World beat hits Main Street

By Garret K. Woodward • Staff Writer

If Norman Rockwell ever ventured out of New England, as the crow flies, he may have found himself in downtown Waynesville.

And if Rockwell had packed a blank canvas and a rusty toolbox of untouched acrylics into his vintage station wagon, he may have painted the scene that unraveled in front of the courthouse last Friday evening.

The ties that bind – one high five at a time

By Garret K. Woodward • Staff writer

I had just finished my third steamed carrot when the yelling began.

It was a group of men, with faces of power and a seemingly euphoric rage. With backs to each other, their bodies pointed in every direction, chests being pounded to the point red hand marks emerged. Tongues stick out furiously in a unique and precise tribal fashion that would make even Gene Simmons question if he was doing it correctly when he was onstage.

Folkmoot statue could get new home on Main Street

A whimsical sculpture that honors the Folkmoot international dance festival will find new prominence at a different spot on Main Street in Waynesville.

The Waynesville Art Commission approved the relocation of the “Celebrating Folkmoot” for public safety reasons and concerns about its visibility at its meeting last week.

At its current location in front of Waynesville’s new town hall, the sculpture is subject to a wind tunnel effect. The wind serves nicely to rotate several flags mounted on the piece, but also causes a safety hazard.

Flags on the statue have flown off in the past and could potential harm someone or something.

“It’s only happened twice, but that’s twice too many,” said Jan Griffin, chair of the art commission board.

The commission wants to move the statue across the street to the old town hall building, specifically on the left side if facing the building.

“People really don’t see if up against this building,” said Griffin, later adding that people might enjoy the statue more if it is more visible.

The colossal, metal sculpture, created by artist Wayne Trapp, features a flowing banner-like dancer with seven flags that turn in the wind. The piece, which was paid for through private donations, was dedicated in 2009 as part of a Waynesville public art project.

The commission also discussed building a platform for the statue to sit on, making it more noticeable, and surrounding it by a 3- or 4-foot fence.

“It’s so much more delicate than music men,” Griffin said. That public art installation, made of hefty metal, often becomes a jungle-gym for children and tourists seeking photo-ops.

The fence should deter people from climbing on the “Celebrating Folkmoot” statue like they do the music men but should not detract from the piece itself, commission members agreed.

“We do not want a fence that is not compatible with the art work,” said Bill King, a member of the commission.

Griffin said she did not know how much the move will cost but the money will come from the commission’s funds.

In order to move the piece, both the artist and the town must approve it.

“(Trapp) is more than in favor of moving the piece,” Griffin said.

The commission will address the Waynesville Board of Aldermen in January for approval.

Creativity as a unifying force: Folkmoot groups find ways to communicate, have fun

For two weeks every summer, the Folkmoot Center is a popping nightspot. Well after midnight, little crowds cluster around the exit doors, tiny clouds of smoke rising around them. Inside, in what was once the Hazelwood Elementary School Cafeteria, a bunch of Canadians — who do Chinese dances — are holding strings while other dancers jump through them to the beat of Gary Glitter’s Rock N Roll Part 2.

The manager for the Italian team, a short and dapper older gentleman, is giving a tween Guadelupean a run for his money in the leaping-over-strings department. The Finnish, though, are killing everybody.

“Oh, Finland’s got some ups,” says a Canadian in a Dr. Seuss hat, commentating the game over the loudspeaker, as a tall, blond guy leaps over the final string.

Never mind that 50 percent of the people in the room may or may not know what ‘ups’ means. Or who Gary Glitter is. Or what the person across the table from them is really saying.

At Folkmoot, the universality of creativity transcends the many and varied language barriers between the performers and musicians who gather for the annual folk festival.

This year, there are six languages and seven countries, which sometimes makes communication a challenge.

A few groups share some common languages. The Americans and Canadians have little problem communicating, the group from Guadeloupe, a Francophone island, share that language with Burundi, where French and Swahili compete for dominance.

And technology helps.

In the hallway after performances have ended, Idris, a young Guadeloupean, is trying to get his point across to Doug Garrett, a former guide who is now a volunteer and guide coordinator.

