Every time there's a sexy, exotic, heartfelt, multi-ethnic festival around here, we find it hard to be so ordinary. Maybe that's why we flock to celebrate the cultures of others, vulture-like, hoping to grab on to some fleshy morsel of self-actualization. Perfect example: this weekend's Dallas International Festival, whose organizers claim that 35 percent of Dallas residents are first- or second-generation immigrants. This mini-United Nations of performances, ethnic arts and crafts and unfamiliar food, promises not only a bevy of interesting sights and sounds and holiday shopping, but an enviable higher purpose with its "Unity Is Peace" theme. And, you betcha, they were going to have a parade, until the Hillcrest High School Multicultural Club had to cancel its Parade of Nations. So look for the Asian Pacific Club of South Grand Prairie High School to kick things off with a traditional Lion Dance. On both Saturday and Sunday, the festival starts with Calls to Unity on the Jewish shofar, Muslim drums, Hindu cymbals and Native American conch.
For the festival's Global Holiday Market, at least 100 booths will be set up for browsing and buying. On the adjacent Global Stage, more than 50 ethnic community arts groups will perform. Look for Latin American music and song by the Hermanos Egusquiza and Voces y Danzas de Chile, the Lao Cambodian Arts Preservation Group, Ayubu Kamau Sacred Drummers and Dancers, Brazilian Capoeira by the Descendencias das Raizes, Hibernia Irish Dance Company, Y'Ole Flamenco Dancers, plus Middle Eastern and Indian dance troupes. Add to that lineup the Japanese Women's Association's Taiko Drummers, West African drumming by Saankh Rasa, Cuicani indigenous dancers from Mexico, St. Luke's United Methodist Church's Dallas Martial Arts Club, Harari Ethiopian Community Center zikr performers and Grupo Yaoyallohtli.
For its first ever Dallas International Festival appearance, a group of 15- to 18-year-old Miss Teen Belize pageant contestants will dress up in traditional crocus sack skirts to perform a "punta rock" cultural dance to the reggae/calypso music of Super G, according to Dan Garcia, president of Belizeans United in Dallas-Fort Worth. Belize is a little speck on the global landscape, tucked in the Caribbean north of Honduras, east of Guatemala and south of Mexico. It's roughly the size of New Hampshire, with fewer people than Arlington; but it's rich in culture and historically significant, Garcia says. Belizeans shake out, ethnically, to half-Hispanic, half-black with a dose of Mayan for good measure. "There are approximately 2,000 Belizeans living in greater Dallas at this time," he says, "and our organization serves to support them as well as to promote our country." Garcia's group will also participate in the festival's Children's Passport to International Dallas, an area of interactive activities with storytelling, drum making, face painting, jewelry creation and ethnic calligraphy and a little history lesson about Belize. "When children experience our culture," Garcia says, "we can keep it going."