Northwest Folklife Mythbusters #3

We sing, dance, play music, tell stories, teach our children, remember our ancestors, and share our meals all year long. Folk live life every day and Northwest Folklife creates opportunities for all of us all year long to celebrate, share, to be included and participate in the arts and culture of the Pacific Northwest.

Northwest Folklife has programming all year long – the Seattle Children’s Festival in October, the Cultural Arts Series and Folklife Presents. We work all year to support many of the 23 regional community organizations who compose the Seattle Center Festal Cultural Festivals. We work all year with over 100 Folklife Community Coordinators representing the unique needs of each community, their artists and culture bearers, and their audiences. And all year long, we celebrate with different communities with Nights for Folklife events.  And of course, the annual Memorial Day Festival.

Join us, join each other – every day.

Edible City Family Day with Festál this Saturday

Uncover the rich cultural diversity of food in the Pacific Northwest with Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) and Seattle Center Festál at Edible City Family Day with Festál, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., this Saturday February 18 at MOHAI. This all-ages event is presented in collaboration with cultural partners from across the Puget Sound region.

The packed day includes many elements for which the Festál series is known for, including a dance workshop series in collaboration with Northwest Folklife. Here is the full schedule:

  • Festál Turns 20 documentary, 10 a.m.–1:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m.–5 p.m.
  • Ragdoll making with Marita Dingus and other hands-on activities, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
  • Spirit of Africa presents African Dance with Gansango, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
  • Ethnic beverage making demonstrations and Pierogi making and eating with Seattle Polish Festival, 12:15 p.m.–1:15 p.m. and Festál cookbook drink highlights with chef Kristi Brown, 3:15 p.m.–4:15 p.m.
  • Panel discussion on, Food and Culture, the food connection 1:45 p.m.–2:45 p.m.
  • Festival of Lights presents Bollywood Dance with Katrina Ji 1:00 – 1:45 p.m.
  • Pagdiriwang presents Filipinas Performing Arts of Washington State, 3 p.m.–3:45 p.m.

Edible City Family Day with Festál augments the 20th anniversary of Seattle Center Festál, a series of 24 ethnic cultural festivals held on weekends throughout the year at Seattle Center. In 2017, Festál celebrates 20 years of global music, dance, art, crafts, history, food and insight made possible through a unique partnership among community organizations and Seattle Center culminating together for the Northwest Folklife Festival on Memorial Day Weekend. Festál seeks to connect people in ways that build understanding, dispel stereotypes and generate pride among the generations as they experience the distinct cultures that shape the character and course of our broader community. Edible City Family Day is free for MOHAI members and included in museum admission for others.

This is Folklife Spotlight: Kristi Brown

Also known as ‘Chef Goddess’, Chef Kristi Brown-Wokoma has been serving up soulful deliciousness since 1986. Her brand focuses on the art and experience of food through Culinary Activism, or the cultivation of fresh food and cooking as a means to bring people together and help heal communities through the love and medicine of food.

With 23 years of cooking experience under her belt, the Chef Goddess has worked her way up from working front and back of house to creating a Seattle town favorite, That Brown Girl Catering, which has been transformed into That Brown Girl Cooks! She is currently involved with creating the Seattle Center Festál cookbook and you can see her demonstrating her skills at Festál Family Day “Edible Seattle” at MOHAI on Feb 18th! Let’s find out more about Kristi!

What role do you see Festál playing in the greater community? 

Festál is an birds eye experience of what Seattle has long been. A distinct celebration of several cultures throughout the entire year, not on a designated federal holiday.  Festál has taken the initiative to give us an opportunity to learn, celebrate and actively take part in cultures that we may be a part of or are curious about.  That helps us see the connections more so than the differences.

Why do you think Festál has endured for so long?

I believe Festál has lasted so long because at the core spirit of Seattle, there is a deep desire to honor the people of the land and the dedication to continue to create even more community.

How does food and cooking nurture the passing down of cultural traditions? And of cultural, ethnic identity?

Next to sex, I believe food is the most powerful medium to bring people together.  So families, even when they are not talking to one another, will share a meal.  We speak out our joys and grievances over food.  We seek solace and comfort in the warm kitchen. And these meals tell the stories,  the tales of who we are, where we came from and it all amalgamates in the pot. And those stories are passed on from one generation to another. It truly is magical.

Please share a memory connected to creating the Festal cookbook that was meaningful to you?  

There are so many….

