Introducing Drag Queen Story Time at Seattle Children’s Festival: A Chat with Aleksa Manila

This year, we welcome an exciting new program to the 4th Annual Seattle Children’s Festival: Drag Queen Story Time, which will be hosted by one of Seattle’s most respected drag personalities, Aleksa Manila. Sharing stories that celebrate inclusion, acceptance and diversity, Aleksa will provide a fun and lighthearted story time at the Festival for kids and their families from 10 – 10:45am.

Aleksa Manila is known for her extraordinary performances and her work within the LGBTQ and Filipino communities. Since her move from Manila, Philippines to Seattle, Aleksa has been taking this city by storm, from performing and emceeing events big and small, to serving on various panels and educating youth on issues affecting our communities.

We had a chance to sit down with Aleksa to ask her about her proudest accomplishments, her love for community and what “folk life” means to her.

Photo courtesy of Aleksa Manila


Hello Ms. Aleksa Manila, thank you so much for talking to us today! How are you doing?

Hello! Thanks so much for this great opportunity to work with you. I am doing fabulously, staying busy with life and staying out of trouble.

Can you describe yourself in just five words?

Oh my…that might be a tough one. Let’s play: Drag Counselor, Political Provocateur, and (Fill-In-The-Blank)

We are so excited to have you at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival! This is our first year of having the Drag Queen Story Time program. What are you most excited about for this year’s festival?

I’m most excited about meeting new faces and families [at] the festival. And also looking forward to seeing diverse families celebrate with each other and be welcomed in their spaces.

Your list of accomplishments is incredible and ever-growing! You’re a performer, comedian, singer, activist and community leader. Of all of these feats, what is one of your proudest accomplishments thus far?

I have a  couple of proudest moments–the first one is when I won my very first drag title of Miss Gay Filipino in 2001. I won every category, except Miss Congeniality. But the moral of the story is that I was able to share this special moment with my mom who supports me wholeheartedly. Another special accomplishment is singing with the band, Pink Martini while I reigned as Miss Gay Seattle.

Along with that, alongside your work as a notable performer, you are very involved with the LGBTQ and Filipino communities. Can you explain why these communities are important to you? What vision do you have for these communities in the future?

As a genderqueer Filipino-American, I am part of diverse and intersectional communities. As a minority, it is very important and critical to unite and work together to ensure everyone has access to all resources regardless of our differences.

“My personal vision is that the unique and special attributes of my communities are celebrated and honored like others and not just positions of power.”

Why do you think it’s important to expose the youth to various cultures, identities, and people?

Children and youth are very insightful and definitely smarter than most adults assume them to be. I worked at Children’s Hospital for a number of years, and I saw firsthand the strength and resilience of the little ones. They were incredibly inspirational. If we merely shelter children from diverse cultures, identities and peoples–then they are unable to create memories, unable to practice discernment, unable to build coping mechanisms, and so on. This limits the power of the mind, it chains the human spirit, and ails the body.

In relation to that, how do you hope to do this through your program, Drag Queen Story Time?

My hopes and dreams with Drag Queen Story Time is that the little ones realize that pinks aren’t just meant for girls, that blues aren’t just for boys, and that they recognize there are more to just boys and girls–and they know that they have families that love them just the way they are–especially from this Princess Boy!

As a fellow Seattleite, what is your favorite aspect of this big neighborhood?

We’re very lucky to live in Seattle where diversity exists. Being in a coastal city that’s exposed to rich history of migration and honoring of Native American peoples and land is not very common. Just the other day, I heard the great, great, great grandson of Chief Seattle speak at a Mayor’s event at the Seattle Center…how cool is that? I am in awe of the natural and architectural landscape… from sunrise to sunset and under the moonlight, Seattle is breathtaking!

How have the combination of your identity, heritage and cultural background played a role in who you are today?

It challenges me to be a creative and compassionate creature! The legacy and history of my descendants influence and shape the person I am today and who I will be tomorrow. I often think about, “what would my mother think of my performances or how I present myself to my audience?”

What piece of wisdom can you give to our audiences who may still be in the process of understanding their self-identity?

“Self-love” is necessary for self-care and community. My mom always told me growing up, “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” Surround yourself with peers, family (including chosen-family) and community who are smart and loving, and who inspire you to be the best person you want to be. Don’t be afraid to ask “why?”

How do you live out the meaning of “folk life”?

