A world of fun coming to Civic
Akron theater will offer dance, food, activities from around the globe in Festival of Nations


By Mary Beth Breckenridge
Beacon Journal staff writer


Monday, the Akron Civic Theatre plays host to the world.


The theater will be the site of the second annual Festival of Nations, a showcase of dance, food and activities representing cultures around the globe.


The festival is both a holiday activity for families to share and a way of celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day by honoring King's commitment to peace, said Valerie Renner, the Civic Theatre's media manager


For the participating groups, it's an opportunity to share their cultures with the public.


The performers will include the Gracanica Folklore Group, a Serbian dance troupe from St. Archangel Michael Serbian Orthodox Church in Summit County's Springfield Township.


Most of the church's members have immigrated as a result of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and they welcome the opportunity to show others the positive aspects of their culture and to counter misinformation, said the Rev. Dragomir Tuba, the parish priest.


Around 50 of the group's 60-plus members will appear at the festival, performing dances from different regions of the former Yugoslavia in traditional costumes.


The Gracanica Folklore Group has members ranging in age from 5 to 20 who perform in three ensembles based on age and skill. Two of those ensembles will perform at the festival.


Tuba said the folk-dance group gives Serbs an opportunity to bond and preserve treasured aspects of their culture while they assimilate in America. ''You cannot take that away,''
he said.


Similarly, the Krakowiaki Polish Folk Circle from Youngstown is part of a broader effort to pass along Polish culture to generations as they become further removed from their homeland, said its director, Aundrea Cika Heschmeyer.


The folk circle is not just a dance troupe, but also a multigenerational group that meets weekly to share the country's songs, language and other aspects of its culture and teach them to the children. It's sort of like a Polish village transplanted in America, Heschmeyer said.


At the Festival of Nations, the group will perform suites of traditional folk dances from different areas of Poland, she said. The dancers will also perform Polish-American polka, which evolved in America from the traditional dances, she said.


''We're trying to share the joy and fun of this culture,'' she said.


The Lakota Nation Dancers, on the other hand, will share a way of life that's close to home yet still unfamiliar to many Americans.


The group, based in Cleveland, will perform Native American friendship dances. The various nations created these dances as a form of unspoken communication, a way of expressing good will to other nations that didn't share their languages, said Faye Brings Them, the group's organizer. She said they differ from sacred dances, which are performed only on reservations for purposes such as healing or name-giving.


The dancers mimic animals and other elements of nature, Brings Them said. A grass dancer, for example, imitates the movement of tall prairie grasses; younger dancers mimic the quick movements of birds.


Dancers learn from early childhood by watching, she said, so each develops movements that reflect his or her personality.


The Lakota group started with her children and grandchildren but has expanded to include friends from other nations, including Navajo and Choctaw, Brings Them said. The group has about 15 dancers ranging in age from 6 to adult, five or six of whom will perform at the festival.


Also scheduled to perform are the Allegro Dance Company, representing Italy; the O'Hare Irish Dancers; and Shri Kalaa Mandhir, a group of Indian dancers.


In addition to the performances, the event will feature interactive activities, educational booths, demonstrations and a crowd favorite: food. Renner said groups will be selling such global treats as Italian gnocchi, Eastern European pierogies and Jewish candy.


It's all a way of getting a taste of the way people live around the world.


Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or mbrecken@thebeaconjournal.com. You can also become a fan on Facebook.

(From left) Catherine Katrenich, Lexxi Haluska, Sara Katrenich, Allina Rivera and Della Heschmeyer flip their hair as members of the Krakowiaki Polish Folk Circle rehearse at St. Joseph the Provider Church in Campbell, Ohio. (Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal)


Monday, the Akron Civic Theatre plays host to the world.


The theater will be the site of the second annual Festival of Nations, a showcase of dance, food and activities representing cultures around the globe.


The festival is both a holiday activity for families to share and a way of celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day by honoring King's commitment to peace, said Valerie Renner, the Civic Theatre's media manager


For the participating groups, it's an opportunity to share their cultures with the public.


The performers will include the Gracanica Folklore Group, a Serbian dance troupe from St. Archangel Michael Serbian Orthodox Church in Summit County's Springfield Township.


Most of the church's members have immigrated as a result of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and they welcome the opportunity to show others the positive aspects of their culture and to counter misinformation, said the Rev. Dragomir Tuba, the parish priest.


Around 50 of the group's 60-plus members will appear at the festival, performing dances from different regions of the former Yugoslavia in traditional costumes.


The Gracanica Folklore Group has members ranging in age from 5 to 20 who perform in three ensembles based on age and skill. Two of those ensembles will perform at the festival.


Tuba said the folk-dance group gives Serbs an opportunity to bond and preserve treasured aspects of their culture while they assimilate in America. ''You cannot take that away,''
he said.


Similarly, the Krakowiaki Polish Folk Circle from Youngstown is part of a broader effort to pass along Polish culture to generations as they become further removed from their homeland, said its director, Aundrea Cika Heschmeyer.


The folk circle is not just a dance troupe, but also a multigenerational group that meets weekly to share the country's songs, language and other aspects of its culture and teach them to the children. It's sort of like a Polish village transplanted in America, Heschmeyer said.


At the Festival of Nations, the group will perform suites of traditional folk dances from different areas of Poland, she said. The dancers will also perform Polish-American polka, which evolved in America from the traditional dances, she said.


''We're trying to share the joy and fun of this culture,'' she said.


The Lakota Nation Dancers, on the other hand, will share a way of life that's close to home yet still unfamiliar to many Americans.


The group, based in Cleveland, will perform Native American friendship dances. The various nations created these dances as a form of unspoken communication, a way of expressing good will to other nations that didn't share their languages, said Faye Brings Them, the group's organizer. She said they differ from sacred dances, which are performed only on reservations for purposes such as healing or name-giving.


The dancers mimic animals and other elements of nature, Brings Them said. A grass dancer, for example, imitates the movement of tall prairie grasses; younger dancers mimic the quick movements of birds.


Dancers learn from early childhood by watching, she said, so each develops movements that reflect his or her personality.


The Lakota group started with her children and grandchildren but has expanded to include friends from other nations, including Navajo and Choctaw, Brings Them said. The group has about 15 dancers ranging in age from 6 to adult, five or six of whom will perform at the festival.


Also scheduled to perform are the Allegro Dance Company, representing Italy; the O'Hare Irish Dancers; and Shri Kalaa Mandhir, a group of Indian dancers.


In addition to the performances, the event will feature interactive activities, educational booths, demonstrations and a crowd favorite: food. Renner said groups will be selling such global treats as Italian gnocchi, Eastern European pierogies and Jewish candy.


It's all a way of getting a taste of the way people live around the world.

 
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