“J’ai besoin d’un badge?”

“No,” says Garrett, who speaks no French. “Spanish, but not French.”

But there is a computer, and with the helpful assistance of Google Translate, the problem is solved.

Oh right. You’ve lost your badge? asks Garrett.

Oui, replies Idris.

OK, come back in an hour and we’ll have one ready.

Such exchanges force the conversants to be linguistically innovative.

In one overheard exchange, the simple question ‘what’s the weather like in your country?’ was broached. It becomes less simple, however, when one party doesn’t know the word ‘weather.’ So what’s another way to express the concept of weather?

But backstage at the performances and in downtime around the Folkmoot Friendship Center, the common languages — dance and music — engender camaraderie.

Under the awnings behind The Stompin’ Ground in Maggie Valley, the Finns and Canadians exchanged steps while awaiting their turn with the crowd inside.

Later that night, the Croatians shared their moves with everyone as the crowd pivoted haltingly around the room, the Croatian women practicing their signature keening shout, something akin to an extremely high-pitched war cry.

Flora Gammon said it has always been this way. Leader of the International Band and long-time Folkmoot volunteer, she says dance bringing everyone together has been a long-running theme with the festival.

“Once we had a group from Spain, the Basques, that were here, and they were the most standoffish group I’ve ever seen in my life,” says Gammon. “So we were all saying ‘Let's teach each other dances.’ And it came my turn to teach an American dance, and I said, well, I'll teach you the hokey pokey. I don’t know what it is about the hokey pokey that in the Basque language seems to make them all happy, but they were smiling and communicating with everybody and having a great time.”

This year, there are no standoffish groups. From Italy to Canada and every group in between, they may not speak the same language, but they seem to understand each other just fine.

Rare appearance by African group at this year’s Folkmoot

Seventy kilos is a lot of weight to hold on your head. It’s about 150 pounds. That’s like carrying a welterweight boxer balanced atop your skull. Or a gargantuan African drum.

It’s no mean feat, but Patrick Muvunyi, Bienvenu Katungeko and their fellow performers have been doing it with smiles on for the last week on stages across Western North Carolina.

They’re from Burundi, a speck of a country in east central Africa, and they’re here for Folkmoot, the international music and dance festival hosted annually in Haywood County.

Muvunyi and Katungeko are dancers and singers, but mainly they’re drummers. They brought with them from Burundi half a dozen massive, handmade drums that vibrate floors and can be heard three blocks away.

With them are 18 other performers — dancers and musicians — and though their performance is an impressive accomplishment, the hoops they jumped through to get here are equally notable.

For the Burundians, the process started more than a year ago, when an invitation from Folkmoot arrived.

They live in the capital city, Bujumbura, of a country of roughly 10 million. There are 60 members in the group, ranging in age from young teenagers into the 30s and beyond.

And when they decided they wanted to take Folkmoot up on its offer, then the long and arduous visa and fundraising process began.

Groups that perform at the festival are given room, board and transportation once they arrive in America. But getting here is entirely up to them. And for many groups, those costs can run into the tens of thousands, according to Folkmoot Executive Director Karen Babcock.

The costs aren’t the only hurdles facing potential performers. They’ve also got to run the visa gauntlet with the Department of Homeland Security. That can take months, and in the end, not every group is allowed to make the trip.

For the Burundians, the tickets were more than $2,000 each. And how did they raise the funds?

“It was very expensive,” said Katungeko. “Every week, we go to play at ceremonies, like weddings and official ceremonies.”

And for each ceremony, each wedding where they heralded the happy couple’s arrival, a fee went into the group’s bank account. And if you play for enough weddings, enough ceremonies, eventually you can pay your way to America.

Of the 60 members of their group, only 20 are represented this year at Folkmoot. They had planned to bring 29, but two couldn’t come because of sickness.

The other seven didn’t make it through the visa process, which, said Muvunyi, took quite a long time indeed, including interviews at the U.S. Embassy and proof that the festival really wanted them to come.

They traveled further than any group to get to Folkmoot this year — more than 7,500 miles — and they are one of the few African groups to make an appearance over the last several years.

