31st Annual French Festival Highlights
By Robert Bernstein
The Santa Barbara French Festival was back in a big way for its 31st anniversary! Steve Hoegerman, who created the Festival in 1988, was still Emcee on the main Moulin Rouge Stage. This year the French Festival included the actual Bastille Day, July 14.
Here are all of my videos! Below is just a sample.
Of course, the French Festival is not just about France, but also about all French speaking lands, including French Polynesia, French North Africa, French Indochina and North American Acadian and Cajun.
With non-stop entertainment on three stages, it is not possible to catch every performance, so I mostly focused on the dancing on the main Moulin Rouge Stage.
French Festival creator Steve Hoegerman was on that stage the whole weekend as emcee. He no longer gets paid because he sold the Festival several years ago. But he throws himself into it with as much enthusiasm as ever. Here he expounds on the challenges of French pronunciation:
Dance With Harout offered a variety of dances featuring the French traditions of seduction. One included a guest dance artist from Los Angeles:
This Burlesque performance with Dance With Harout featured Jatila van der Veen:
Jatila van der Veen is one of my favorite dancers in our region. At times in the past I have even been privileged to swing dance with her. She is fluent and skilled in a wide range of dance styles from around the world. She throws herself into each dance with full energy and passion.
Jatila van der Veen, PhD is also Project Scientist in the Experimental Cosmology Group at UCSB Physics. Talk about versatility!
What could be better than watching Jatila perform? Jatila performing with Russian International Champion Dancer Vasily Golovin! Here Jatila and Vasily dance to "Mama Mia":
Can Can girls are an essential part of every French Festival. This year Momentum Dance Company was brand new to the stage, offering girls age nine to thirteen performing with precision.
There were plenty of opportunities for audience participation at the French Festival, too. Local dance teacher Hector Sanchez got people up on stage to learn some new dance moves:
French culture spans many continents, including North Africa. Which includes belly dancing. Cris Basimah had a dance ensemble performing some surprising variations of belly dancing. Including this one with fairy wings:
Here Cris performed solo, including a sword balancing segment at the end:
She also did a finale with her group, belly dancing to the "I Dream of Jeannie" TV show theme!
All of that was on Saturday! On Sunday we were introduced to local dance teacher Yulia Maluta who did a series of sexy dances with several of her students. She went on to dance with Hector Sanchez who was back for another day of high-energy dancing. In this dance they even got the energy up for aerial moves!
Here Yulia Maluta (second from left) kindly posed with singer Kanga Lavrado (third from left) and the rest of her group:
I took a break from the Moulin Rouge stage a few times to check out the Eiffel Tower stage where music was performed live all weekend long. Here my Solstice friends Lark Batteau and Greg Beeman were performing one of several French hits:
But I was back over to the Moulin Rouge stage to catch another round of belly dancing. This time with Krischana and her dance ensemble. Here they performed with colorful fan streamers:
And, naturally, everyone was there to sample the food of a variety of French-speaking lands as well. This included crepes and French pastries, various regional foods of France, Cajun food and escargots, which have become quite popular now!
Plus, plenty of French art, clothing and crafts!
All proceeds from the French Festival now support Center Stage Theater, forming a strong foundation for their annual fundraising efforts.
One final note: French Festival Emcee and founder Steve Hoegerman also leads personalized tours to many places in the French speaking world and beyond. I went on one of these tours a few years ago and I highly recommend it. He finds places that would not be obvious to most tourists. He also is a model of traveling light. He is able to travel for months without the need to check baggage. A great learning experience for me! And it keeps his prices very affordable!