I think it’s more of a behind the scene thing.  We truly had no idea what we were getting into.  Meaning the intricacies of each cultures food, the techniques, the respect for authenticity….it guided everything we did.  But my crew???  They were phenomenal!!! While we were making the Irish Cake, one of the volunteers, Trenita Harris, who is an amazing pastry chef, saw that I was clueless when it came to part of the decorating of the cake.  It was pretty extensive, and we were working on a tight tight deadline.  She actually took the cake home, after working her regular graveyard shift and a full shift helping cook/bake for the cookbook and totally decorated the cake in marzipan…it was amazing!!!  The dedication that everyone bought to the table….was unparalleled!  I’m so grateful for the entire crew….WE DID IT!!!

What would you like to see for the future of Northwest Folklife?

I would like to see it listed a pre-requisite for every newcomer to Seattle, because if you don’t take part in this celebration, you will never truly understand the spirit in our land.  And if you don’t understand us, you will disrespect what we’ve built.

Please finish this sentence: ‘folklife is…

Folklife is like soup.  I’ll go even further and say…It’s like Pho. The rich broth brings together each individual ingredient. But not even one of the ingredients are lost, they all stand out, to make the most prolific soup possible!!!

This is Folklife Spotlight: Doug Plummer

Northwest Folklife is proud to be a community-powered organization, and at the heart of that power are people like YOU!

Photo by Rick Meyer

Today we introduce you to photographer and filmmaker, contra dancer, and Friend of Folklife, Doug Plummer.

Doug started contra dancing as well as photographing those dances in Seattle in the mid 1980s. Since 2012 he has self-published the Contradance Calendar, a photo showcase exhibiting the vibrant life of the tradition. He serves on the board of the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS), an education and arts service nonprofit for dancers, musicians, singers, callers, and organizers, particularly from English and North American traditions.

Doug created a series of short films for Northwest Folklife called Northwest Stories, which play a vital role in exploring communities that have long been a part of Northwest Folklife. He is beginning work on a documentary film project on one of the CDSS tour communities, Coos Bay, OR. He is also a new piano player and is in a contra dance band, Purple Heys. Let’s get to know Doug a little better.

What communities are you involved with?

I started contra dancing about 30 years ago. I started to photograph the dances then too, which began a long term project to document the contra dance and music scene nationwide. I serve on the board of the Country Dance and Song Society, which educates and supports local communities in offering contra and English dancing, as well as ritual dance (Morris), and song. I took up piano six years ago, from scratch, and quickly gained enough facility to play at jams and for contra dances. I’m now on the same trajectory with guitar.

How many years have you been involved with this community and Northwest Folklife?

Pretty much since I arrived in Seattle, in 1985.

What does it mean to you and to your community to be connected to Northwest Folklife?

I’m one of those people who, in years past, rarely left the contra dance floor the whole weekend, particularly when I was young. I’ve always been friends with musicians, and my favorite volunteer slot was for Sandy Bradley’s instrument auction, even though I didn’t play anything (yet). I’m connected with the original “roots” of Folklife, as it were, the old time hippie musicians who jammed and square danced and began this great thing, and who feel a tremendous sense of ownership of the Festival, and maybe a bit too much entitlement sometimes.

What has been the result of your connection with Northwest Folklife on you and your community?

Folklife is different now that I’m a musician. I’ve been on the stage a couple of times now, and there’s nothing that compares to the rush and the fulfillment of playing for a room full of several hundred contra dancers. But what I witnessed, from this side of the room, is how community comes together in preparation for that moment in the sun. A good example is the annual Lake City marathon contra dance that’s a benefit for Folklife. One year I was in two bands. We gathered week after week to rehearse. We staged contra dances in people’s living rooms, so that callers could practice handing off the dance changes. It is from those gatherings that friendships deepen, that connections develop, that community takes form. I saw the value of gathering to prepare for an event of connection and joy, and how Folklife seeds that in this amazing multicultural way for our region.

I’m in my sixties, and because I play music now, I’m making friends and I’m more social than I’ve ever been in my life. That typically doesn’t happen to guys my age in this culture. It is the greatest gift to be connected the way I am now.

You were a huge part in creating the Northwest Stories and helping to tell different community’s stories through their own words. Why do you think these stories were important to tell?