Like many who come to the festival, their music and dance are professional quality, but they do it because they love it.

Muvunyi and Katungeko are both university students, studying business management and public health, respectively.

Katungeko started with the group 12 years ago, when he was 16. He was busy with school and soccer, but some friends in his neighborhood were in this traditional drum group, so he thought he’d give it a try.

Twelve years later, he’s still drumming with the troupe.

In addition to the financial burden and long visa process, performing at Folkmoot takes a great deal of time and preparation.

These drummers and dancers practice three times a week to stay on their game, which is a pretty taxing proposition given the extreme strength it takes to play such large drums for 20 and 30 minutes at a stretch.

“We have to eat a lot,” jokes Muvunyi, laying into a late-night meal after a long day of practice and performances.

In Burundi, the drum has a revered place in history and society. And for a country that was tormented by colonization and unrest throughout the 20th century, keeping the drumming tradition alive is an important part of preserving and propagating their ancient culture and heritage.

Though this is their first time in the States, the group has before ventured out to share their unique musical style on other continents.

In 2006, some members went to Canada to perform, and they’ve traveled through Western Europe with drums in tow.

So although getting here isn’t a cheap or simple proposition, Katungeko said they’d happily find a way to return if Folkmoot ever wanted them back.

They love playing, and so far, they said, whatever they paid to play here has been a worthwhile investment they’d happily repeat.

Creativity: An international affair

In one gallery in Waynesville this month, the nations of the world will gather. While the international dance and song of Folkmoot will take their traditional place in Haywood County’s summer calendar, this year international art will also make an appearance at “The World Around Us,” a show put on by the Haywood Arts Council in Gallery 86 on Main Street in Waynesville.

The show runs through July 30 and features works from seven artists from across Europe and Central America. Their works range in scope, including painters, weavers, photographers and mixed-media artists.


Sylvia Williams

Silvia Williams is a native of Cuba, and the warm Spanish lilt remains in her voice and laugh, though she hasn’t lived there in more than 50 years. Williams spent much of her career as a foreign language teacher, at universities and in public and private schools. But her dream, and now her career, was in abstract art.

“I had a sort-of drawing talent and little by little, I just kept on painting and just recently I feel like I became what I wanted to be and that is an abstract painter,” said Williams. She’s not always been a North Carolinian — she and her husband moved here from Florida around 10 years ago — but the state has been intertwined through her life.

“I feel kind of fated to North Carolina from the beginning,” said Williams. “I came here to school in my early teens and then I married this North Carolinian, I went to the University of North Carolina. North Carolinians, especially westerns, remind me a lot of Cubans.”

Though she said her Cuban heritage doesn’t have a direct effect on the watermedia pieces she produces today, at least one piece of her Caribbean culture still shines through.

“I imagine that the thing that perhaps that could have influenced that is that I love color so much and my painting is a lot about color,” said Williams.

She’s learned her craft over the years through classes, workshops, books and the unrivalled teacher that is hands-on experience.

Today, her process isn’t mapped out in steps, but intuited along the way.

“I never have a definite plan, it just evolves from there,” said Williams. “If I plan something … that’s when it dies.”

Her best pieces, she said, have evolved in that way. And those are the ones she chooses when deciding what to put in shows. If she likes it, it goes.

And for Williams, it’s a good system. The ones she sells are usually the ones she loves.

Williams’ work can be seen at Gallery 86 and also at Gallery 262 in Frog Level.


Yvonne Van der Meer Lappas

Yvonne Van der Meer Lappas has lived an international life. That’s how she describes her journey from Amsterdam to Clyde, with many global stops in between.

Lappas has been an artist her whole life, studying at Paris’ L’Ecole des Beaus Arts at the Sorbonne after finishing school in the Netherlands.

Then, however, she turned her artistry to industry, working in fashion design for 16 years.

Her career took her to all of the usual hot spots for haute couture — New York, Paris, Rome — but didn’t quite fulfill her need for artistic expression.

“That was just making a living and fashion is very demanding,” said Lappas. But she squeezed the painting in at night, taking workshops and classes at the Art Student’s League in New York and studying the techniques of Rudolph Steiner and his watercolor veil paintings.

