The Washington Post

At this Folklife Festival, you can slide into foreign culture, forbidden dance


It’s once again the time of year when the Mall is transformed into a showcase of foreign cultures and historic folkways. There is so much to choose from, from obscure foods to colorful tribal dances. And it wouldn’t be a Folklife Festival if there weren’t searing heat alternating with the tent-shredding winds and random lightning strikes of a Washington thunderstorm.

I’m pretty sure that this year, the three themes of the free celebration are: “People of the Weasel: A Celebration of KrlsrgyziçCulture,” “Lambada: The Forbidden Dance” and “Slip ’n Sliding Away: Dangerous Toys From Your Childhood.”

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

Here’s what’s on tap for today:

11 a.m.

“Write Our Constitution.” Help the Krlsrgyziçlegislature write a constitution for the newly independent Caucasus nation. No experience necessary. Meet at the large yurt across from the Air and Space Museum.

“Syncopated Anarchy: The Political Ramifications of the Bahia Two-Step.” Simon Peltier, assistant professor of lambada studies at Llandudno Ladies College will discuss early efforts by colonial authorities to suppress the lambada. Note: No dancing is allowed.

“Watch Out!” Enjoy a no-holds-barred game of Jarts, a.k.a. lawn darts, on the big grassy, blood-stained field opposite the Hirshhorn. Note: Must sign waiver.


“KrlsrgyziçHot Pot.” Michelin zero-star chef Zumrud Ulduz prepares typical Krlsrgyziçcuisine, featuring savory dishes made from weasels, stoats, ferrets and otters. Note: Guests with dachshunds are advised to steer clear of the Mall during this session.

“Dance Dance Revolution: The Lambada War of 1927.” Helena Smythe-Fitzsimmons, adjunct professor of lambada studies at Saskatchewan State, presents an illustrated lecture on the brief Paraguay-Uruguay war that was sparked by differing interpretations of the step ball change. Note: No dancing is allowed.

“That’s Why God Gave You Two Eyes.” Enjoy a no-holds-barred BB gun experience. Aim at paper targets. Plink at tin cans. Pretend you’re William Tell and shoot an apple off your sister’s head. Note: Must sign waiver.

1 p.m.

“Face-Painting With Children the KrlsrgyziçWay!” Visitors to Krlsrgyzia often remark on the haunting artwork that adorns many public buildings. Learn the unique techniques required to create such wonders. Note: There is a $5 materials fee. Also, this is painting with children’s faces, not on children’s faces. If your child does not want his or her face dipped in a tray of paint and smeared across a canvas, please do not attend.

“Four Left Feet: Lambada and the Castros.” Professor Manuel Perez-Medina, chair of the Department of Lambada Studies at Havana Technical College, recounts how the weakening embers of the lambada were kept alive in the Sierra Maestra Mountains by Fidel and Raul Castro, who lifted the spirits of their demoralized guerilla fighters by dancing with one another late into the morning. Note: No dancing is allowed.

“Around the World in M-80 Days.” No mailbox is safe during this celebration of every juvenile delinquent’s favorite firecracker. Shatter the contemplative quiet of the Freer Gallery of Art’s courtyard by lighting the fuse on one of these babies and running like hell. Note: Must sign waiver.

2 p.m.

“The Cry of the Weasel.” Tap your feet to the musical stylings of Wlzekä!, the 130-member all-female folk rock group from Krlsrgyzia that won the coveted Loudest Act prize at the 1987 Eurovision Song Contest.

“ ‘Citizen Kane’ in a Leotard.” Jason Fresnel, assistant professor of film studies at Nebraska A&M, screens “The Forbidden Dance” and argues for a critical reexamination of the oft-maligned 1990 movie. Note: No dancing is allowed.

“Slippery When Wet.” We’ve set up the World’s Longest Slip ’n Slide, stretching from the foot of the U.S. Capitol all the way to the Washington Monument grounds and moistened by the hoses of 40 fire trucks. A terrifying trip on this slick, plastic runway promises to be the highlight of your summer. Note: Must sign waiver.

Send a kid to camp

You can’t put a price on a life-changing experience. But I’ll try. We’re in the midst of our annual fundraising drive for Camp Moss Hollow, a summer camp for at-risk kids from the Washington area. Fees for the camp are based on a family’s ability to pay. Many children pay nothing.

It costs Family Matters of Greater Washington, the charity that runs Moss Hollow, about $700 per child that goes to camp. That covers all the costs involved: counselors, food, transportation, insurance, etc. A donation of $700 will cover one camper. Or send part of a kid: $350 for half a camper; $70 for a tenth of one. I’m thankful for a gift of any amount.

To make your tax-deductible donation, simply go to and click where it says, “Give Now.” Or send a check, made payable to “Send a Kid to Camp,” to Send a Kid to Camp, Family Matters of Greater Washington, P.O. Box 200045, Pittsburgh, PA 15251-0045.

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