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Minnesota’s Chinese Dance Theater is one of the new acts at the 2013 International Festival of Burnsville.

Jijun He • Special to the Star Tribune,

Travel the world on one Saturday in Burnsville

  • July 6, 2013 - 6:10 PM

Organizers of Burnsville’s annual International Festival want to offer free travel without the hassle of airplanes.

“Not everyone can travel the globe,” said festival volunteer Carlos Lopez, “so this gives us the opportunity to bring the world to Burnsville.”

The seventh annual festival takes place from 3-9 p.m. Saturday, July 13, in Nicollet Commons Park adjacent to the Performing Arts Center. Admission is free and there are many new acts in this year’s lineup.

The Guthrie School of Dance will perform dances of the Scottish Highlands, such as the popular Sword Dance. “It was a dance developed in the early medieval period as kind of a way to pump up the soldiers and get them ready for battle,” said the group’s director, Kristy Van Hoven.

The dance group also will perform the Highland Laddie and the Seann Triubhas, dances that originated during the Jacobite Rebellion in the 1700s. The latter, Gaelic for “old trousers,” is believed to have been a reaction to the English ban on wearing kilts.

“The English would make them wear old trouser hand-me-downs and the Scots weren’t fond of it,” Van Hoven said of the dance that involves leg moves meant to suggest the kicking off of the trousers.

Like most of the acts, their performance includes audience participation. “Every Scottish gathering ends with a mass Highland Fling,” Van Hoven said.

Another new group, Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli, “warriors of the first cactus flower,” honors Mexica-Aztec culture.

According to the dance and drum group’s director, Mary Anne Quiroz, after the Spanish conquest, indigenous dance and music were banned and had to be practiced in secret. “Drummers weren’t allowed to drum,” she said. “They would get their hands cut off. People weren’t allowed to dance. They would get their feet broken.”

Quiroz said indigenous dance forms are undergoing a resurgence, and their group has just started offering classes on Wednesday evenings at Highland Elementary in Apple Valley.

Argentine tango instructor Lois Donnay said her favorite dance form, which had its golden age in the 1930s, has also undergone a resurgence in recent years.

“Argentine tango and other partner dances went out of style after Chubby Checker and the Twist came along. It became your father’s dance,” said Donnay, who started the Tango Society of Minnesota in 1999.

At the festival, she will teach moves from “the dance of one heart, four legs.”

“It does take two to tango,” she said. “It’s a very connected dance. We’ll teach Minnesotans how to hug.”

Other new acts include the Afro-Cuban rhythms of Salsabrosa, the Chinese Dance Theater and the Middle Eastern Caravan Dance and Music.

The Flemming Fold, an Alpine family folk group from southern Minnesota, will perform Americana and Alpine folk music with yodeling. Dancers from the School of India will return, and the Upstanding Stilts will wander the grounds, several feet higher than everyone else.

The day ends with a luau and hula and fire dancers. “Expect Polynesian drums playing strong, fast beats, and fire dancers twirling and throwing flames into the air,” said Festival Chair Margo Swanson.

The family activities area will include Taekwondo board-breaking, henna hands, origami and other activities. The festival also includes an art exhibit, ethnic food vendors and cultural displays.

At the end of the day, anyone still itching to travel can enter the raffle for a variety of prizes, including a free round-trip airline ticket to anywhere in the United States.

Festival volunteer Julie Dorshak said about 4,000 people attend the event annually, many in traditional dress.

“Burnsville is certainly growing, particularly among our many varied ethnicities,” said Swanson. The event “allows us to know each other better, which certainly makes for a stronger community.”

Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.

© 2014 Star Tribune