The ethnic diversity of San Antonio’s population will be on display at the Rolling Oaks Mall on Sunday for the 64th annual San Antonio Folk Dance Festival.

The free event will showcase traditional folk dances from an array of countries and locales, beginning at 11:30 a.m. with a parade featuring the San Antonio Pipes and Drums corps and the Las Monas puppetry and performance troupe, followed by a multicultural mix of Mexican ballet folklorico, K-pop, and local cloggers, as well as music and dance from the Phillippines, Hawai’i, Africa, India, Tahiti, and beyond, ending at 5 p.m.

After a two-year break due to the coronavirus pandemic, Heritage Festivals of San Antonio is primed to bring back their annual celebration of folk dance traditions, adding the free public event at the mall for the first time this year.

Festival steering committee member Mona Lisa Montgomery stressed the importance of returning to an in-person event that brings San Antonio communities together.

“It’s going to be great because all of the communities coming together to partake in this are ready. They’re hungry for it. They want to share, they want to be around each other. We want to be in the same room with an audience,” Montgomery said. “We’re just very happy that it’s happening this year.”

The festival began Friday evening with a welcome party and performances at Our Lady of the Lake University and continued Saturday with a full slate of folk dance workshops, intended for teachers and die-hard fans of ethnic dance traditions who register for a $100 fee.

Everyone is welcome, said festival spokesperson Kathy Molga, though she said the primary audience is interested to learn from choreographers such as Bulgarian dance teacher Jaap Leegwater, Romanian dance teacher Mihai David, and Andy Taylor-Blenis, who will lead sessions on international dance and stretching.

The free public component at the mall guarantees a built-in audience, and makes learning about San Antonio’s many ethnic traditions easily accessible to all, Molga said.

“We’re trying to do get the community involved,” she said, “so there’s an awareness and a celebration [that] this is the cultural center of the South.”

Montgomery acknowledged that the Ukrainian folk dance contingent that would normally participate is solely focused on helping get humanitarian aid to their home country in the midst of the Russian invasion, but that a vendor booth will be included at the event with crafts for sale to help in the effort.

“They’re going to be reaching out to audiences that maybe didn’t know how to donate to them, to take those donations if anyone wants to give,” she said.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...