I’m just “me” and no more than I expect others to be themselves. “Folk” denotes tradition. 

“That said, as a community, let’s continue to create tradition. Tradition changes over time, let’s adapt to ensure everyone is included in our traditions.”


Her passion for performance and her commitment to making our communities and spaces inclusive for all are just some of the many reasons we are proud to call Aleksa Manila one of our neighbors in Our Big Neighborhood.

Join Northwest Folklife and Aleksa Manila in celebrating Our Big Neighborhood at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival on Sunday, October 8 at the Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion and Armory. Drag Queen Story Time will take place at the Armory Loft 1B at 10 AM. Events like this are made possible by Friends of Folklife and your generous donations. See you there!

Aleksa Manila: Website

Seattle Children’s Festival: Website | Full Schedule | Facebook Event Page

Announcing Our New Leadership Structure

Experience Folklife Festival 2017Coming off of a year of tremendous support from the greater Pacific Northwest community, Northwest Folklife, a 47 year old arts and culture non-profit, embarks on a journey forward to envision its future in new and dynamic ways – maintaining the core ideals that have been present since its founding.

Thanks to this support from our community and with the goal of building a strong foundation in which to grow, the Board of Directors of Northwest Folklife is announcing a restructuring of the professional management of the organization, the appointment of Kelli Faryar as the first Executive Artistic Director of Northwest Folklife and the launch of a search for the organization’s first Managing Director.

The New Structure

“Northwest Folklife is evolving its leadership structure to best meet the challenges and opportunities we face today and in the future. We are committed to our role as a community centric organization, working in partnership with artistic and cultural communities to co-create and co-curate opportunities for all to share, celebrate, and participate in the evolving traditions of the Pacific Northwest,” said Rafael Maslan, Board President. “By committing to a dual leadership and partnership model, we invest in executive leadership in our community engagement and artistic excellence as well as in administration, resource development and financial management.”

Appointment of Kelli Faryar as the first Executive Artistic Director

Effective August 27, 2017, Ms. Faryar will assume the position of Executive Artistic Director. Ms. Faryar has served as the Programs Director at Northwest Folklife for 4 years in her 9 years working for the organization. Under her programmatic influence and leadership, Northwest Folklife has mounted 9 Northwest Folklife Festivals with the creation of the Indie Roots program and specific cultural focus on the Traditional Roots of Hip Hop, Power of the Human Voice through Song and Festal Turn 20, celebrating Seattle Center’s 20th anniversary of Festal. Ms. Faryar has expanded the programming of Northwest Folklife to now include our annual Seattle Children’s Festival (this will be the fourth year of presenting this child and family centered festival on October 8, 2017) and led the organization’s commitment to be in direct partnership with over 100 cultural and artistic communities.

“Kelli is the perfect choice for assuming the position of the first Executive Artistic Director in Northwest Folklife’s history” said Michelle Demers Shaevitz, Chair of the Outreach Committee. “Her influence on how we have evolved artistically and culturally over the past four years, her passion and vision for the future, her commitment to engaging and partnering with our communities, and her demonstrated ability to make those dreams a reality have inspired the entire organization and we are thrilled to have her assume this role.”

Managing Director Search

At this juncture, Northwest Folklife is embarking on a new Managing Director search. The Board will build upon it’s relationship with the Third Sector Company to manage the search for the Managing Director. The Third Sector Company has been working with Northwest Folklife for the past year to provide Interim Executive Director services and provided support at the 2017 Board Retreat.

“We seek a special person as our Managing Director – someone who has the capacity, passion, and the wisdom to partner with the board, the Executive Artistic Director, and the community to envision a bold, exciting and attainable future,” said Evan Woods, Board Vice President and Chair of the Search Committee. “We are excited to launch this search, find the best candidate to partner with Kelli as our executive management team, and move into the next phase of Northwest Folklife’s amazing journey with our community.”

More information about the Managing Director position can be found here.

Thank You For Keeping Northwest Folklife Alive!

It is with a sense of deep gratitude that we can tell you that you – the community who attends and loves Northwest Folklife and the Northwest Folklife Festival – that when the final counting is done – and that takes a few more days – that we believe we will hit the $350,000 goal we set for donations at this year’s Festival.

We told you that the festival was in danger, that over the years, costs had been rising but revenue had not. We told you that we were worried that people had confused the complete accessibility of this festival – open to everyone in the community without a ticket price or financial barrier – that this had been confused with the idea that the festival was free. We shared, as openly and candidly with all of you what it really takes to put on this festival – including a cash budget of $1.3 million.