Then she and her husband moved to Clyde around 20 years ago, and she leapt into not only her own artistry, but the area’s vibrant artistic community.

“It is totally different from New York City, where everything is high dollar and big art shows and big money,” said Lappas, mentioning craft schools like Penland that feature traditional artistry that isn’t often seen in larger urban areas. “It is very charming to see how much interest there is in art here. It really is no wonder that people like to come here.”

When asked what has kept Lappas involved in her own creations and the artistic scene throughout the years, she replies as though that is, of course, a foregone conclusion.

“It’s a lifeline for me, it’s a voice that I have to follow. Any artist could tell you that. It’s a must. You have to get it out of you.”

Take part in Folkmoot USA

Folkmoot 5K

The Folkmoot 5K Run/Walk and Kids Fun Run at 8 a.m. on July 23 has become one of the festival’s signature events.

The race winds through the Hazelwood section of Waynesville and is relatively flat. Expect more than 200 runners on the course, which is ASATF certified and usually draws top runners from the area. It’s also a great race for beginners.

What makes this race unique, of course, is its association with Folkmoot. The race starts and finishes at the Folkmoot Friendship Center, and so the audience includes dozens of dancers and musicians, festival volunteers, and many of those who work for Folkmoot.

Many of the international dancers taking part in the race do so in interesting costumes. There is also music performed live by international musicians at the finish line, which adds a festive flair to completing the run.

Race day registration is available beginning at 6:30 a.m. for $25. Race day registration for the Fun Run is $10. For information about the race call 828.452.2997 or 828.734.6478.


Parade Day

The Folkmoot USA Parade will be held on Friday, July 22, on Main Street in downtown Waynesville.

The parade is one of the highlights of the festival and provides potential ticket-buyers a quick look at the groups that will perform much more elaborate dances at venues throughout Western North Carolina.

The parade also serves as the official start to Folkmoot. Dignitaries gathered on the steps of Haywood County’s Historic Courthouse include Folkmoot Board members and elected officials. There is also a performance by the international band, which is comprised of musicians from all the groups at Folkmoot.

The parade starts at 12:30 p.m., but arrive early for good viewing.


Learn to dance

Folkmoot USA will have two dance workshops taught by international dancers. These events are held at the Folkmoot Friendship Center and cost $10. Children 12 and under are $5.

This year’s workshops are at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 31.

Call 1.877.365.5872 for information.


Family Night

HomeTrust Bank is hosting a family night at the Folkmoot Friendship Center at 7:30 p.m. on July 20.

This performance by two groups is geared toward families with small children and offers patrons the chance to visit the Folkmoot Friendship Center, where all the dancers and musicians live and rehearse for the 10 days of the festival.

Adults are $10, children $5. Free snacks.


Attend a performance

Folkmoot USA holds dozens of ticketed performances throughout Western North Carolina. This is your chance to see the dance groups and the musicians at their finest as they go through several costume changes and perform a variety of dances. For ticket information call 828.452.2997.

International Festival Day brings dancing, demonstrations

Folkmoot’s International Festival Day will be held from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, in Waynesville. The festival features a huge juried craft show, international cuisine, Folkmoot USA performances, regional music and dance and the Passport to the Arts Children’s area.

Expect about 25,000 in downtown Waynesville, so prepare for the crowd if you plan to attend.

Demonstrations such as flame workers, potters and woodworkers will be available. The Passport to the Arts Children’s Area takes children on a trip around the world in the United Community Bank parking lot. The children make rain sticks, abstract inkblots, fiesta headdresses, finger knitting, and origami crafts to take home.

Festival entertainment is provided by Folkmoot USA’s international dancers and musicians, the Smoky Mountain Stompers, students from the Haywood County Arts Council’s Junior Appalachians Musicians program and more.

Entertainment will begin at 10:15 a.m. and performers move along the street with impromptu performances throughout the day.

