World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival

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San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival

2018 Festival Artistic Directors

Artistic Directors Māhealani Uchiyama, Patrick Makuakāne, and Latanya d. Tigner

Patrick Makuakāne, Founder and Director of the Hawaiian dance company Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu, is a creative force in the hula world and is well-known for his vibrant and innovative choreography. While grounded in the traditions and fundamentals of hula, his artistry brings this dynamic dance form to a new level and creates exciting new dimensions for the audience to enjoy. In recognition of his cultural and artistic impact, Mr. Makuakāne has won many honors and awards. These include numerous Isadora Duncan Dance Awards, with the most recent being a Sustained Achievement Award in 2016. He has also been honored with the Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award presented at the 2006 San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival and a Choreographer Commissioning Award from the Hewlett and Gerbode Foundations in 2012. In 2014, he was awarded the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation (NACF) Artist Fellowship. In passing down the specific customs of the hula lineage from which he descends, Mr. Makuakāne continues to play a fundamental role in preserving a vibrant cultural heritage, even as he looks forward to creating new traditions which reflect an ever-evolving multicultural world.

Latanya d. Tigner has performed professionally with Dimensions Dance Theater since 1986, and has studied and toured nationally and internationally, performing multidisciplinary works rooted African diasporic dance forms. Latanya holds a B.A. in Physical Education/Dance, a Master’s Degree in Arts Administration, directs Dimensions’ youth company, teaches dance at Contra Costa College and is a lecturer at UC Berkeley.  She has worked with numerous choreographers and dance companies, including Kendra Kimbrough Dance Ensemble, Art of Ballet, Robert Henry Johnson, El Wah Movement, Housin’ Authority, RaRa Tou Limen, Fua Dia Congo, Urban Bush Women (SLI), Kiandanda Dance Theater, Soul Nubian’s Global Street Dance, and many more. Latanya has created commissioned works for Dimensions Dance Theater, Black Choreographers Festival, Robert Moses’ Kin, and has presented work in the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, Cuba Caribe, and Mabina Dance Festival (Congo-Brazzaille). Tigner’s contribution to Dimensions’ The Town on Notice and her recent untitled work-in-progress address gentrification and the perceptions of homelessness. She has also set choreography for Cal Shakes' production of black odyssey, SF Shakespeare's production of A Winter’s Tale, Ubuntu Theater's production of Dance of the Holy Ghost, Delina Brooks' An Open Love Letter to Black Fathers, Contra Costa College's productions of In the Blood, For Colored Girls, and Godspell, and Li Smith's production of Purlie Victorious. Tigner’s current research and study include New Orleans Second Line parading traditions and traditional dances from the Kongo Kingdom. She is honored to work with World Arts West’s artistic team, and is excited for the 2018 season.

Māhealani Uchiyama is an award-winning dancer, musician, composer, choreographer, recording artist, author and teacher. An advocate for cultural understanding, she is the founder and Artistic Director of the Māhea Uchiyama Center for International Dance in Berkeley and is Kumu Hula of Hālau Ka Ua Tuahine. Ms. Uchiyama is also the creator and director of the annual Kāpili Polynesian Dance and Music Workshops. She holds a BA in Dance Ethnology and an MA in Pacific Island Studies from the University of Hawaiʻi. In addition to her hula and Tahitian dance training, she has performed professionally in the genres of Caribbean and North African dance. As Kumu Hula, she has led numerous performance tours to Tahiti, New Zealand and the islands of Hawai’i, and has taught workshops throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada. She has been an instructor of Hawaiian Language at Stanford University, contributed a chapter on the hula for the publication Dancing on the Earth and authored the Haumāna Hula Handbook for Students of Hawaiian Dance (published by North Atlantic Books / Penguin Random House.) Her CD A Walk by the Sea was awarded the 2007 Hawai’i Music Award for Best World Music Album. She is the 2009 recipient of the Aloha Spirit Award and has been presented the 2015 Ke Kanaka Poʻokela (The Person of Distinction) Award by the Berkeley Hawaiian Music Festival. She has also served on the panel of dance experts for the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival and the Tahiti Fete of San Jose and Hilo. Ms. Uchiyama is the former President of the Board of Directors of World Arts West, the producers of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival.