We believed that if we were open with you – that if you understood that this treasure you value so highly was our collective responsibility, that you would understand and would become part of the solution. And you did.  We made the goal and now, the Board will meet at the end of June to initiate discussions on how Northwest Folklife should move forward in the future. A new process begins and we look forward to engaging with the community as an essential part of that process.

It is one of the great challenges of Northwest Folklife that so many of our donors are anonymous event attendees. They come to the festival, give their cash donation and we have no way of staying in touch unless they join our mailing list or give us their contact information. We are so glad that they are helping to defray the costs of the event itself but it is impossible to connect with them afterwards.

But we have this amazing group of supporters – our Friends of Folklife who give to us throughout the year because they passionately believe in our mission and vision and they understand that supporting Folklife all year long is necessary. We are so pleased to announce that our Spring Campaign Goal has also been met and we are so very grateful to all of those donors as well. You made it possible for us to get to the opening day of the Festival and the opening day of the Children’s Festival in October. Thank you.

There is the greater point to be made. For Folklife to continue for the next 46 years – it will take a continued concerted effort. It takes the deep conviction and support of the Friends of Folklife who give us the resources to work all year round. It absolutely takes the support of the community and audience that attends the events – that recognize that “Access for All” is not the same as “Free”. We made a good start on that this year and we must keep that message strong and always present.

It also takes the support of institutional funders in the public, corporate and foundation worlds who know that Northwest Folklife is not just a great “EVENT” that occurs once a year but that Northwest Folklife is a “CAUSE” committed to strengthening our communities through the sharing and experiencing of our arts, culture and heritage.

And yes, it will take the continued “daily donations” of the hundreds of thousands who attend the events who must come to understand that the continuation of Folklife will always depend upon their support as well.

So thank you to all who have made the future possible. We are so grateful and so excited.

Rafael Maslan

President – NWFL Board

Mark W. Crawford

Interim Executive Director

Thank you for an Incredible 2017 Folklife Festival!

The 46th annual Northwest Folklife Festival came to a close on the evening of May 29th, wrapping up four days of music, dance, food, art, and celebration. The Festival brought together over 6,000 performers across 22 stages, with the aid of at least 800 volunteers. This year the Festival drew an estimated crowd of 250,000 people to Seattle Center over four days. The crowds enjoyed four full days of sunshine and smiles and spirits were high!

Whether you forgot to give or wish to give more in support of Folklife’s rich tradition of arts and culture programs accessible to all, please take a moment to give, renew, and even increase your support as a Friend of Folklife donor. Thank you to all for sharing our message of building support for this community-powered treasure, and for your many gifts.

Share your experience with us here.

 

 

 

Explore the 20 Years of Festál at the Northwest Folklife Festival

For 46 years, Northwest Folklife has brought diverse communities of the Pacific Northwest together on the grounds of Seattle Center, the city’s central gathering space. Northwest Folklife shares these same grounds year-round with Festál, the Center’s presenting organization that works with 23 community organizations to bring festivals like Diwali, Tet Festival, CroatiaFest, Spirit of Indigenous People, and more to Seattle Center. As Festál Turns 20 in 2017, Northwest Folklife celebrates the ground-breaking, community-organizing work for which Festál is known.

Here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store!

Theatre Presentations:

Around the World through Cultural Attires

Travel around the world through cultural attires, jewelry and traditional accessories. The Cultural Attire showcase will showcase 14 Festál cultures including Hmong, Tibet, Poland, China, Africa, Japan and more. Saturday, May 27, 3:00-5:00PM in the Charlotte Martin Theatre 

Northwest Folklife, Seattle Center and Jack Straw Cultural Center presents Festál Turns 20 Music Collaboration Showcase

Celebrating the common threads of music from around the world, experience a one-of-a-kind showcase that highlights 9 distinguished musicians representing Festál Cultural Festivals in solo performances and a special live collaboration.

