Director, Teacher, Choreographer & Dancer


Talks about the S. F. ETHNIC  DANCE FESTIVAL
A celebration of the history, dances & music of California

With  Iride Aparicio

Photos Courtesy: Scott Horton

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – In San Francisco, where he was born, the  name of  Maestro CARLOS CARVAJAL is synonymous with dance. “The day I discovered dance, it became my life,” he tells CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL in an exclusive interview.

Art is in the the  DNA  of  the Maestro. Both his paternal grandparents were stars in the Zarzuela Española in the Philippines, his father was a Magician/ illusionist, and two of his aunts were actresses, one of the stage and the other in Cinema. “As a child, I was surrounded by art,” he says, “I played the piano and the violoncello and painted. At the the age of 15, I started dancing folkloric dances in school. I discovered that dancing made me happy. I did not need an instrument to dance, I did not need to sing or to talk, I could extract the music with my body alone.”

Through the years, Maestro CARVAJAL continued his association with the dance. This year, he is one of the two Co-Artístic Directors  of  the San Francisco  Ethnic Dance  Festival.  A yearly tradition in the city, the 2015 Festival will continue its year-long celebration of the Centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of l915,. 

All its programs, from June 6 to June 27, will be shown at the Theatre of  the  Palace of Fine Arts;  on June 21st, however, the Festival will move to the Forum and Grand Lobby of the Yerba Buena Center for the Consulate General of India’s International Day of Yoga, to honor the dancers who have helped influence the development of Yoga in America.

Group of Dancers from India              Photo courtesy: Scott Horton
  Group of Dancers from India              Photo courtesy: Scott Horton

C.W.B:  How did you become part of the S.F. Ethnic Dance Festival? we ask the Maestro.

C.C:  “I have been involved with the Festival since its beginning. During the late seventies, I was the choreographer and “Master of Dance” at the  San Francisco ballet and I ran my own company, “Dance Spectrum,” at a studio located on Mission Street, that was shared by  other dance companies. Around the same time, in the process of organizing the Festival, the City of San Francisco started contacting the Dance Directors of the different dance companies in the city. I was one of them, so since then, I have been connected with the Festival; at the beginning, as one of its creators and now as Co-Director.”

C.W.B.  What, in your opinion, will make his year's Festival outstanding?

C.C. “The quality of the dances.  When the Festival started, the dancing groups that were presented did not have the teachers that they have now. But lately many wonderful teachers have established themselves in the Bay Area, and they are training their students to dance at a professional level of dancing.

C.W.B. How many countries will be represented this year?

C.C: “This year we have twenty. Their dances are going to presented in two weekend’s programs (Saturdays and Sundays) with ten different dances in each program.”

C.W.B.  What countries will be represented this year?

C.C.: “Some of the countries are: India, Hawaii. Mexico, (La region de Oaxaca y Campeche ),  China, Africa, Scotland, Peru, (El Tunante)  Indonesia, Philippines (The “Colonial dances of the region), Zulu, Spain, (Flamenco)  Korea, the Middle East, Uzbekistan in Central Asia, USA (Harlem), and a group of  dancers who will dance the dances that were popular in the year 1915. On the June 27th weekend, there will be an special event presented on that day at 8pm. It will be the projection of four short films and the presentations of  the “Life-time Achievement Awards.”

One of the dancers of S.F.E.D.F.  Photo Courtesy: Scott Horton
One of the dancers of S.F.E.D.F.  Photo Courtesy: Scott Horton     

C.W.B:  What do you think is unique in the S.F. Ethnic Dance Festival ?

C.C. “The Festival itself. The S..F. Ethnic Dance Festival is unique around the world because all the dance companies who participate in the S.F. Festival are from the Bay Area. All the companies, have their Studios here, their dancers are from here, and they are trained here. In all the other dance festivals that I know, the companies come from somewhere else to participate in the festivals. Ours is the only international dance Festival where all the dancers are local. This Festival is also unique because of the high competitiveness (of the dancers) who auditioned to participate in the Festival. Those dancers who are presented, represent the highest quality in dancing, because what we display, are the best  elements of  each company. And the other thing unique in the Festival, is that it gives the audience a chance to see great dancers, but only once, because the groups, or the individual dancers within the groups, change every year”

Festival Co-directors  CARLOS CARVAJAL left and  CK  LADZKPO
 Festival Co-directors  CARLOS CARVAJAL left and  CK  LADZKPO
(from Ghana, Africa)                       Photo Courtesy of: Scott Horton

Founded in 1978  with Grants to the Arts from the City’s Hotel Taxes, the San Francisco Festival of Ethnic Dance  was the first  festival of multicultural Dance in America sponsored by the city. Its purpose is to present the regional dances of the different groups who reside in the Bay Area. In the year l982, after a legal- producing contract, the Festival was delegated to World Arts West and considered a City of San Francisco Celebration.

The 2015  Ethnic Festival will be presented at the Theatre of the  Palace of Fine Arts In San Francisco situated at 330l Lyon Street, San Francisco, 94123. There will be three programs:

Saturdays June 6 and June 13
A matinee at  2pm and a second show at 8 p.m. (same groups)

Sundays June 7 and June 14 (Different dances than previous show)
A matinee at  4pm.

June 27 four movies  at 8pm.
 For information and tickets go to:  or call (415) 392-4400