Mexican, and Middle Eastern traditions.

Soloists have five minutes; groups, 10 minutes. The auditioning piece is what will be performed in the June festival. Eight panelists, not to include the artistic directors, pick up to 20 favorites. The panelists are experts in judging cultural authenticity. The total number of favorites is worked down to 60 finalists, and then the directors cut the number to 30, give or take.

Earlier this week we spoke to Carlos Carvajal, the festival’s co-artistic director, along with CK Ladzekpo. We asked about the auditions: “We don’t judge authenticity; that’s for the panelists. What we’re interested in is whether the choreography is stage worthy. We judge music quality; technical execution, and production components, including such things as thematic clarity and use of space.”

Carvajal cut into this answer. There was something more important to say: “But what’s so wonderful about this is that you get to see all the contestants. And it’s a full day. You realize this doesn’t happen anywhere in the world. There is nothing like this anywhere in the world.”

January 12-13, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley; January 19- 20, 2 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Saturday), 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Sunday) Lam Theater, Yerba Buena Center of the Arts, San Francisco. $10 for adults. Children under 12 are free. See the website for a complete list of entrants and audition times.

Mark MacNamara, a writer and journalist based in Asheville, North Carolina, has written for such publications as NautilusSalonThe Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Vanity Fair. From time to time, his pieces in San Francisco Classical Voice also appear in  Noteworthy examples include a piece about Philip Glass’s dream to build a cultural center on the Pacific Coast; a profile of sound composer Pamela Z and an essay on the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. MacNamara recently won several awards in the 2018 Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards presented by the San Francisco Press Club.  His website is