828.452.0593 or visit

Making a joyful noise

In 1984, Flora Gammon agreed to a favor for a colleague and friend, Dr. Clinton Border. He needed her musical expertise for a new festival he was starting called Folkmoot USA. She didn’t know it then, but that favor for a friend would touch off a 27-year relationship with the event and leave ripples of her influence across two-and-a-half decades of Folkmoot history.

Today, Gammon directs the international band, an ensemble made of the musicians who perform in the festival. She also emcees when needed and does various other volunteer duties as a member of the Folkmoot Board of Directors.

But that first year, she took up the daunting task of arranging an interfaith service for festival-goers and participants.

It wasn’t an assignment altogether out of her range; she was then assistant director of music at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, where her mother had long been director. But convincing each cadre of performers, with their separate religions and traditions and language barriers, was a challenge.

The Turkish contingency — a gruff group of men with swords — proved her biggest hurdle.

“The director of the group spoke not one word of English, and I had to sit there and try to get them to understand what we were doing and try to get them to be a part of it,” says Gammon. But in the end, she succeeded. And thus began her career as a kind of cultural liaison with the festival.

It’s just such stories and experiences that Gammon seems to cherish most from her long involvement in the American incarnation of Folkmoot.

She kept directing the interfaith service until it was dropped a few years after the festival’s inception. And when the founder of the international band, Dr. Eva Adcock, died and left the conductor’s baton untended, Gammon took it up.

She started with the group in 1995, and she’s been directing the impromptu folk orchestra ever since. Each year, it’s a surprise what instruments will show up and who will already know the music. Some musicians, she has learned, read music, while some reject it outright, playing solely by ear.

Some will come with conventional symphonic instruments, while some will bring ancient and traditional folk music-makers found in few symphonies.

But, she says, they always make it work.

“They’ve never played music together, and I bring them together and in about 30 minutes we have a band,” says Gammon.

The band plays four songs, and performs at the opening gala, the opening parade and then again at the closing ceremony. They rehearse only once.

Gammon says the lack of rehearsal and mixture of seemingly disparate instruments has never been a problem.

“We have a combination of some totally folk-style instruments and some concert instruments. We have a combination, but at the same time it works, you know. Because even those who come from the countries where they’re playing more classical-type instruments, they’re still playing folk music,” says Gammon.

Gradually, the band has added to its repertoire and increased the number of musicians who return, music in hand, from years past. In 2005, they started playing the Folkmoot USA theme, which had, until then, been played on cassettes that were threatening to wear out.

“I was very pleased to start having them play the theme song,” says Gammon. “We do not allow canned music, but here we were using taped music, and that embarrassed me.”

And as the band and its role have grown and matured with the festival, so has Gammon.

In her first two years with the band, she convinced Dick Trevarthen, a musician and music professor, to do the actual, baton-in-hand direction. She was a singer, mostly, and had no experience whatsoever conducting a band.

“He did it for two years and then said, ‘Here, you can do it.’ He gave me two signals to use, and I said, ‘Well, that’s easy,’” said Gammon. “Though the second year I did it  I forgot what ‘stop’ was.”

That was also the year she learned that a finger across the throat was, apparently, a universal sign for ‘cut the music.’

Her fake-it-to-make-it technique was successful, though. Gammon fondly recalls the memory of a Soviet orchestral conductor unexpectedly approaching her after a performance. Expecting a complaint, she was bracing herself when the woman, in a harsh Russian accent, complimented her directing skills. She jokes that, because of this, she’s nicknamed herself Folkmoot’s Great Impostor.

But after 16 years with the band, she is an impostor no longer, having earned the baton that’s directed hundreds of musicians over the years.

For Gammon, and the musicians she leads, the international band, just like the festival itself, is about the people that comprise it, and recognizing their unique talents.

“It’s giving the musicians an outlet, because we’re mainly a folk dance festival, and so the emphasis is often on the dancers. These are professional musicians that come over here and they are thrown in the background,” says Gammon. This gives them a chance, however brief, to shine.

And whether through Turkish swordsmen, Russian directors or reticent Basques being coaxed into a round of the hokey pokey, it’s clear that Gammon has made her mark on Folkmoot. And it, in turn, has made a mark on her and her indefatigable spirit.