Artistic Directors Emeritus

Artistic Directors Emeritus Carlos Carvajal and CK Ladzekpo

Carlos Carvajal, a native San Franciscan, is a distinguished dancer/choreographer of more than two hundred works for dance, opera, and musical theater companies, as well as television productions. Beginning as a folk dancer, he went on to the San Francisco Ballet, then the Ballet of the Marquis de Cuevas, Opera of Bremen, Opera of Bordeaux, and Ballet Nacional of Venezuela as soloist, principal dancer, and choreographer. He created more than twenty works for the San Francisco Ballet as its ballet master and associate choreographer. He founded San Francisco Dance Spectrum, creating over fifty works during its ten-year tenure. He has also choreographed for the San Francisco Opera, Oakland Ballet, and Dance Theater of Harlem, among others. His full-length ballets include Cinderella's Crystal Slipper, Totentanz, Wintermas, Carmina Burana, and The Nutcracker. Honors/grants/awards include five from the National Endowment for the Arts, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Critics’ Circle and an Isadora Duncan Lifetime Achievement Award. He holds a BA in Theater and MA in Creative Arts from San Francisco State University. Carlos has been co-Artistic Director of the Festival for the past 12 seasons.

CK Ladzekpo, PhD, is the director of the African Music Program at the University of California, Berkeley. His is a distinguished career as a performer, choreographer, composer, teacher, and published scholar in the African performing arts. He is a member of a renowned family of African musicians and dancers who traditionally serve as lead drummers and composers among the Anlo-Ewe people of southeastern Ghana in West Africa. He has been a lead drummer and instructor with the Ghana National Dance Ensemble, the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies, and the Arts Council of Ghana. He joined the music faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, in 1973 and continues to be an influential catalyst of the African perspective in the performing arts. Awards include two choreographers’ fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Irvine Choreographer's Fellowship, and the Ruth Beckford Extraordinary People in Dance Award. He has been a member of the faculty council of the East Bay Center for Performing Arts since 1974. CK has been co-Artistic Director of the Festival for the past 12 seasons.

2018 Festival Panelists

Maria Cheng’s dance/theatre works, informed by western technique and Chinese classical and minority forms, have been presented to critical acclaim across five continents (Beijing Dance Association, Jacob’s Pillow, Nordrhein-Westfalen Tanzfestival, Green River of Australia, Guatemala National Culture Center, among others) and garnered awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller, Jerome, Bush, and McKnight Foundations. She was the White Demon Skeleton of the first US production of the classic Chinese opera The Monkey King. She was the resident choreographer for the Guthrie Theater under mentor and artistic director Liviu Ciulei. She developed the University of Minnesota’s Dance Program to national prominence, and received three consecutive invitations to the Kennedy Center. She has been an advisor for many arts councils and organizations including Affiliate Artists of New York and the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, where she served as a Co-Artistic Director for a season. In 2013, Maria founded the Asian-American theatre company, Theatre Esprit Asia – TEA, which has won 20 awards, including Best Actress and Production for her Coming to America at the 2016 Colorado Theatre Festival. In 2017 TEA became the first ethnic theatre from any state to be presented at the National Festival of the American Association of Community Theatre in its 48-year history. Maria was just named a 2017 Asian American Hero of Colorado.

Erik Noel Díaz was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, where he began his training in Mexican folk dance at an early age with a local group, El Ballet Folklórico de Zacatecas, and later went on to train with the prestigious folklorico dance groups Compañía Estatal de Danza Folclórica Zacatecas and Ballet Folclórico Nacional de México Aztlán. In 2001, he finished his arts degree at Instituto Superior de Danza Folklórica Mexicana in Zacatecas. He later moved to California, where he began to work as an instructor and choreographer for several companies, including Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company, Ballet Folklórico las Estrellas, Ballet Folklórico Anahuac, Ballet Folklórico Nube de Oro, Ballet Folklórico IMBA, and Los Laureles. He has choreographed several dance pieces that have appeared on the stage of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, most recently in 2016. He continues to spread the knowledge and art of folklórico as a dance instructor at UC Davis, and is currently the Artistic Director for Ballet Folklórico Nube de Oro. 

