Sunday, July 01, 2007

Folklife Festival 2007

As noted last year about this time, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is my favorite annual event in Washington. Today, I made my annual pilgrimmage and had that moment of grace I described in last year's post. This year, the cultures presented were the Mekong Delta, the Commonwealth of Virginia and Northern Ireland. As one might expect, the highlight was the music performed in the Northern Ireland performance tent.

The genius of this festival is the way the Smithsonian Folklife Center plucks local musicians out of their natural habitat, in this case presumably a circuit of Irish pubs, and brings them to Washington to delight and surprise us. This year, it was a band called Four Men and a Dog that brought down the house. I'm not sure which of the players is considered the dog, but they had the performance tent rocking.

What I love best about the festival is the spontaneous dancing that occurs. People strolling along the Mall hear music and are drawn to it. Next thing you know, they are on the dance floor, sometimes dancing with strangers. I truly consider those moments of grace and it happens every year.

Check it out in this longish (3 minutes) and somewhat poor quality video I took and edited. Hang in there for the shots of the dancers. As you can see, inhibitions are left at the door. There's the old guy who leaped from the crowd and did a poor imitation of Irish step dancing right in front of the bandstand, a younger guy with similar pretentions, a very smooth couple who clearly know how it's done and the children scampering in betweent the larger dancers.


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