“You get people together and you look them in the eye and you smile and you can do anything you need to do,” said Gammon.

That’s a motto you can probably find her living by, smile on her face, this summer, in front of the international band once more.


Folkmoot Hymn

Used at candlelight closing • Words and Music: R.R. Trevarthan

Folkmoot is friendship, Folkmoot is peace;

Folkmoot is harmony, and Folkmoot is love.

For it is friendship, and it is peace;

And it is harmony, that gives us love.

Friendship, Peace, Harmony and Love.

Come Dance, Come Sing


The Folkmoot Theme Song

Words and Music: John Pollard • Come dance, come sing;

Come meet the world as it flies on the wing.

Come laugh, come cry;

Come meet the people, they’re passing you by.

We’re coming together, folk of the world;

Meeting in friendship, the flags to unfurl.

Brothers in dancing, we’re here for today,

At Folkmoot USA.

The groups of Folkmoot 2011

Batimbo Drummers Ensemble

The Republic of Burundi in central Africa has always been known for its hypnotic drum music, and field recordings of Burundi drumming have entranced listeners for years. Those drum rhythms have also been incorporated into world-fusion music anytime some intense percussion is called for.

The Batimbo Drummers Ensemble retain the responsibility and privilege of making, beating and keeping the drums. Until recently, the drums could only be beaten in homage to the king or to his ancestors. Today their tradition is gradually losing its ritual symbolism to become more of an art reserved for festivals.

The master drummer’s ensemble, dressed in draped robes of green, red, and white, are composed of drums arranged in a circular arc. The drums to the left — “amashakwe” — provide the continuous rhythm, while those on the right — “Ibishikizo” — follow the rhythm given by the soloist (placed in the center of the semi-circle in front of  the others). The performers are in constant interplay with the audience and each drummer may spontaneously leave his drum, take his place in the center of the arc, and dance. In some performances drummers may leap over their drums or place the drums on their heads while playing or dancing.


Strathcona Chinese Dance Company

Strathcona Chinese Dance Company (SCDC), which is affiliated with the Vancouver Academy of Dance, was founded in 1973 by Maria Mimie Ho as a recreational dance program to promote Chinese dance in Canada.

The company derives its name from the Strathcona section of the city of Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada. Since its inception, the company has grown into a world-renowned dance troupe, performing for many heads of state and dignitaries. SCDC is committed to fostering artistic exchange and enhancing cultural understanding while promoting goodwill and fellowship through the performing arts.

The troupe’s large catalog of traditional Chinese dance includes “The Red Ribbon Dance,” “Flying Kites” and “Peach Blossoms.”

The company last visited Folkmoot 19 years ago in 1992.


Klek of Croatia

Folklore ensemble Klek of Croatia was formed in 1980 with an emphasis on preserving and performing the folk customs of the Croatian and Ogulin cultures.

The group has more than 200 members includding two folklore ensembles, a seniors group, three children’s groups, a mens vocal group, a womens vocal group and a group of tambura players.

The tambura is a folk instrument similar to a lute or mandolin. The 40 members of the tambura group perform dances from cities and different regions in Croatia such as Ogulin, Bizovac, Baranja, Bratina, Split, Lika, Međimurje, Bilogora, Dubrovnik, Ražanac, Vrlika, Hvar and Bunjevac.

The group has more than 200 new and refurbished costumes.

The musicians perform dance tunes and compositions from famous composers.

Klek has performed in folk festivals all over Croatia in other countries such as Hungary, Turkey, France, Belgium, Portugal, Korea, Austria and Italy.


Tahdittomat dance troupe

The Tahdittomat dance troupe from Finland was founded in 1984

for the purpose of preserving traditional Finnish folk dancing.

The group’s aim is to promote traditional Finnish culture throughout the world with activities ranging from dance studies to performances and excursions.

Tahdittomat’s home is in the municipality of Jokionen in southern Finland. Villages in this region of Finland include Haapaniemi, Jokioinen, Lammi, and Latovainio, among others.

