“Music and dance are the glue that give meaning and keep communities healthy. Communities 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.” ~Doug Plummer, Northwest Stories videographer.

Meet eight communities that strengthened their bonds through their work with Northwest Folklife.

Watch Northwest Stories:

The India Association of Western Washington celebrates Diwali – the Festival of Lights – in a different way in the United States than it would in India. The main focus of IAWW’s Diwali is a day-long celebration of dance performed by Indian youth.

Skandia Folkdance Society performed at the first Northwest Folklife Festival in 1972. Throughout the years, Skandia has been an integral part of the Festival, sponsoring the Saturday night Scandinavian Dance. This documentary tells the story of the Skandia Ball, the Society’s annual fall celebration.

“Each hula tells a story.” Hawaiians in western Washington dance both the old- and new-style hula. Moodette Ka’apana and Gloria Fuji Nahalea explain the meaning of hula and the Aloha Spirit.

Total Experience Gospel Choir in 1973. A community choir that grew out of an African American gospel class at local high schools, it has expanded to a multicultural, all-ages group that over the years has performed on five continents and twenty-eight countries.

Shape-note singing has been part of Seattle culture since the early 1970s in the form of the Sacred Cow Harmogenizers, a group that sang from The Sacred Harp songbook. In the early 1990s, thanks to introductions to the large and vibrant shape-note singing communities in the Southern United States, the community of Sacred Harp expanded so that it now extends throughout the Pacific Northwest.

For the past few years, the Seattle Subversive Square Dance Society has been working steadily and enthusiastically behind the scenes to re-introduce the joyful activity of square dancing to Seattle.

What happens when thousands of music lovers in a musician’s Mecca can’t go to shows? Seattle and Olympia recount the birth of their famous all-ages scenes. Featuring The Vera Project and The Olympia All Ages Project, with music from Meowtain, Tender Forever, The Hive Dwellers, Knowmads, Lemolo and Twin Sister.

Fifteen years ago, for the 1997 Northwest Folklife Festival, a group of singers came together to join Pete Seeger for a special performance. And fifteen years later, that group—the Seattle Labor Chorus—is still going strong.


Northwest Stories has been made possible, in part, by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Local director Doug Plummer produced the videos along with Deborah Fant, Deputy Director of Northwest Folklife, and Kelli Faryar, Programs Manager.

Watch the entire Northwest Stories series and other videos by Northwest Folklife at our YouTube Channel