From Mexico to Peru, Alaska to India, the Congo to Cambodia, the 40th annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival is back, with two weekends of performances at the War Memorial Opera House. The 22 companies reflect the diverse dance traditions that can be found in the Bay Area. Co-Artistic Director Mahealani Uchiyama says the disparate groups are tied together in ‘one heartbeat.’

There’s more information about the performances at the Ethnic Dance Festival website.

“This is a gathering of highly trained artists, dancers and musicians, from various world traditions who are being supported by the very best in production at one of the most elegant venues in the country,” Uchiyama says, adding that the area can boast of some of the highest level of culturally specific dance and music to be found. The performances (Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon for the next two weekends) are preceded by a sort of pre-show to get the audiences in the mood, with performers playing music and dancing on the steps of the Opera House, and in the lobby. “After the performances are done, our artists go back through the house into the lobby with their drums, and their music-making, and their beauty, and they’re dancing with each other and with the audience, and it’s one of the most amazing things you can ever experience.” In between, the groups perform, seamlessly transitioning from one group to the next, without an emcee. Uchiyama says sometimes there’s a bit of an overlap. “One act is finished, the next act is beginning, but there’s something that they might have in common, or a conversation in music, or in dance, or in rhythm, that ties everyone together in one heartbeat.”