I learned about the secret mission of Folklife that more people need to know about. People think it’s about the Festival. That’s almost the least of it. Similar to how I observed community bonds being formed through the act of preparing for a contra dance, I saw how music and dance are the glue that give meaning and keep communities healthy. They may be an ethnic group, like the Hawaiian diaspora, or a community who choose a given dance form and may or may not identify as Scandinavian, or it may be an institutional keystone and a safe space for young people, like Vera and the All Ages music scene. Whatever parameters define a community, when we come together to make art together, when we participate, when we touch and know each other, this is important stuff. This is a social good. This is the society I want to live in. It is these healthy community bonds that Folklife nurtures, and the Festival only comes in to play as the place where these communities show the rest of us what they’re about.

Photo by Julia Chambers

What would you like to see for the future of Northwest Folklife?

In my work for CDSS, I’ve observed what makes for healthy, resilient dance communities. They’re the ones that change and grow, and that hand over leadership to a younger generation. In my “tribe”, and among my age cohort, I hear complaints of how Folklife’s changed, that it’s lost its way, that there’s no “Folk” music anymore and the stages are too loud (though that last bit I might agree with). In my view, that only demonstrates that the festival and the organization are healthy and growing. My measure of the vibrancy and vigor of any traditional music or dance scene is, are the old folks annoyed? Good. That means it’s going to be around for a few more generations. If it sounds like it did 30 years ago, that’s a bad sign. It’s going to die when you do.

Do you and your community nurture the role of ‘culture bearer’? How?

I help make sure there are abundant opportunities for people to gather, to hear music, to play music, to dance. I host a house concert series; its focus is virtuosic musicians who play in traditional genres. The house concert scene is becoming a significant piece of the support system for musicians, and it’s my favorite way to hear music. My big living room is also a frequent place for music sessions and even contra and square dances. There’s no end to the amount of joy this all brings into my life, and that my community feels as well.

Please finish this sentence: Folklife is… more necessary and important than ever.

Northwest Folklife Executive Director Robert Townsend To Retire in Fall 2016

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 6.04.13 PMNorthwest Folklife Board of Directors today announced that the nonprofit’s executive director Robert Townsend will retire after nearly a decade at his post. Townsend’s tenure has been a remarkable period of inclusion and evolution for the organization that has actively kept pace with the evolving cultural communities of the Pacific Northwest. 

“Robert Townsend’s leadership has made Northwest Folklife relevant and inclusive over the past nine years,” Board President, Rafael Maslan comments. Townsend believed in the importance of reflecting the region’s cultural evolution in the implementation of the organization’s mission. “Rob has laid the foundation for us to move boldly into the future.”

The organization will work to continue strengthening the community through arts and culture as it approaches Northwest Folklife’s 50th anniversary in 2021. The Board of Directors will work strategically to maintain current operations and to recruit a new Executive Director who is committed to the vision of the organization, which is to engage the greater community in sharing and celebrating our respective arts and traditional cultural practices.   

“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead Northwest Folklife,” Townsend comments. “The organization’s crown jewel is and always will be the annual Northwest Folklife Festival, the country’s largest community-powered arts and culture Festival. With the enduring support of our dedicated donors, and by working in close private-public partnership with Seattle Center, we’ve been able to maintain our deeply held ethos of all-access. Today, we have grown beyond the Northwest Folklife Festival and we are fulfilling our great capacity to be the go-to resource for multi-cultural programming through our complement of performance events and community partnerships. While the organization continues its upward trend, the time is right for me to move on and to transfer Northwest Folklife’s helm to a new generation of leadership. I look forward to working with our stellar staff and our dedicated Board of Directors during the succession period through the end of September, and then to volunteering at the third annual Seattle Children’s Festival on October 9.”

Townsend’s commitment to self-expression and participation for all has created Northwest Folklife’s culture of inclusion in which communities and artists are encouraged and invited into key planning processes. He was the key driver for Northwest Folklife to establish the Seattle Children’s Festival, now in its third year. The organization believes that inspiring a child’s cultural IQ is an important factor in strengthening communities and families. In all, Townsend’s leadership has created space for Northwest Folklife’s evolution to reflect and engage all people of all ages and backgrounds, enhancing quality of life and creating a big neighborhood of the Pacific Northwest. 

Northwest Folklife’s Board of Directors will work with Third Sector Company, a firm dedicated to the continuity of nonprofit leadership, to hire an Interim Executive Director in the short term to conduct the process of selecting Townsend’s successor. They will consider both local and non-local candidates for the position.

READ THE SEATTLE TIMES STORY HERE.