Saturday, May 27 from 7:00-10:00PM in the Cornish Playhouse

 Iranian Festival presents Baran Dance Ensemble, music with Ayla, poetry by Ali Ghambari and Gazalle Willecke

Sunday, May 28 from 7:00-9:00PM in the Cornish Playhouse

 

Northwest Folklife Festival - Festal Turns 20Panel Discussions:

The Birth of Festál

With John Merner, Dennis Caldirola and Andy Frankel

Saturday, May 27, 4:00-5:00PM on the Narrative Stage

Cultivating Cultures

With Steven Sneed, Latha Sambamurti, Kabao Xiong and Juliet Cheadle

Sunday, May 28, 4:00-5:00PM on the Narrative Stage

 

Festal launch, Seattle Center, 1997

Food Demonstrations:

Festival Sundiata presents Lillian Rambus from Simply Soulful

Cooking “Peach Cobbler”

Saturday, May 27, 12:00-12:45PM on the Cultural Cuisine Stage

 

Festa Italiana presents Brad Inserra from Red House Beer, Wine Shoppe & Tapas Bar

Cooking “Aglio e Olio”

Monday, May 29, 12:00-12:45PM on the Cultural Cuisine Stage

 

Music Performances:

BrasilFest presents VamoLÃ! Brazilian Drum & Dance Ensemble, Bloco Alegria Samba Band, Samba OlyWa, Brazilian Violin Trio, Show Brazil!

Sunday, May 28, 5:00-8:00PM on the Mural Amphitheatre

 

Hands-on Activities:

Diwali: Festival of Lights presents two very special cows who live at the Seattle Center. Learn about the importance and significance of these animals to the Vedic culture. Monday, May 29 from 11:00AM-6:00PM in the Discovery Zone

 

Spirit of Indigenous People presents Longhouse Media Films with Tracy Rector

Sunday, May 28, 5:00-7:00PM in the SIFF Film Center

 

Festival Sundiata presents We Shall Not Sleep -The Voices of Our Ancestors by Gary Giles

Monday, May 29, 1:45-2:45PM in the SIFF Film Center

Workshops:

Pagdiriwang Philippine Festival presents Philippine Rural Dance, Music and Attire

Join the Filipinas Performing Arts of Washington State (FPAWS) with dancer and choreographer Juliet Omli-Cawas Cheatle, to learn rural dances from the Philippines. Saturday, May 27, 5:15-6:00PM in the Armory Court Stage.

 

Visual Arts:

 

The Art of Festál

Explore a range of topics from historic artifacts to contemporary ideas of belonging, place, and beauty from Festál organizations including Arab Festival, Hmong New Year Celebration, Italian Festival, Live Aloha, Polish Festival Seattle, and TurkFest.

Friday, May 26 – Monday, May 29, 11:00AM – 7:00PM in the Art Not Terminal Gallery

 

Dia de Muertos Community Altar

Honor loved ones who have passed with a community altar organized by Dia de Muertos. Located on the second floor of the Armory building, directly outside the loft workshop rooms, you will have a chance to participate in an ongoing community altar of remembrance traditional to the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos.

In order to participate, bring a photo, note, or offering to add your story to the ever growing altar.*

Altar will be on display in the Armory Court balcony Saturday – Monday.


About Day of the Dead Altars

Courtesy of Diana at Copal Mexican Folk Art and Dia de Muertos Festival

Day of the Dead altars known as altares de muertos or ofrendas are set during the Day of the Dead celebrations on November 1 and 2 to honor the dead children and adults. Day of the Dead celebrations are based in the belief that the souls of the ones gone can come back to this world on these days.

The Day of the Dead altars are the most prominent feature in the celebration because they show the souls the way to their home. Altars make the souls (animas) feel welcomed and show them they have not been forgotten.

The souls will only take the essence out of the food and drinks so at the end of the celebration or in some places during the event, the family will gather and eat and drink the offered goodies and often share them with the community members.

Day of the Dead altars are set with different elements depending on the region; these differences are established by the availability, seasonal flowers and fruits and the traditional food from the area. Other elements are shared everywhere in the country. Most altars would include elements such as photographs, candy skulls, candles, flowers, and food.


*If you would like them back, please collect your offerings by 9PM on Sunday May 22nd. Folklife will try and collect any unclaimed offerings at the end of the Festival but please plan on only providing offerings with the understanding that they may not make it back to you.

