The Springville World Folkfest will be held July 25-29, bringing people together from around the world and preserving their respective cultures through dance. (Ryan and Jennifer Carter)
Estimated reading time: 4-5 minutes
SPRINGVILLE — Dance is a universal language, and more than 250 people from around the world will come to Springville next week to prove that statement to be true.
Springville World Folkfest, the longest-running folk dance festival in the western United States, returns this year after a two-year hiatus. And according to international director Emily Wilkinson, the festival not only celebrates the art of dance, but also cultural preservation.
“There are so few folk festivals in the United States, and we are internationally recognized and charged with promoting and preserving the cultural legacies of our world,” Wilkinson said.
Estonian dancer Ivika Priidel agreed, adding that without festivals like these, her legacy could be erased.
“We are a small European country, with only about 1.3 million inhabitants. And for us it is important to preserve our heritage because not many of us remember our history, if we do not dedicate ourselves to teaching others the path of our family,” Priidel said. “If we don’t take the time to share and teach others, especially in the United States that is far from us, we risk losing our heritage.
“A war, everything could be erased and disappear.”
“When you fight for culture, you fight against war”
French dancer Robert De Marchi said events like the Springville World Folkest are ways to fight war because dancing is a way to show how similar people really are.
“It’s important to show our audiences around the world the differences but also the similarities that can exist between cultures…to show that we can be closer to each other than we think,” said De Marchi. “When you fight for culture, you fight against war. It’s so important that people understand.
Folk dance, folk music is our way of fighting wars. It’s that simple. When people see culture and experience it, they don’t fear, they understand. We don’t fight what we understand.
–French dancer Robert De Marchi
“Folk dance, folk music is our way of fighting wars. It really is that simple. When people see the culture and experience it, they don’t fear, they understand. We don’t fight not what we understand.”
De Marchi said coming to Springville World Folkfest this year had special meaning because of the war in Ukraine. He spoke of the many dancers who were lost in the recent war.
“We have Ukrainian friends in the traditional dance world that we will never see again,” De Marchi said. “Our hearts are heavy, like all in this world. Through folklore, you meet friends from all countries and places. We love with them, we suffer with them, we cry with them because we are them We are all humans asking and dancing for peace and space to celebrate with peace the stories of our cultures.Folklore can bring peace if only people could get along and know each other.
Priidel said that in addition to bringing peace, the Springville World Folkfest is something she and so many others look forward to attending.
“In our minds, World Folkfest is one of the biggest and most important folk scenes,” Priidel said. “It’s a goal we’ve been working towards for many years.”
“Make a Connection”
Working to participate in World Folkfest not only includes countless hours of practice, but also fundraising, as each dancer must pay their own way to Utah.
“These dancers are not local bands, these dancers are not from local universities,” Wilkinson said. “They all travel from their respective countries and earn money to pay for their own trip to America to dance on our stage at World Folkfest.”
Wilkinson explained that while the dancers have to pay for airfare, once here they are placed with local host families. As a second-generation festival volunteer, Wilkinson expressed how wonderful it is to be able to host dancers and build those relationships.
Romanian dancer Camelia Motoc agreed with Wilkinson, adding that staying in a house rather than a hotel is a way to “connect”.
“It’s important for us to stay with host families because it’s not just a hotel or a hostel, it’s the heart of the real people of a country,” Motoc said. “World Folkfest gives us a real bridge of connection because we stay in family and in the community. Some festivals keep us in hotels, which is good, but to show Romania and discover America, we have to meet and learn from each other.”
Wilkinson said they are currently looking for host families to house dancers and encouraged those willing to reach out.
This Folkfest takes place from Monday July 25 to Friday July 29 and will welcome dancers from Estonia, Romania, Poland, Indonesia, France and Hawaii.
For more information, visit worldfolkfest.org.