This was a fun little ditty to write for the SF Chronicle–and Penni Gladstone snagged some colorful photos:

“The rest of San Francisco may have been frigid Sunday afternoon, but it was positively tropical in the Palace of Fine Arts’ Dressing Room B, where two dozen women in bikini tops and towering headdresses practiced hip swivels and fluffed the pom-poms on each other’s grass skirts.

“They’re saying it’s a good crowd out there,” called Lisa Aguilar, director of the Te Mana O Te Ra, a Tahitian dance company. She wore a batik-printed robe and a priestess-style hat, and she looked like she meant business. “You set the momentum. You’re going to make this rock ‘n’ roll for the rest of the afternoon. All right?”

“Five, six, seven, eight,” the dance captain shouted as Aguilar looked on sternly, and the room filled with the swish of straw and muffled calls of “Oh sorry, sorry” as the women ran through their steps — and into one another — in the too-tight space.

But what are close confines to keep you from rehearsing when an appearance in the 29th annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival is on the line? More than 100 dance groups from across Northern California converged to compete for about 25 spots Friday through Monday.

The auditions were packed with “It’s a Small World” moments: flamenco dancers in polka-dot shawls charging to their warm-up room, while Indian folk dancers folded sari pleats; a Polish dancer in embroidered black pants stopping a 14-year-old Peruvian star to check out his badge, which bore a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Korean performers floated onstage with feathered fans, while Mexican folklorico mujeres high-fived around the water cooler. Tango vixens waved their hands — the silent backstage stand-in for clapping — as a Bharatanatyam practitioner rushed for the wings, panting. It could have been a pep rally for the United Nations.

But it was all local. And the pressure was on. The house was nearly full, packed not only with friends and family, but also curious dance fans happy to check out the smorgasbord of styles for just $7 a day. And in the center row sat the eight expert panelists there to decide which groups would win a coveted spot in June’s big show.”

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