The Halifax Daily News (Nova Scotia)
June 17, 2004 Thursday

Cheer for the Salseros;
Talented performers and food vie for attention at the Multicultural
Festival

by Gee, Skana


This show could be brought to you by the letter S ... sassy, sexy
salsa stylings by the Halifax Salseros, at this week's Nova Scotia
Multicultural Festival.

"It's such a great festival and it's going to be nice to add some
local salsa dancing to it," says Cindy Davis. "We do something called
rueda. It's like square dancing - there's a caller, there are set
moves, but it's to salsa music."

A longtime dancer who caught the Latin groove a few years ago, Davis,
26, is also co-ordinator for the Halifax branch of Salsa Team Canada.

"It's fun music - people like to move to it - and it's a good partner
dance; it's very social. And it's different from the Latin dance
sport, which is very technical and strict. This is more forgiving,
it's fun, it's energetic."

The Salseros join dozens of acts gracing Alderney Landing during the
festival, which kicked off last night and continues through Sunday,
June 20. There's everything from tai chi demonstrations, Irish step
dancers and Sudanese thumb piano, to Polish folk dancing, Brazilian
percussion and South Asian pop. As well, the Myungji Traditional
Dance Company visits from Korea, along with Haik!, a children's dance
troupe from Armenia.

To top it off, there are 50 exhibit booths, 28 food booths - forget
that diet, there's no resisting! - a kids' activity area, and a beer
tent.

The event, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, is a major
highlight for the more than 40 cultural groups that take part.

"This is the biggest event in their cultural life here - they try to
present their past," says festival chairman Mukhtyar Tomar, who came
to Canada 36 years ago from India. "People want to learn about other
cultural communities. And the food is the biggest draw."

This will be the third year Sue Woo of Baan Thai restaurant has
volunteered in the food tent with the Thai Association.

The preparation takes days - spring rolls and spicy noodles are on
the menu - but she says it's worth it: "Everybody knows Chinese food,
but some people say 'What is Thai food?'"

Woo loves it when fest-goers ask questions because "that means
they're interested in Thai culture."

The festival was born in 1984 when the Multicultural Association of
Nova Scotia celebrated its own 10th anniversary with an evening of
ethnic food and performances, recalls Tomar.

"People enjoyed it so thoroughly, we were looking for something to do
year after year," he says.

The festival started small the following year at the Technical
University of Nova Scotia, moving to the Dartmouth waterfront in
1987. It's been there since - except for an experiment at the
Garrison Grounds in 1993 - growing to the point where it draws more
than 40,000 people.

Along with expanding to five days, the fest has also started a Focus
on Youth Day, expected to attract hundreds of school kids tomorrow.
It'll feature music, performances, a spoken-word workshop with HFX's
Shauntay Grant, crafts, and, of course, food.

"We're celebrating 20 years of diversity and friendship - I am so
thrilled," says Tomar.

Admission is $6 for adults, $5 students/seniors, $1 for kids five to
12. Visit www.multifest.ca.