Each spring San Antonio Folk Dance Festival hosts a three-day event that includes workshops, Fun Arts Day for youth and a professional style concert performance of about 14 dances from around the world. Different from most festivals where the audience is typically passive observers, this intergenerational event offers active participation for the novice to the seasoned folk dance veteran. We are so proud to say that it is one of the longest running and the only folk dance festival of its kind in Texas.
The San Antonio Folk Dance Festival (SAFDF) was founded by Nelda Guerrero Drury in 1958 to bring world-class teachers of ethnic dances to Central Texas, produce a diverse concert of folk dance presentations, and preserve and cultivate a community of international folk dancers. In 2012, after Mrs. Drury “retired” on her 94th birthday, our enthusiastic committee was formed to continue her legacy of work and service. As she turns 98 this year, we still rely on her advice to guide us. She is a reminder to us that folk dance keeps us “young at heart.”
So why folk dance? For all of us on the SAFDF committee, dancing is a lifelong passion that provides exercise, social interaction, and a conduit to happiness. Some of the most memorable days of our lives involve folk dance moments, with bonds that have lasted a lifetime, fueling our passion to grow the circle bigger. In authentic costumes, often with live music, the concert performance groups offer a unique perspective into countries so many of us may never have the chance to visit.
More than half of the people attending the SAFDF are from outside San Antonio, coming from as far as Canada, Massachusetts, California, and other Texas cities. They come to immerse themselves in traditional folk dances, as well as recreational and social activities. Gaining new friendships seems a spin off benefit for many as folk dance naturally draws individuals into group movement where one must hold hands with others or dance with a partner or change partners within the same dance.
Folk dance is naturally inclusive. Folk dancing differs from many creative hobbies in that it is one in which an entire family can participate, and one which promotes congeniality with many people outside of the immediate family. We’ve partnered with SA2020, for the Health & Fitness and Arts & Culture initiatives, and have been recognized by The United Way of San Antonio as Volunteer Organization of the Year for Arts and Humanities.
We just might be the catalyst for your new way of promoting self-health or enhancing your established recreational or artistic endeavors. For those bored with gym classes or seeking something beyond familiar dance genres like jazz or ballroom, folk dance is a relevant affordable alternative. These dances are accessible to just about everyone, and each of the participatory dances at SAFDF includes short lessons to get you moving right away. We know you will.
Top image: Polynesian dance group performs during the 2015 San Antonio Folk Dance Festival. Photo by Matt Bynum, courtesy of SAFDF.