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Pierce College's Folk Dance Concert Is Alive and Kicking

January 27, 1989

The recent demise of the International Folk Dance Festival, the premier event of its kind in Southern California, has not brought an end to appearances by top-notch ethnic dance companies.

Tonight's Folk Dance Concert at Pierce College will feature several of the troupes that performed in the festival's final show earlier this month at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

One highlight of the annual Pierce program will be presentation of a new dance by the San Fernando Valley-based Ote'a Polynesian Folk Ensemble, a perennial winner at a yearly competition in Irvine that draws Polynesian dance companies from across the United States.

The highly regarded Korean Classical Music and Dance Company from Buena Park will also perform, as will Fiesta Mexicana under the direction of Lalo Garcia.

Marian S. Weiser, producer of the event and director of the Pierce College Dance Theatre, said Garcia's company will preform an ancient Aztec dance that was admired last year at Pierce.

Also on the program are companies that perform dances of Hungary, Armenia, Scotland (with bagpiper) and Israel.

Students from the Pierce College Dance Theatre will present works from Bulgaria, the Philippines, Macedonia and black America. The student pieces have been choreographed by professional dancers.

"They've selected some very fine groups," said Irwin Parnes, producer of the annual International Folk Dance Festival for 42 years. "It's good that the public will have a chance to see them."

Parnes said folk dance concerts face the problem common in the performing fine arts: Ticket sales rarely meet production expenses. He has announced that the Jan. 7 show was the last unless a grant is received.

Jack Kinneer is artistic director of the Ote'a Polynesian Folk Ensemble ( Ote'a is a dance performed by lines of dancers). He said tonight's college program only pays the troupe's expenses, but offers an opportunity to debut a contemporary Tahitian fishing dance under concert conditions.

"Most Tahitian dances are very formal, but this one is very casual," Kinneer said. In the dance, featuring 25 performers, "the men have fishing poles, and they're dancing to bring on good fishing. But the girls are what they catch, so it works on the level of romance too.

"There's a lot of misconception about Polynesian dance that I'm trying to clean up," he added. "People think it's the hula in a grass skirt. Actually, those skirts aren't grass; they're hibiscus tree bark, and the hula is done in tea-leaf skirts."

Kinneer said his troupe does not use synthetic materials such as glue or polyester in its costumes and is careful not to mix aspects of such separate Polynesian cultures as Hawaiian, Tahitian and Tongan.

"A lot of people think they're the same, but it's like saying all West Europeans are the same," he said. "The Germans and the French would not like to hear that. Well, the Polynesians are that distinct."

Proceeds from the concert will help finance performing arts scholarships at Pierce.

Folk Dance Concert, tonight at 8, Pierce College Performing Arts Building, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills. Tickets $8 and $10, $6 for seniors, students and children. For information, call (818) 719-6473 or (818) 347-0551.

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