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AS THE TWIRLED TURNS: Mexican folklorico dancers take the stage this Saturday afternoon as part of the Santa Cruz Ethnic Dance Festival.

Global A-Go-Go

The most exotic dance party in town returns in a flurry of costumes and music

By Maria Grusauskas

IF THERE'S ONE THING Santa Cruz will let its wetsuit dry out completely for, it's shaking what our mama gave us. This weekend, opportunities to do just that abound as Mission Plaza Park erupts into back-to-back performances of Japanese, Brazilian, Argentine, Balinese, Indian, Azteca, African, folklorico and belly dance as part of Santa Cruz's second annual Ethnic Dance Festival.

The festival, presented by Santa Cruz Dance, showcases the wide range of ethnic dance in our community. "Santa Cruz is very gifted to have such a large practicing community of cultural dance, says Marsea Marquis, who has taught samba in Santa Cruz for the past 18 years and whose dance troupe, Tropicalismo, will participate in the festival. "You aren't going to find it in many other places." Abra Allan, founder of Santa Cruz Dance, predicts an even larger turnout than last year's count of 500, judging from the huge success National Dance Week Santa Cruz has seen over the past three years.

This year's festival also comes packed with five hours of free dance classes on Sunday at the 418 Project—a natural choice for Santa Cruz, where there's at least one dance class boogieing down to live music somewhere in town every night of the week.

Tango Nancy and John Lingemann started dancing tango in Santa Cruz 19 years ago, after being inspired by a show put on by Argentine dancers passing through town. Since then, the couple, who appeared two weeks ago in Tandy Beal's HereAfterHere, have traveled to Buenos Aires every year to learn from the masters. They've taught Wednesday night classes at Calvary Episcopal Church for the past 10 years. "It's an intimate dance," says Nancy Lingemann, who likens the tango community to family. "You dance very close, so you can't help but get to know them."

The Lingemanns and two other couples will perform traditional Argentine tango, which is danced in a circle and is completely improvised. The circular pattern comes from its beginnings on the docks of Buenos Aires, when European dockworkers watched and copied the dances of African slaves, incorporating their movement into the waltz steps they had brought from Europe. "Since there weren't that many women, the men practiced with themselves and created a very strong male lead that the female could easily pick up," Nancy says, adding that to this day, the strong male lead persists in the form.

Afro-Brazilian "Brazil is a huge country," says Danda Da Hora, who grew up in Bahia, sings for the ever-popular local band Sambadá and has been involved in Santa Cruz's Afro-Brazilian dance community for eight years. "We have an amazing variety of dances and a huge diversity of culture. It's not just girls dancing in bikinis in the Carnival."

The dance that Da Hora and her group will perform will be accompanied by live drumming and is reminiscent of the semba, a traditional African fertility dance in which women dance in a circle and are invited one by one into the center where they touch belly buttons and then move back to the outer edge. From this dance, she says, came the samba. "All kinds of Brasilian rhythm and dance—samba, xaxado, maracatu, samba Afro—come from the roots of African slavery," she says.

Da Hora and her group of female dancers will perform Afro-Brazilian dance in a choreography dedicated to the goddess of the ocean, Yemanja.

Belly Dance Another treat to look for is the belly dancers of Raks Arabi, led by instructor Crystal Silmi. She and her troupe will perform a traditional sword dance, which is said to have evolved as a way for women to lure the weapons away from soldiers once they had had a too much to drink. Originating in Lebanon, belly dancing began as a means for women to teach each other how to develop the muscles for childbirth. Later, Silmi says, it was taken into cabarets in Egypt to entertain men and has been evolving as a dance ever since.

The whole shebang kicks off with a community tea ritual sponsored by David Wright of Chaikhana. Local foodie favorite India Joze will be selling food, and Allan encourages families to bring blankets and picnics so they can enjoy the performances in comfort.


Saturday, Sept. 25, 1–5pm, Mission Plaza Park, Mission Street and Mission Plaza; Sunday, Sept. 26, 1:30–6:30pm, 418 Project, 418 Front St. Free.

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