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Meet the folks: Cultures mingle at Folkmoot World Friendship Day event

moot folksThe whirling skirts and clacking heels of Folkmoot USA represent eight different nations spanning the globe, but while the diversity makes for a beautiful spectacle, having all those languages in one place can make verbal communication a little difficult. There’s not much similarity between English, Russian and Chinese, but dance is universal. 

“Music is an international language,” said Concord resident Mary Talbert, who traveled to see the Folkmoot dancers with her daughter Misty Mowrey. 

Sunday’s World Friendship Day performance at Lake Junaluska gave performers and spectators alike the chance to bond over that international dialect. And when not onstage, performers hung around outside the auditorium, doing their best to communicate with their audience in a language that transcends words. 

For Mowrey and one dancer from Colombia, that language was makeup. Mowrey had tried to ask the woman how long she’d been a dancer but quickly realized she spoke no English. Instead, Mowrey pointed to the woman’s elaborate eye makeup, smiling that it was beautiful. 

“Of course, women can always communicate about eye makeup, so we exchanged joy over that,” Mowrey said. 

The exchange goes both ways. Folkmoot performers said they were impressed by the reception Western North Carolina has given them. 

“He was a little concerned when he was coming here, in light of political events around the world, they would not be greeted too warmly, but he’s been impressed by the hospitality he’s received,” said Western Carolina University graduate student Dianna Kuzmich, translating for Russian group member Alexander Osipov. Osipov added that American visitors to Russia would receive the same grace. 

Like Osipov, Colombian group member Ligia Zaraza Forero has nothing but good things to say about her first visit to America. 

“The people are spectacular,” Forero said in Spanish. “Very respectful. We are delighted.”

She marveled at how clean the cities are, how beautiful the mountains are and how organized everything seems to be. 

“It is very organized here,” she said. “Everybody has their rules, and they follow them.”

And it’s not just the culture that is different, Forero said. Central Colombia, where she’s from, is full of mountains and stays pretty chilly. You always need a jacket. Forero is enjoying the fruits in WNC, and plenty of other kinds of food as well. 

“We’re getting fat,” she said. “The dancers, they can’t. Very rich, very rich, the food.”

Rich, too, were the dances. Joy was evident on the performers’ faces as they shared the heritage of their home countries on the stage at Lake Junaluska, and the audience had a good time, too. 

“They stayed in their seats, but there was an awful lot of foot tapping,” said Asheville resident Mary Mayo, who brought her two granddaughters to the show. 

“The guys were kind of cute, too,” added Selah Washburn, 11. 

Washburn was especially enamored of one performer from Trinadad, which just goes to show that though language and culture may vary, some things transcend nationality. Maybe Washburn’s way of expressing that is a little different than what you might hear from a more formal kind of diplomat, but it’s a lesson that the performers have learned already during their time in the U.S.

“People are people everywhere, and not everyone looks at the world through political eyes,” Osipov said. 

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