A Co-Curated Festival

If you’ve wondered how the annual Northwest Folklife Festival presents such a wide breadth of diversity and cultural inclusion each year, the answer lies in the innovative Community Coordinator Program, which brings cultural leaders into the festival’s planning process. Each coordinator is drawn from a specific community in the Pacific Northwest and is an integral partner in the fulfillment of Northwest Folklife’s mission to celebrate, share, and participate in the evolving traditions of this region. The goal of the program is to give space at the festival for these communities to present their arts and traditions on their own terms. An additional goal is also for the coordinators to invite their communities to attend the festival and to encourage all festivalgoers to participate and learn from each other’s traditions. The communities covered by this program range widely across Northwest demographics, including South Asian, Native American, Filipino, Arab, Irish, Latino, Hispanic, Scandinavian, African, African-American, Latin American, Canadian, and Eastern European communities. Northwest Folklife’s festival programming reflects the diversity of our region, much of it centered on immigrant communities.

Hawaiian showcase, photo by Ben Shaevitz

“The Community Coordinator program at Northwest Folklife creates a co-curated, shared ownership of the Festival that defines Northwest Folklife’s commitment to cultural inclusion”, says Kelli Faryar, Programs Director. “Our collaboration with Coordinators is necessary to an authentic celebration of the multicultural arts, cultures and traditions of the region. They represent the lifeblood of our communities and these relationships lie at the heart and soul of this commitment.” 

 

The Community Coordinator Program is an ongoing partnership that results in over 65% of the programming at both the Northwest Folklife Festival and the Seattle Children’s Festival (which Northwest Folklife also produces). With Coordinator guidance and co-curation, each showcase is put together with careful consideration of the unique needs of the community, artists, and audience, and with the goal of growing and embracing the ever-changing cultural traditions and landscapes of the region.

“The Northwest Folklife Festival has such a prominent energy in the arts and music in the city,” says Ali Ghambari, the Community Coordinator for the Northwest Folklife Festival’s Iranian Showcase. “For us, working with Northwest Folklife compliments what we’re doing, and Folklife gives us resources and the energy to build on. It’s a pleasure to work with Northwest Folklife, and at the same time it elevates what we do.” 

The Art of Festál

One Tired Tourist in Venice by Joel Patience, Italian Festival

From the earliest markings to contemporary multimedia installations, representations of culture and tradition have been expressed through visual media. The art and artifacts on display in the Art of Festál exhibition all represent both individual and cultural expressions and are as diverse and distinct as the Festál program itself. Learn the history of the Festál program from its inception 20 years ago, and see how it’s grown and expanded throughout time.

Wander through the galleries to take in art expanding the entire 20th century and beyond, from 1940’s prints from Poland, to Lebanese contemporary paper works, to contemporary representations of Italian life. Themes explored range from historic artifacts to contemporary ideas of belonging, place, and beauty.

Festál organizations represented include: Arab Festival, Hmong New Year Celebration, Italian Festival, Live Aloha, Polish Festival Seattle, and TurkFest.

The Art of Festál will be on view in the Art Not Terminal Gallery  May 26 – May 29 11am – 7pm

Swing on in!

By Dean Paton, Community Coordinator

I began swing dancing because of an injury. I had been a lifelong baseball player and throughout my thirties and early forties I played both hardball and softball. In the summer of 1993 I broke a bone in my hand—and, for a professional writer, that was serious. I took it as a sign: that I needed to quit playing baseball and find a new physical activity where I wouldn’t have so many collisions with big, fast-moving jocks.

I decided to take up swing dancing.

Immediately, I fell in love with partner dancing. I’d actually tried partner dancing a few years earlier, but what I had not understood at the time is that there are actually two drastically different worlds of partner dancing—social dancing, and competition-ballroom dancing. Continued below


Looking for a chance to jitterbug, foxtrot or swing? Don’t miss these swing showcases at the 2017 Northwest Folklife Festival!

Hot High School Swing Dance Presented by KNKX

Friday, May 26, 3-6pm, Armory Court

Swingin’ the Great American Songbook

Saturday, May 27, 1-3pm, Fisher Pavilion

Swingin’ Blues or Bluesy Swing?

Saturday, May 27, 6-8pm, Fisher Pavilion

Western Swing and Alt Country Ass-Kicker Wake-Up

Sunday, May 28, 11am – 1pm, Fisher Pavilion

West Coast Swing with Seattle Swing Dance Club

Sunday, May 28, 3-4pm, Armory Loft – Dance Workshops

Swing! Swing! Swing!

