Written July 24.
Although having been in existence for over 30 years, the Folkmoot USA international festival held in western NC is not known as well as it should be in other parts. When I told friends in Hayesville and in north Georgia that I was going to Folkmoot, I was met with the question, "What is Folkmoot?"
I learned that over 600 volunteers work to put on this beautiful and worthy endeavor which is home based in Waynesville, NC. I also learned from the emcee at the Flat Rock Community College that someone from Haywood county went to Europe with a group of Appalachian cloggers to perform at a festival over there. This man, I believe was a physician, came home and said why can’t we hold a festival here and invite performers from other countries. He found a community that believed in this idea and funding from locals to get started. Soon the Folkmoot USA festival became a reality and has continued with dancers, musicians and performers from all over the world descending on Waynesville, Maggie Valley, Asheville, and several other towns in this region every year in July. This year the events scheduled were from July 18 – 27.
Not having been to Folkmoot before, I had no idea what I’d see at the first event. I found that performers from five countries and from our U.S state, Hawaii, would be on stage. Romanian dancers led off and were followed by Trinidad, Russia, Colombia, Taiwan and Hawaii entertainers. The costumes, colorful, authentic and expressing the culture of the people of each country, kept my eyes glued on the stage and the dancers.
I learned this is really a folk dance festival, but the instruments used in making music for the dances are unique to each country. The men and women from Trinidad played large drums standing before them on stage. Some of the drums were large steel barrels. The sounds emanating from them changed from loud and strong to soft and beautiful.
The Taiwan group was my favorite. The instruments are diverse and unlike those I have seen before, and the delicate young women who dance seem to float over the stage. They move together, hands and arms graceful and flowing like a quiet mountain stream. In one number they carry and use pastel green parasols made from translucent material to enhance their story told in dance movement.
Hardly anyone would expect to see this diverse cultural happening in the mountains of Appalachia coming together each year to share awareness, respect and caring among our citizens and those from other countries. But it is occurring and reaching children, and local people of all ages as they learn and teach through volunteering to work with Folkmoot.
|My sister with two members of the family group from Hawaii|
The guide for the folks from Hawaii, a family group of singers and dancers, says she spends twenty-four hours, seven days a week with this group while they are here for Folkmoot. That is dedication. She sleeps and eats with them at the Folkmoot Friendship Center, an old schoolhouse that has been given to the non-profit Folkmoot organization and which has been converted into dorm rooms, cafeteria, and rehearsal space. I visited the center one afternoon. Performers, some in costume, walked up and down the halls and sat chatting with each other. If only the leaders of these countries could sit down and chat with each other, get to know each other and how much we are alike in our goals and our needs.
Folkmoot seems to me to be a wonderful exchange of cultural traditions, opportunity to make lasting friendships with people who live worlds apart, but have the same love of music, dance and performance. Many of them are young, talented and curious men and women who want to know more about our customs and wish to share their own with the people of the United States.
If you haven’t attended any of the Folkmoot events, I urge you to mark your calendars now and make it a point to see at least one next year. Enjoy from a seat in the audience, but also take time at the break to meet and talk with the talented performers. Check www.folkmootUSA.org