PERFORM AT THE 45TH ANNUAL FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL

Northwest Folklife invites musicians, dancers, community groups, artists, storytellers, and instructors to participate in the 45th annual Northwest Folklife Festival, which will take place May 27-30, 2016, at Seattle Center.

If you or your group is based in the Northwest region, including Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Western Montana, this is a great opportunity to share your music and traditions!

The annual Northwest Folklife Festival is the largest community-powered arts festival in the United States. It is presented each year in Seattle by Northwest Folklife, a year-round nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for all people to appreciate, share, and participate in the evolving traditions of the Pacific Northwest.

Folklife 2014 - SaturdayLast year Northwest Folklife programmed over 5,000 performers in 65 different genres of music, from Hawaiian to hip-hop. We presented dance performances representing cultures from Ireland to India. We believe everyone is a bearer of folk arts, and we encourage communities to share their cultural traditions, in the hope that interaction with new audiences will enrich the community as much as the audience.

Click these links to be redirected to our online applications:

MUSIC APPLICATION

DANCE APPLICATION

STORYTELLING/SPOKEN WORD APPLICATION

WORKSHOP APPLICATION

PANEL/PRESENTATION/FILM APPLICATION

If you need a paper version of our performer application, please email us at programming at nwfolklife.org.

Interested in how we select bands and performance groups? Click here to read our Programming FAQ.

Still have questions? Email our programming team now.

 

Meet The Miho & Diego Duo

Miho and DiegoThe Miho & Diego Duo has been courageously blending Latin and Japanese musical traditions since 2006. Their primary goal is to encourage cultural understanding through music, and to achieve this they have developed a program that introduces youth to Japanese and South American folk music through participation and interactive activities. Miho & Diego found great joy in exploring and mastering the musical traditions of their own countries and feel it is a wonderful tool to stay connected to their roots even after leaving their homes. It is from this joy that the concept of this program is derived; to encourage participants, whether born in or outside of the United States, to begin to discover and explore their own heritage.

Both accomplished musicians, they came together after years of admiring each other’s work and discovering that their sounds could be combined to make something genuinely new and unique. Dr. Miho Takekawa graduated from Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo, is currently the percussion instructor at Pacific Lutheran University and is currently a doctoral candidate in percussion performance at the University of Washington. Diego Coy was born in Santiago de Cali, Colombia, and was former musical director of “Fundacion Viva La Musica” and “Fundacion Funmusica,” and is currently exploring and mastering the musical traditions of his own native culture. Together, this talented duo introduces their distinctive warm native music and encourage the audience to participate by joining them in singing in both Japanese and Spanish as well as body percussion. Since Miho & Diego understand the important of cultural awareness and believe music is a key component, every free chance they get they like to go out and support their local musician friends at different shows and events!

As immigrant artists, Miho and Diego designed a program called, “Musical Trip,” which is centered on familiarizing children with different cultures and ways of life at very young ages in the hope of eliminating that harmful fear before it has a chance to take root and grow. In order to explore and expand the appreciation of alternative cultures through music, Miho and Diego continue to improve their own cultural awareness through extensive research, participation in the activities of various communities and schools, and expanding their connections, repertoire, and collection of instruments by learning from and associating with the natives of other countries.

At this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival, kids and families will participate in a workshop filled with multi-cultural experience, language education and laughter! This an award-winning musical education program for preschool through K-2 students is designed to have children understand different cultures and languages by introducing a new genre of music. Discover songs from Latin America, Japan and other countries accompanied by a wonderful array of instruments including Andean bamboo flutes, the marimba and percussions; however you want to make sure to stick around for the whole program, because the real magic happens when this duo teaches the audience how to use their own body as a musical instrument like body percussions!

The Miho & Diego Duo performs frequently for the King County Library System and the Seattle Public Library System, but you don’t have to wait because, you can catch them at this year’s 2nd annual Seattle Children’s Festival held on Sunday, October 11th in the Armory building Loft 4!

An Interview with RingSide Slam

The poetry slam bandwagon has been incredibly successful at creating one thing that other art projects have not – a close-knit, distinct, and vibrant community of writers and creators who support one another’s cleverness through spoken word. So, ask yourself, what can I do in 3 minutes and 10 seconds?

