Jerry Tischleder

DanceWatch Weekly: World Beat!

In Salem, the World Beat Festival takes over the waterfront with an inclusive celebration. In Portland, Risk/Reward pushes boundaries.

Twenty-one years ago, two stay-at-home moms, Kathleen Fish and Mona Hayes, created the World Beat Festival in response to growing racial intolerance in Salem, Oregon. Today the festival, which opens Friday evening, June 29, has grown dramatically and involves more than 1,000 volunteers.

The festival spans three days, takes over Salem’s entire Riverfront Park, comprises five “villages” representing different regions of the world, and presents the dances, music, food, and crafts of more than 70 nations and cultures. There are also drumming classes, dance lessons, dragon boat races, kids’ activities, cooking classes, three Powwows, and, yes, much, much more.

“We didn’t want to raise our kids in a community where that kind of thing happened,” Fish said in an interview last year with Heather Rayhorn for the Statesman Journal in reference to the the racist incident that was a catalyst for the festival. “We thought the best way to prevent those incidents of racism was to get rid of the fear. A lack of exposure to other cultures, not knowing, drives that fear.”