Monday, May 29, 3-5pm, Armory Court Stage


That dancing you see on “Dancing With The Stars—this is in the competition-ballroom world. It’s dancing, yes, but mostly it’s choreography, where you practice and practice the same moves over and over. And because choreography is a lot of work there’s a tendency to dance with the same partner over and over.Because I didn’t know two worlds of partner dancing existed—like parallel universes of dance—I thought I just wasn’t cut out for partner dancing, and I was so disappointed by this that I didn’t even finish the series of lessons I’d purchased.

It wasn’t until several years later that a friend told me about a different type of dance lessons in Seattle. I took my first series of swing-dance lessons in January of 2004—and I was hooked. It was like a drug. Not long after that I took one of their waltz classes, and suddenly I was hooked on two drugs. I like waltz so much I ended up founding the Valse Café Orchestra, which has become one of the premiere dance ensembles in the region.

History of Swing

By one definition or another, you could say there are seven or nine kinds of dances that go with swing music. There’s the original swing dance—Lindy Hop—which is the dance that started it all in Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. A collection of African American dancers had been developing this new dance, blending Charleston with other jazz steps, and one day a reporter asked one of the dancers what this new dance was called. According to legend, this was very soon after Charles Lindbergh has hopped the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, and the dancer, struggling to come up with a name for his dance, blurted out, “It’s the Lindy Hop.” The name stuck.
Jitterbug came along not long after that, in the early 1930s, and without getting too complex, one of the key differences is that Lindy Hop is based on an eight-count footwork pattern, while Jitterbug tends to be centered more around a six-count pattern. Not long after that some of the New York dance studios decided that Lindy Hop was too difficult for many of their white dance students, so they created a dance style they called East Coast Swing. You dance East Coast Swing the the same grand music, but the moves are simplified: not as much rotation, and not always to fast swing.

In fact, “East Coast,” evolved into three variations, depending on the tempos of the music: For slow music—Triple-Time Swing. For mid-tempo swing—Double-Time Swing. And for fast music—Single-Time Swing. The same moves tend to work with all three variations, and this makes East Coast Swing an ideal entry level dance drug. East Coast Swing is where I started dancing.

When Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, along with other cowboy bands, started playing the Great American Songbook (but with a bit of twang), the result was Western swing. Most of the same moves from regular swing apply, but flashy Western swing dancers mix in what they call “lassos and lariats,” which are flashy arm movements, neck wraps, and sweetheart positions that add a bit of “hick” feel to the dance.

In the late 1940s, in Los Angeles, dance teachers created yet another variation, this one called West Coast Swing. Danced in a slot, where dancers move back and forth trading places as if on a track, West Coast Swing is slinkier than other swing-dance styles, and typically is danced to slower music: blues, some funk, and other more contemporary music.

Another dance—not called swing, but danced to extremely fast swing music—is Balboa, where both partners dance pressed against each other and take the tiniest of rapid steps. Finally, from Eastern Europe, came “bug,” a version of swing based on a four-count footwork pattern.

What’s that—nine different dances you can do to swing tunes?

Wait—I’m forgetting Foxtrot, a traveling dance perfect for swing music. I always mix Foxtrot with my swing. I’ll dance a bit of Single-Time Swing and then shift into Foxtrot and dance my partner around the floor a ways, and then, when the music suggests a change, I’ll switch back into swing. Knowing a bit of Foxtrot gives your swing a great second dimension. I can’t imagine doing one without the other.

The Music behind the Swing

What I look for in a great swing band is the same thing I look for in any good dance band—a solid rhythm section. It might sound funny, because it’s the melody players we always hum along with—the saxophones, the trumpets and clarinets and trombones. But people aren’t dancing to the melody; they’re dancing to the bass player, the rhythm guitarist, the drummer and the piano players’ left hand—they’re what drive the dancers, and those musicians are kind of the unsung heroes of a good dance band. Without a solid rhythm section laying down a serious grove, the music loses its cohesion, and dancing become more challenging, even more tedious.

When I’m choosing bands for dance sets at Folklife, I listen first for a solid rhythm section. If a band has that going for it, it usually guarantees a good time for the dancers. After a solid rhythm section, I look for bands that give dancers spaces in the music to “play,” which I guess means places at the ends of their musical phrases where dancers can do freezes, check steps, pivots or other joyful embellishments. Not all bands know how to build such flexibility into their music.

For my money, one of the best—and most unusual—swing-dance sets at this year’s Festival will be on Saturday night from 6 p.m. till 8, when Breakers Yard and The Dunghill Rooster Strutters, both from Oregon, take the stage in Warren’s Roadhouse. Neither band is what we’d call a classic swing band, but both blend blues with swing and Foxtrott-y melodies with an old-timey feel, and I think the combined effect will be irresistible.

