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DAY TRIPPING : From Cajun Waltzes to Japanese Drums at Calabasas Festival

June 25, 1992|ZAN DUBIN | Zan Dubin is a staff writer who covers the arts for The Times Orange County Edition.

Step, step, step, step. Master that, and you can dance to the joyous rhythms of Cajun music.

"This is truly folk music and folk dance--done by regular folks--and you don't have to be a trained dancer to do it," says Tina Duree-Bevan of Garden Grove, who will teach basic Cajun dance on Sunday at the 12th annual Summer Solstice Folk Music and Dance Festival in Calabasas.

The festival, which starts Friday, is one of the region's top folk events; 4,000 visitors are expected. There will be continual entertainment--from mariachi music and Japanese drumming to Scottish fiddling and American Indian dance--plus a crafts fair, food, storytelling and puppetry for children and 300 workshops on traditional music and dance.

With her husband, Ian, Duree-Bevan will teach the Cajun waltz, two-step and jitterbug. As will be the case with all the workshops, neither experience nor a partner will be required, and all ages will be welcome.

"Cajun music makes you want to get up move! You can't just stand there," says Duree-Bevan, a horse trainer by day who will teach her sessions to live accompaniment by the Louisiana Cajun Trio.

Cajuns are the white descendants of French Acadians who were expelled from Nova Scotia in the 18th Century for their religious beliefs. They settled in the swamps and bayous of southwestern Louisiana. Their lively music--traditionally played on accordion, fiddle and triangle--has been influenced over the years by country, Afro-Caribbean, swing and bluegrass.

Cajun dance, originally based on staid French folk dances, has been influenced similarly. The Cajun jitterbug, for instance, takes its name and under-the-arm turns from swing. Overall, however, Cajun is much simpler than swing, which has more complex foot patterns. Indeed, Duree-Bevan notes, the Cajun waltz is hardly more than a relaxed walking step.

Duree-Bevan, 44, co-founded the Dunaj International Dance Ensemble, a local folk troupe she helped run for several years. About five years ago, she fell in love with the Lindy swing and formed the Swing Shift, specializing in U.S. dances from the turn of the century through the 1950s. The group, based in Costa Mesa, performs around the county about six times a year.

She was introduced to Cajun culture through neighbor Carolyn Russell of the Louisiana Cajun Trio. Duree-Bevan teaches dance at the trio's monthly Cajun dances at the Masonic Temple in Culver City.

This is her second year at the Summer Solstice Festival, sponsored by the California Traditional Music Society. The event, on the grassy, tree-lined campus of SOKA University, has plenty to offer, even for folks who don't want to lift a big toe, she says.

"It's so much fun just to wander around and see all these talented people enjoying themselves," she says. "You have jam sessions and musicians sitting everywhere--someone over here playing banjo and somebody over here playing dulcimer--and singing and demonstrations and lectures."

Festival organizer Elaine Weissman says there's a new addition this year: an area where children may make puppets and musical instruments and learn folk dancing. Finale activities, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, include a hootenanny, storytelling and an international folk dance party, "every bit of it participatory," Weissman says.

What: Summer Solstice Folk Music and Dance Festival.

When: Friday, June 26 from 7 to 11:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Where: SOKA University, 26800 W. Mulholland Highway, Calabasas.

Whereabouts: Take the Ventura (101) Freeway to Las Virgenes Road and head south for about three miles. Turn left onto Mulholland Highway. The campus is about 100 yards ahead.

Wherewithal: $6 Friday; $18 per day Saturday and Sunday ($10 after 3 p.m. for "finale activities"). Free for children 12 and under accompanied by an adult.

Where to Call: (818) 342-7664.

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