In 3 minutes and 10 seconds RingSide Slam can: inspire mentoring, stimulate bold creativity and engage communities worldwide in the revelry of language! RingSide Slam is a new head-to-head poetry slam in Seattle who is calling all poets, Hip-Hop heads, rhymers and dreamers to come out and join them on stage the last Friday of each month @ Red Lounge. These artistic events are a judged competition where participants recite original poetry in a style known as ‘spoken word,’ and have a time limit of 3 minutes and 10 seconds. Poems are expressively and rhythmically performed to an audience who is the deciding factor of eliminations and winners.

Northwest Folklife is honored to get the chance to interview two talented ladies from RingSide Slam – the Host, Nikki Etienne (a.k.a. “Momma Nikki”) and Slam Master, Nikkita Oliver (a.k.a. “K.O.”).

 

Folklife:

Both Seattle natives?

Nikki:

Born in Cali, but grew up here.

Nikkita:

Born and raised in Indianapolis, IN. Moved to Seattle in 2004 for college. Stayed ever since.

 

Folklife:

Why the name RingSide? Your Facebook and website use images of Muhammed Ali quite often. Is that related to the name choice or more the style of this particular poetry slam?

Nikki:

We had this concept of an idea with having a head-to-head kind of show.

Nikkita:

In addition to what Nikki said, I am also a boxer and think of boxing as an art. I find lots of connections between poetry slam, rap/emcee battles and what happens in the boxing ring. For me, it was birthed out of my boxing and art experience combined. I also think we both have strong connection emcee/Hip Hop/Poetry as a part of black culture – Ali and Malcolm X resonate with both of us, our lives, our art, our experiences.

 

Folklife:

Would you say that the atmosphere at RingSide is more relaxed than a traditional slam? Does it seem like a good place for first-timers and people who haven’t slammed before?

Nikki:

I think the vibe of our slam is more than just a slam, because we bring Hip Hop into the entire night. We have a local DJ that plays throughout the whole night. The vibe is art! It’s poetry and Hip Hop. Its soul. It’s home. It doesn’t matter if you’re a vet or a first timer…All Are Welcome!

 

Folklife:

When you first had the idea to create RingSide, did you feel like there weren’t many platforms for poets and emcees to come together and perform anymore? You mentioned it taking things back to the heart of it, so was this art form sort of falling by the wayside in Seattle?

Nikkita:

I don’t think the art form is dying, but the space where self-proclaimed emcees cross with self-proclaimed poets is more limited in Seattle than other art scenes I have been in. We just wanted to get the two paths crossing more. I personally have gained a lot from emcees as a poet and a lot from poets as an emcee. This has turned me into a free-styling cyphering emceeing poet. Selfishly, I wanted to grow my art more – SHOUT OUT to Cornerstone, a dope event that used to be at Faire on Cap Hill. This is where I got into spoken word and emceeing.

Nikki:

There are a lot of open mics, or there used to be more, but many fell off, but I was part of an open mic & Artist showcase for a few years that brought some of the same elements we are bringing to RingSide. It was called Cornerstone.

 

Folklife:

Do you see RingSide Slam as a way to bring elements of black culture to the community?

Nikkita:

I see it as a way to share with others who I am – I am black and mixed and queer and woman. I hope others feel it is a space they can do the same. I am also very invested in re-building the black art presence in this city. We are in the start of the central district, an historically black neighborhood. Poetry and Hip-Hop have always been a place to salute history and build something beautiful in the present and the future. I hope that is what we are doing while also honoring the heritage of the art forms as well as our own ancestors and ancestral roots.

 

Folklife:

Do you think performing/slamming is something all poets should try? What benefits or differences do you see in slam/spoken word versus print or online?

Nikki:

Slamming isn’t for everyone and as I’ve told Nikkita before, honestly, I really don’t like standard slamming. It takes away from the core of why people started writing in the first place. Slammers write pieces strictly for slams and that’s great if that’s what you want to do, but if it’s just about the art – about the expression or the need to release your creativity – then don’t limit me to 3 minutes. As an all-around artist, poet/MC/singer/dancer/photographer/painter, basically anything involving the arts, art may be subjective, but if it’s coming from the artists core of who they are. Then it should be expressed.

 

Folklife would like to thank Nikki and Nikkita from RingSide Slam for taking the time to chat. Come join their unique and artistic poetry slams the last Friday of each month @ Red Lounge. The Northwest Folklife Festival is ecstatic to include RingSide Slam as a part of this year’s Culture Focus! Their performance will be held on Saturday, May 23 at the Cornish Playhouse Stage from 2:00-3:00 p.m. Beat your way to RingSide Slam as they make abstract things concrete poetically.

