Jeremiah Knupp -- September 24th, 2010
Anyone who has ever attended Harrisonburg’s International Festival knows that the annual event is six hours of non-stop music, food and dance. Visitors to this year’s festival will get plenty of the first two, along with an extra helping of the latter.
Dance has always been an important part of the festival, from the crowd’s spontaneous movement in response to the live music to the traditional Kurdish dancing that brings the festival to a conclusion. This year the festival will open with nearly two hours of dancing from around the world on the event’s Main Stage.
At age thirteen, Harrisonburg resident Miguel Muñiz began performing traditional Aztec ceremonies and dance in Mexico City’s Zócalo, a plaza built by the Spanish on the ruins of Aztec temples. When he came to the U.S. practicing the traditions of the Aztecs became even more important as a way to stay connected to his roots.
“Dancing is something that my ancestors did before me,” Muñiz said. “But you have to understand that, more than just a dance, the traditions and ceremonies are a way of life.”
The traditions are something that Muñiz has passed along to his wife, Anaid and their children. The family has performed everywhere from local elementary schools to the Museum of the American Indian in New York City. The International Festival is their largest local event and they will be joined by several other dancers from outside the area, all in traditional, handmade regalia.
“The dancing gives the people of our community a chance to get closer to their heritage and culture,” Anaid said.
The Aztec dancers will open the festivities with a blessing. They will be followed by performances of belly dancing and traditional dances from Zambia, the Philippines and China. For those who want to try the moves they observe there will be instruction in belly dancing, zumba and the traditional dances of the Philippines at the festival’s Interactive Stage.
The Harrisonburg International Festival will take place Saturday September 25 from 12-6 p.m. in Hillandale Park. On site parking is available only for vehicles with four or more people or those with special needs. Festival organizers encourage attendees to take the free shuttle bus services from Westover Park and JMU’s Memorial Hall.
Photos by Holly Marcus courtesy of the Harrisonburg International Festival.