Evangeline Christel saw Japanese drummers years ago at an Asian festival in Boulder and was intrigued.
She started taking lessons, then started her own Boulder based Taiko drumming group with her mom and her husband. Sunday, Christel and other members of TNT Taiko performed their fusion style drumming at the Boulder International Festival on the Pearl Street Mall with the hope of inspiring others to give it a try.
“It’s an amazing way to bring up and create energy,” Christel said. “Once you get into the rhythm, you just get carried along into it.”
The annual dance festival, organized by the Boulder Dance Coalition, started Friday night with a public salsa dance and continued with 32 performances Saturday and Sunday, plus a public folk dance on Saturday night with music from the Barbelfish Balkan Band.
Dance performances sampled the globe, from Israeli and Eastern European to Irish and Chinese. Along with a sampling of folk dances from around the world, there was tango, flamenco, samba and and even zumba. The festival also featured musical acts and vendors selling art, jewelry and clothes.
The festival encourages audience participation, and many of the performers brought people onstage for mini lessons.
David Jiang, a 13-year-old who will be an eighth-grader at Summit Middle School, joined other boys from the Bohua Chinese School in showing audience members how to spin a Chinese yo-yo, or Diabolo, between two aluminum sticks.
“If you accomplish a trick, it’s really rewarding,” he said.
A community of dancers in the 1970s with a fascination for folk dancing started the original version of the festival.
“They wanted to celebrate the dance and music of international cultures,” said Jim Schwartzkopff, the Boulder International Festival coordinator.
The Boulder Dance Coalition, a nonprofit organization that focuses on participatory art forms, has run the festival since 1981. The coalition’s member groups offer classes, public dances and performances, many of which are held at Boulder’s Avalon ballroom.
Schwartzkopff said the festival showcases the area’s vibrant dance community, especially social dance.
“We try to draw people in,” he said. “We want them to be surprised, to say ‘who knew there were teenage violinists playing Scandinavian music?’ You can connect to your own heritage or to a new one. The festival is a counterpoint to all the mean things people want to say about immigrants and our neighbors in other countries.”
Sunday’s performers included the Scottish Country Dancers, a dance group that’s been around for almost 30 years and meets in Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.
Margaret and Steve McCormick, who live in Louisville, took lessons with friends who had planned a wedding in Scotland and wanted to learn traditional dances. They liked it so much, they said, they continued with the group.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” Margaret McCormick said. “I like that it’s social dancing. We’re doing the patterns together.”
Like many of the groups, there’s no requirement to have previous dance experience.
Steve McCormick said it took them three to four months to learn various figures that are used for the dance and become “decent” Scottish dancers. Mistakes happen to new and veteran dancers alike, he added, and aren’t a big deal.
“It’s fun, even when you’re learning,” he said.
Chris Sydoriak’s love of folk dancing started with her parents teaching her Ukrainian dances, then continued as she joined a dance group at 16 in her hometown in New Mexico and later, after moving to Longmont, a local international folk dance group.
As she learned the dances of different cultures, she found her favorite, Israeli dance, and joined the Boulder Israeli Dancers.
“I just love the music, and I love the moves,” she said. “You’re doing spins and leaps.”