What do you love most about the Northwest Folklife Festival?

Contra Dancing 2Northwest Folklife has been going strong for 44 years, and it is dance community powered.

We send MANY THANKS to all of the folk dance communities that recently came together in support of Northwest Folklife. It was exciting to see four ‘Nights for Folklife’ events on the calendar in March.

Northwest folk dance communities have long been involved in the Festival’s roots as a participatory multi-cultural experience. I recently met Judy, a veteran folk dancer, who explained, “my husband and I caught the folk dance bug at Folklife, and we travelled the world as a result.” Since the days of glamour and leg room in jet travel, the Folklife Festival has been the place folks can discover and practice all kinds of international folk dance hailing from the Balkans, English Countryside, France, Greece, Hungary, Scotland, and Turkey, and throughout the world. Sounds like the Northwest Folklife Festival did its part to stimulate Pacific Northwesterners’ curiosity about diverse cultures and world travel.

Thank You to the folk dancers who donated, to the event coordinators and to all who made in-kind donations. Here is but a partial list:

Allspice
Laurie Andres
Kathy “I dance; therefore, I am.” Bruni
Cascade Promenade
Jean Causey
Cedar Valley Grange
Folk Voice Band
Art Hare
Lake City Contra Marathon
Lake City Contra/Old Time Country Dance
Sherry Nevins
Northwest Folk Dancers, Inc.
Doug Plummer
Portland Roadhouse Dance
Kathy Sandstrom
Seattle English Country Dance
Skagit-Anacortes Folk Dancers
Skandia Folk Dance Society
Karen Shaw
Sno-King International Folk Dancers
Sue Songer
Swedish Club
Terry Wergeland
Cathie Whitesides

Interested in taking up folk dancing? Visit Seattle Dance  for extensive information on clubs and dances and visit Northwest Folklife’s Community Calendar, too.

Contra Dancing

Contra Dancing 1Contra Dance is a traditional American dance in which couples dance in two long facing lines or in groups of four. Affectionately referred to as an “entryway dance” by dancers, contra dance is by far the most accessible of all dances for beginners. Plus it is bodacious fun!

Derived from English and French country dancing, it’s led by a caller who supports dancers with a walkthrough, practice dance before the actual dance begins.

“Imagine being a kid on a merry-go-round with the lights spinning around and you’re just so happy! Multiply that by a million-gazillion times because your arms are wrapped around other people and they’re looking in your eyes with huge smiles on their faces, happy you’re there!” says Sherry Nevins, dance caller of contra dancing. “At a dance there’s a great cycle of energy; the musicians’ music, the dancers responding to it and the caller right in the middle of it. The energy just builds and builds! Every part of it is delightful.

The music played at contra dances includes, but is not limited to Irish, Scottish, Old-Time and French-Canadian folk tunes. Often anchored by fiddle, contra dance bands can include piano, flute, guitar, mandolin, accordion, and in some cases even brass instruments. Northwest Folklife attracts contra dance bands and callers from all over the country. So the quality of the bands is always high – and the callers easy to follow.

This contra dance floor is a friendly place too. Seattle dancers are great dancers but also very open to helping beginners. If you miss a move or mess up, don’t worry! An experienced dancer will be close by to help you out. Or, just pause until the next move and jump back in.

Contra Dancing 2While dancing, you’ll hear the caller use terms like balance and swing or do-si-do. Relax. Other dancers will always help you. And the moves which go with contra dance terms are not hard. Plus once you learn these basic moves, they repeat throughout the dances.

Standard movements include balance: stepping forward and back in four counts to say hello to your partner; do-si-do: walking around your partner: swing: standing in waltz position but spinning faster in a circle with your partner; promenade: walking with your partner around a circle; and courtesy turn: gentlemen with one hand held behind a partner and one in front, walking in a small circle. One person in the couple is the lead and the other the follow. The follow is always held on the right-hand side of the lead. It’s as simple as that.

So come to the Roadhouse and grab your partner for a balance-and-swing. Once you’re tried this style of dancing, you’ll definitely be hooked!

 Photos by Christopher Nelson.

Who Are The Dog Pound B-Boys?

In case you haven’t heard, we are super excited to be bringing our specially curated cultural performance series back to Bellevue’s Crossroad’s Mall this year. The third Saturday of every month, January-June 2015, your family can experience Northwest Folklife artists live on the Eastside from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. And, the best part… it’s FREE!