Technically, swing is defined by a set of triplets in the music. Northwest bass player Pete Leinonen passed along the best definition of “swing music” I’ve ever heard. It was a statement the great jazz clarinetist, Wm. O. Smith, reportedly told his students at the University of Washington’s School of Music. Simply put, Smith said, “Swing is when everybody gives,” meaning when the band plays the music selflessly, without one player or another trying to be the star.

“When everybody gives” seems like a perfect definition for not only swing music, but also for the Northwest Folklife Festival.

Dean is a longtime Community Coordinator, coordinating the partner dances at the Northwest Folklife Festival.

Discovery Zone: Festal Activities, special guests, and more!

As part of the 2017 Cultural Focus: Festal turns 20, the Discovery Zone will host a wide array of activities from around the world. Activities will feature some of the 23 Festal organizations including paper flower making with Dia de Muertos, wreath making and paper cutting with the Polish Festival, learning Arabic through art with the Arab Festival, Paper Marbling with Turkfest, cultural activities with Diwali Festival of Lights and more. Check back soon for a full schedule of activities.

 

 

Special Guests at the Discovery Zone

We are thrilled to welcome Orion and Lakshmi, two very special cows from the ISKCON Vedic Cultural Center to the Discovery Zone this year. Learn about the importance and significance of cows in the Vedic culture and experience a traditional Vedic village. You may even get to feed them a treat as you learn all about these fascinating creatures!

 

Discover Your Inner Artist

Whether you like to rock-out, draw, or experiment with new materials, the Discovery Zone has what you need to be the true artist that you are. Join Nature Consortium to create a Salmon Eco-Sculpture with recycled materials, create your own glass mosaic with Tim Lowell Artworks, drop in and draw with Gage Academy of Art, and learn to create your own Matisse masterpiece with Seattle Children’s Museum. Don’t forget to stop by and jam with School of Rock (Friday and Saturday only) and take home your very own toy boat creation with Center for Wooden Boats.

 

Don’t miss out on all the fun. Hope to see you there!

 

Allspice Band

A Night of Dancing for Folklife

We are thrilled to thank Northwest Folkdancers (NFDI) for their Night for Folklife this past Saturday. $2,607 was raised! Many thanks to all supporters and donors, and special thanks to Kathy Bruni for her organizing, Allspice Band who spiced things up with international dance favorites. Orkestar RTW played traditional dance and folk music from the countries of Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia. Special Thanks to Sno-King International Folk Dance Club for donating their dance night at the Cedar Valley Grange.

NFDI honored Kathy Bruni for her 30 years of service. The group serenaded her with this song (click on it for a full sized version).

NFDI is the ‘Where to Folk Dance’ organization for the Pacific Northwest. Join in! Here is the schedule: www.nwfolkdancers.org

NFDI Poem

Kathy Bruni


Become a Friend of Folklife

The Discovery Zone is Hitting the Road for Wintergrass!

Northwest Folklife is taking the excitement and fun of the Discovery Zone to the Wintergrass Festival on Saturday February 25. Wintergrass, a family friendly celebration of Bluegrass music, is a four day long festival held at the Hyatt in Bellevue beginning Friday, February 23. We’re thrilled to be partnering with them this year to present hands on activities for the whole family in the Cottonwood Room from 10am-noon on Saturday February 25th . Here’s a glimpse at what you can expect:

Make a HUGE Crankie

Help local artist and musician Dejah Leger to bring this traditional storytelling method to life! Crankies are a way to tell stories through music and art. A long scroll of paper is wound through two spools and inserted into a box with an open viewing screen. Then when you move the paper through the spools the moving images come to life as the story unfolds. Do your part to create a community crankie with Dejah and learn about the history of crankies in the process.

Fiber Arts and Weaving

Learn the tools and techniques of fiber art with Local artists Jill Green and Ann Suter. Using all natural materials, you can weave together your own bracelet to take home. See what kind of colors and patterns you can come up with!

 

Create your own Masterpiece

Doodle, draw, and sketch with the Northwest Folklife coloring station. Use the coloring pages provided, or let your imagination run wild and create something new!

For more information about Wintergrass Festival including ticket information and full lineup visit their website.

Hope to see you there!