Abigail Keyes is Assistant Director of the Salimpour School Repertoire Ensemble and Suhaila Dance Company, and is a current company member of Bal Anat, the longest running Middle Eastern dance company in the world. She holds the highest level in both of the Salimpour School’s educational programs, and is only one of four dancers in the world to hold this distinction. She holds a B.A. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, and has studied the Arabic language at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. In 2016, she earned her M.A. in Dance Studies from Mills College in Oakland. She is also a respected dance writer, and is currently working on a historical biography of early modern dancers in the United States. (Weekend Two)

Anuradha Nag is the founder and Artistic Director of Tarangini School of Kathak Dance in San Jose, and works with well over two hundred students each year. Her students have performed at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, the International Kathak Festivals in San Francisco and Chicago, and in other prestigious events. She received her initial training from Nataraj Parimal Krishna and later from the legendary Padmavibushan Pandit Birju Maharaj and his foremost disciple, Pandit Vijai Shankar, and advanced her training in abhinaya from Padmabhusan Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan. She has taught kathak at all levels at the Padatik Dance Center in Kolkata, and has performed extensively in India and throughout the world. Before making the US her home, she was a recommended artist for the Sangeet Natak Akademi as well as the Indian Council of Cultural Relations. She was sponsored by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations as a member of the Padatik Dance Center to perform and hold workshops at the Kuopio Music and Dance Festival, and in other cities in Finland, Oslo, Norway, and other European countries. Anuradha has been a guest speaker in Cultural Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz for the past four years, and in the Department of Religious Studies at UC Davis.

Suhaila Salimpour is a highly-acclaimed belly dance performer, teacher, and choreographer. As a teenager, she began integrating the Middle Eastern dance passed on to her from her mother, Jamila Salimpour, with her own extensive training in ballet, jazz, tap, and American street styles. She also studied flamenco with Rosa Montoya, kathak with the late Chitresh Das, and tap with Tony Award-winner Hinton Battle. After working as a professional belly dance performer in the Middle East for over 10 years, she established her school and certification program in the United States in the late 1990s. She has choreographed hundreds of dances, from the classic to the avant-garde, and was nominated for an Isadora Duncan award for solo performance in 2005. Her methods and approach to teaching belly dance are considered an artistic breakthrough elevating belly dance practice and performance. Her technique and methods are now used by dancers in all stylizations, and the Salimpour School is one of the most respected and influential schools of belly dance in the world. Her certification program has also spread worldwide, with schools in the United States and Europe offering licensed classes. (Weekend One)

Deborah Vaughan is the Artistic Director, Principal Choreographer, and Co-Founder of Dimensions Dance Theater, a contemporary dance company that was founded in Oakland in 1972 to promote public awareness of the central role that African-Americans have played in defining American art, culture, and social change. Throughout her career, Ms. Vaughan has been committed to producing, creating, performing, and teaching dance that reflects the historical experience, struggles, and contemporary lives of African-Americans. Under her artistic leadership, Dimensions Dance Theater has become widely recognized for its presentation of traditional African dances as well as original contemporary choreography drawn from African, Jazz, and Modern dance idioms.  She received her M.A. in dance from Mills College, and has traveled and studied traditional dance in West Africa, Zimbabwe, the Congo, and throughout the Caribbean. It is important to her to keep her company with one foot in each sphere – Africa and America, traditional and contemporary, past and present. Her relationships in the arts community, developed through years of collaborative effort, bring many artists together in creative partnerships and link her choreography with the visual arts, theater, and music. She brings to the stage both conceptual material and a point of view that takes the experience of Africans and African-Americans to a new frontier by blending contemporary influences with the deep and vital traditions of the past.