Tahdittomat is an ensemble cast of dancers and musicians that are both professionals and enthusiastic amateurs. They range in age from 17 to 40 and perform both in Finland and abroad.  Tahdittomat present both complex allegorical dances, and also more playful fare, all driven by a common thread.  

For example, the troupe often performs a dance entitled “Illatsut” which is told in the Karelian language.  Karelia was a historical province of Finland which is now divided between Finland and Russia.  “Illatsut’s” theme is that of youth and fellowship.


Viard Nouvelle

The Viard Nouvelle dance troupe from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe has been in existence for 28 years. Since its inception, its leaders have tried to maintain tradition and provide young people an education and outlet through those traditions.  

Among the dances and music performed by Viard Nouvelle is the Gwo ka, which translates to “Big drum.” Gwo ka is both a family of hand drums and the music created with them, which is a major part of Guadeloupian folk music. There are seven rhythms in gwo ka, which are embellished by the drummers. Different sizes of drums establish the foundation and its flourishes, with the largest, the boula, playing the central rhythm and the smaller, markeur drum interplays with the dancers, audience or singer.

Gwo ka singing is usually guttural, nasal and rough, though it can also be bright and smooth. It is accompanied by uplifting and complex harmonies and melodies. There are also dances that tell folk stories that are accompanied by the gwo ka drums.

Guadeloupians still use gwo ka drums in communal experiences called lewozes; this is the most traditional manifestation of gwo ka in modern Guadeloupe. Gwo ka is also played at Carnival and other celebrations. A modernized and popularized form of gwo ka is well-known on the islands; it is known as “gwo ka moderne.”


Figulinas Florinas

The group “Figulinas” — which translates into English as “fictile” — is an appropriate name for this group of talented dancers from the island of Sardinia in Italy.

Figulinas was born 23 years ago when young Sardinian performers with an interest and passion for reconstructing the traditional clothing and folk dances of Sardinia decided to form a group. The name is a play on words stemming from the fact that the area of Sardinia, from which the group hails, is world-renowned for its pottery.

The group is from the city of Sassari which is the second largest city in Sardinia. The characteristics of the group are based mainly in accordance with the canons of traditional Sardinian dance.


Diego Martin Footprints

The Diego Martin Footprints Folk Performers — who hail from the town of Diego Martin in northwestern Trinidad — have been in existence for more than 35 years.

The group represented Trinidad in Folkmoot in 2008 during the 25th anniversary year of the festival. In their own words, Footprints performers strive to, “Be the best we can be, keeping culture alive through dance.”

The most familiar musical tradition represented by the Footprints Folk Performers is Calypso music. Calypso originated as a form of communication between Afro-Caribbean slaves on the island when former slave masters forbid slaves from speaking to each other. A direct relative of Calypso and another specialty of Footprints is Soca, which combines percussion rhythms with Chutney music.

Also familiar to many audiences are the dances of Trinidad, which include the Limbo and Moko Jumbies. The Limbo, a derivative of the word “limber,” is a dance rooted in African history where a performer bends backwards while walking forward, under a pole. When a dancers body passes completely under the pole, it is said to be symbolic of the triumph of life over death. Moko Jumbies are stilt walkers that represent a dance tradition carried from Africa over the Atlantic to Trinidad.


American Racket Dance Company

American Racket Dance Company features American clogging and percussive dance.

American Racket was founded on UF (University of Florida) campus in 2002 by then-student Andy Howard. Since then, American Racket has built a global reputation for high-energy presentations.

American Racket is a guaranteed toe-tapping, hand-clapping good time for all and a celebration of what young adults are doing to revive and reinvent the dance culture of the United States.

Andy Howard founded SoundStage in 2001 while attending University of Florida; the original group comprised students and regional dancers specializing in clogging, tap and other forms of percussive dance.  In 2007, the group relocated to Central Florida and adopted the name “American Racket,” originally the name of a performance organized and choreographed by Howard for the Orlando International Fringe Festival. Howard was inducted into the All-American Clogging Team in 2002.

American Racket has represented the United States as “cultural ambassadors” at international festivals sanctioned by C.I.O.F.F. (International Council of Organizations for Folklore Festivals) in Costa Rica, Brazil, and Canada.

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At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.