BOX Festival will highlight the talents of other cultures

By Christina Killion Valdez

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

On Wednesday six Rochester teens put aside their college applications, homework and teen life to dance.

With just two days to go before the Rochester World Festival talent show, and just one chance to show the city the traditional Indian dance they’ve worked on for two months, the teens wanted to get everything right. They even set up a camera to record their recent run-through for the talent show.

"There really aren’t that many places in Rochester for us to do our dances," said Prerana Bhatia, a senior at Century High School, who choreographed the fast-paced dance that the group will perform Friday. Outside of two Indian festivals put on by the local Hindu temple, the Rochester World Festival is the only place they’ve found to perform, she said. But in addition to being a rare opportunity for the dancers, it’s also a major event.


Now in its 33rd year, the world festival hosted by the Rochester International Association has become the largest multicultural event in Minnesota south of the Twin Cities, attracting thousands of visitors and hundreds of participants.

The majority of the festival takes place Saturday, with a parade of nations, dozens of cultural displays representing the diversity of the region, a buffet of ethnic foods and a variety of children’s activities. New this year will be a marketplace bazaar and a full performance schedule, including belly dancers, Aztec dancers and a Native American drum group.

Bhatia and one of her fellow dancers, Anne Barlow, also plan to do henna tattoos during Saturday’s festival. Yet it’s Friday night’s performance that they are most looking forward to.

On that night the audience will be focused on the performers, which include a Scottish bagpiper, the RCTC World Drum Group, Colombian, Filipino, Swiss and Chinese dancers, the Suzuki violin group, the Berne SwissFest Alpenhorns and a guitarist from Mexico. And it’s then that the female dancers will wrap themselves in traditional Indian dresses called chaniya choli and the men will don kurtas and dance with shiny, aluminum sticks called dandiyas in a rhythm traditional to western India.

Raas is the first traditional dance Bhatia, who tends to favor Bollywood moves, has choreographed, she said. To do so she watched several videos online and drew from what she learned as a child growing up in India, she said. She and two other dancers, Shruthi Murali and Shweta Chhugani, were born in India; the other three, Barlow, Patrick Mader and Andrew Weckwerth are all Caucasian.

"They call themselves the two whitest guys," Bhatia said about Weckwerth and Mader. Yet she said it’s easier to get Americans involved in dancing than other Indians her age. "They like to hear about it but not do it," she said.

For her and the other dancers, though, it’s not only important to learn about Indian culture, but also to share it with others.

Rochester World Festival


World Talent Show

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Mayo High School Auditorium, 1430 11th Ave. S.E., Rochester

Admission: $8, $4 for students and children, $20 for a family pass.

World Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Mayo High School

Admission: Free.


For more information, go to

Rochester International Association World Festival

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