Immigrants to Maine often bring a wealth of cultural traditions such as music, dance and dress that are reflective of their native country. These customs and possessions enable them to retain a sense of ethnic identity and are a potential resource for enriching their new community in the Pine Tree State. At the Folk Traditions Narrative Stage on Saturday and Sunday, festival-goers will see diverse forms of dance performed and learn about costumes and related textiles from nations ranging from China to Peru.
Mabel Cen was born in Canton, China. In 1998, at age 14, she immigrated to the United States with her family. She attended junior high school in northern Maine, where, as one of just a few Asian students, she learned English and dealt with much prejudice. Granted U.S. citizenship in 2004, she lives and works in Bangor. She will take part in two discussions on Sunday’s Narrative Stage, one about traditional Chinese costume and another about immigrants’ experiences in Maine.
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Beth Green, a licensed Irish dance teacher, hails originally from Dublin, Ireland. She started dancing as a child. After getting married, she and her husband moved to Nova Scotia. She introduced Irish dance to Dartmouth and has taught the dance form there for 32 years. She will share her knowledge and experience as a dancer and talk about her dance costumes.
Jamileh Jeanne Handy
Of Lebanese descent, Jamileh Jeanne Handy learned Middle Eastern dances as a young woman. In 1993, she began performing and studying belly dance with Josie Conte of Portland and New York. Handy teaches Middle Eastern dance in Portland at the Center for Cultural Exchange, Full Circle Synergy School and Portland Yoga, and at Bowdoin College, Jai Yoga and the Cellar of Fitness in Brunswick. Audiences have described her shows as “elegant,” “breathtaking” and “authentically Arabic.”
For more than 15 years, Eric LaPerna has performed as a percussionist, playing genres ranging from Afro-Cuban to Middle Eastern styles. He is a participant in the Arabic Music Retreat, where he studies riqq under the guidance of Michel Merhej. He is percussionist for The Alan Shavarsh Bardezbanian Middle Eastern Ensemble, a founding member of the art-rock band Tarpigh and the featured musician for many of Jamileh Handy’s dance classes. Handy and LaPerla present interactive programs featuring Middle Eastern music and dance appropriate for all ages.
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Pat MacKinnon owns Irish Threads, an Irish Dance costume business in Dartmouth, specializing in sewing patterns for the dancer. In 1994, she went to great lengths to make a costume for her daughter and decided to share her pattern with other mothers. Eventually, she created a related business selling patterns and costume-making supplies. She will give a brief history about Irish dance costumes and demonstrate how the modern showy costumes are constructed.
Alejandro and Maria Rave
Maria Rave was born in Colombia while her husband, Alejandro, comes from Argentina. The couple owns Thistle’s Restaurant in Bangor, where they prepare and serve international cuisine. They also offer a monthly tango class. The Raves will demonstrate tango and discuss the dance’s origin on the Folk Traditions: Narrative Stage on Saturday and Sunday.
Maria Sandweiss came to the United States after meeting her husband, an anthropology professor at the University of Maine in Orono, on an archaeological project in her native country of Peru. The couple now lives in Bangor, and Maria Sandweiss divides her time between working as a Spanish lecturer at UMaine and raising her 7-year-old son. At the Folk Traditions-Narrative Stage on Saturday and Sunday, she will describe her experiences as a Peruvian living in Maine. She also will talk about Peru’s traditional costumes and textiles, including alpaca wool produced and worn in the Peruvian highlands.