We kick things off January 17 with the Dog Pound B-Boys (a.k.a. Vicious Puppies). While many Northwesters may know the Massive Monkees, we think it’s about time just as many folks know all about these guys, so we sat down with them for a little Q&A – take a read:

How did the Dog Pound B-Boy crew form and when?

Six of the seven members were students of Jerome Aparis, a highly recognized member of the Massive Monkees. Our connection was established through his classes and eventually we began performing at talent shows and various other gigs. The group grew up together sharing the same passion and interest. Finally on May 31, 2008 we formed Vicious Puppies Crew. After graduating high school, Vicious Puppies was changed to Dog Pound.

What is the group’s cultural background?

B-boying originated in the Bronx in the mid-late 70’s. Originally it was created to earn respect from ‘the streets’ and to give youth something positive to focus on instead of joining gangs and getting in trouble.

What is one thing you want your community to know about your work?

All of our energy comes from the audience. The more you all give, the better we perform. So get loud and have fun with us!

What can audiences expect to see at your Crossroads performance this month?

The audience will have the opportunity to witness the accumulation of our years of practice and teamwork, all while having fun! We’ll spare the details as a surprise and to keep the audience on their toes.

Who choreographs your work? How do you create a piece?

No one individual choreographs our work. Whenever one member has an idea, we experiment with it and add to it to make it fresh. I believe this is the reason we always have different styles of movements; our work is inspired by seven different individuals as opposed to just one choreographer.

How did you first come to be involved with Northwest Folklife?

Dog Pound has done recent work with a band called Global Heat. The point man for their group, Rob Pastorok, informed us of this opportunity.

Have you heard about Northwest Folklife’s Cultural Focus (“Beats, Rhymes, Rhythms: Traditional Roots – Today’s Branches“)? What do you think?

Today’s society revolves around social and cultural awareness. The 2015 Cultural Focus we believe is a great idea to continue this type of exposure. The fact that cultural awareness is spread through art makes it much more fun.

Announcing the 2015 Cultural Focus

Every year, Northwest Folklife engages a Northwest community to showcase during the year leading up to the Festival. This ‘Cultural Focus’ allows Folklife to connect more in depth with the people that we serve and empower their artistic expressions and cultural traditions.

We are honored to announce the 2015 Cultural Focus:

Beats, Rhymes and Rhythms:

Traditional Roots in Today’s Branches

This program will explore the cross-cultural roots of arts expressions that have evolved into contemporary cultures today, including an exploration of the traditional roots of Hip Hop.

Folklife 2014 - MondayAfrican and Latin traditional dance, the blues, gospel songs and spirituals, scat-singing of the early jazz days, African-American street culture, word battles, socially conscious songwriting – these are just some of the seeds we’ll be exploring for this year’s Cultural Focus. Hip Hop, first included in Folklife Festival programming in 1994, serves as an umbrella for this program, and ties together many communities from around the Pacific Northwest – some of those that have been representing their cultures and traditions for years at the Festival. The goal is to present a multi-generational, multi-cultural, inter-disciplinary program to educate the Pacific Northwest about the cross-cultural roots of local communities while highlighting Hip Hop’s traditional folk roots.

This program is particularly timely in the state of development of hip hop culture and education, as Governor Jay Inslee proclaimed Hip Hop History Month in the State of Washington this November to honor the culture, lineage and impact of Hip Hop in the Northwest.

“Hip hop began as a youth-led movement and an alternative from violence, drugs, alcohol, racism, and other ills that plagued the

Folklife 2014 - Monday

inner-city/urban communities of color; one that connects people from varied

social and economic backgrounds today.”

During the 2015 Folklife Festival (May 22-25), audiences can experience four days of music and dance performances, panels and presentations, films, visual arts and participatory workshops that explore the world and roots of Hip Hop. We will have the opportunity of celebrating the joyful expression within Hip Hop while challenging some of the pervasive stereotypes that malign the Hip Hop community today. The Program will tie the five key elements of Hip Hop–Music (DJing), Dance (B-boy and B-girl), Storytelling (MCing), Public Art (Graffiti), and Social Awareness–back to the traditional cultural origins of Hip Hop.

We will build up to the 2015 Festival through monthly events that will be held in Seattle and Northwest regions with partnering communities. Stay tuned for our full list of community events leading up to the 44th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival.