Ballet Folklorico South Texas College. Courtesy Photo.
Ballet Folklorico South Texas College. Courtesy Photo.

The 57th annual San Antonio Folk Dance Festival takes place at Our Lady of the Lake University in the heart of the Westside this weekend. The event includes three days of folk dance workshops, dance parties, and a Saturday concert at OLLU’S Thiry Auditorium. All workshops and other events are held at the university’s International Folk Culture Center.

Saturday night’s concert is an opportunity to see the diversity and range of talent by local performance groups all under one roof. The Folk Dance Festival is a family friendly, multi-generational event that encourages audiences to stay physically active, proving that it is never too late to take up dancing.

In conjunction with this year’s planned activities, the organizers of the Folk Dance Festival will celebrate another landmark event.

“The founder of the festival, Nelda Guerrero Drury, is a professor emeritus of San Antonio College where she taught international dance for many years,” said Lissa Bengtson, director at OLLU’s International Folk Culture Center. “She will be celebrating her 97th birthday in April, so we will have a birthday cake for her during the Sunday luncheon given for all workshop participants.”

Drury, who founded the Folk Dance Festival at San Antonio College, retired from teaching in 1986. In 2010, she was inducted into the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame for her contributions to dance and education.

This year’s festival will feature classes by world-renowned dance instructors Lee Otterholt (international dances), Jacqueline Schwab (English country dances), and Mihai David (Romanian dances). A complete schedule is available at the Folk Dance Festival website. Friday and Saturday’s workshops culminate in folk dance parties where anyone, regardless of skill level, may participate.

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Saturday night’s concert at 7:30 p.m. will showcase the talents of local and regional performing folk dance groups, with several special guests. Dances from Scotland, Armenia, Mexico, Cuba, Japan, Spain, and Turkey are represented in this year’s concert. Pianist and dance instructor Jacqueline Schwab, accompanied by San Antonio’s own Bluebonnet Scottish Country Dancers, will open the show.

2015 Folk Dance Festival Concert Poster. Courtesy Photo.
2015 Folk Dance Festival Concert Poster. Courtesy Photo.

Another highlight of this year’s concert will be a performance by the flamenco group, Raices de Arte Español, along with dancers, Sonya Jimenez and Jackie Rodriguez-Navar, who will be dancing in tribute to Drury.

“(Drury is) the person that gave me my first opportunity to present my first group here, La Compania de Arte Español, at San Antonio College,” said Carmen “La Chiqui” Linares, director of Raices de Arte Español and a respected figure in the flamenco community. “She’s a legend. And I’m very proud to have met her.”

Jimenez and Rodriguez-Navar, both former students of Linares, and two of the most recognized dancers in the city, continue the rich legacy of folk dance in San Antonio first started by Drury more than half a century ago.

McAllen’s Ballet Folklorico South Texas College, accompanied by live music from Conjunto Jaguar, are expected to close out the show for the second year in a row. Hula Halau Ohana Elikapeka, Alamotion, Fandango, Hermann Sons Polkateers, San Antonio Metropolitan Ballet, Komenka Ethnic Dance Ensemble (New Orleans), and Gazelle Turkish Folk Dance Ensemble (Houston) round out the list of performers for the 2015 concert.

The cost for the entire weekend of dance instruction, including the concert, is $80. Tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite. Individual dance workshops are $25.

Concert tickets purchased before Friday 6 p.m. are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and military, and $7 for children at the door. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 14, 2015, at Thiry Auditorium.

Click on this video link to catch a glimpse of the Folk Dance Festival.

It is sponsored in part by Texas International Folk Dancers, the Department of Culture and Creative Development, and Texas Commission of the Arts.

*Featured/top image: Ballet Folklorico South Texas College. Courtesy Photo.

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Marco Aquino writes about local arts and culture.