Calendar Highlights: July-August 2008


Sake Dancing Drunken dancing to welcome the souls of ancestors? The Awa-Odori Festival (August 12-15) in Tokushima City, Japan, celebrates just that during the Buddhist Bon season, when spirits are thought to return. The dance dates back to 1587, when townspeople drank too much sake to mark the completion of the Tokushima Castle. Mimic those dancers' energetic yet unsteady movements alongside locals: Dress in yukata (summer kimonos), separate by gender and parade through the city to drums, gongs, three-stringed traditional instruments and flutes.

Pacific Arts The 10th Festival of Pacific Arts (July 20 to August 2) brings together more than 27 islands from across the Pacific -- from Easter Island to Palau -- to unite through art. There are no competitions, but participants (especially the island youth) work and train yearround to earn the honor of representing their island. At this year's festival on American Samoa, attend workshops on traditional navigation and canoeing, learn to prepare indigenous meals, confer with experts on oral chants or watch native tattoo masters perform.

Hear the D.R. Beat Pay tribute to the Dominican Republic's musical heartbeat at the Merengue Festival of Santo Domingo (July 24-27), where the streets fill with a harmony of melodeons, guiras and tamboras. Each year dancers swing their hips in time to a fast, aggressive beat -- a display of the music's risque beginnings, when lyrics told passionate stories of love. Today the island's official music describes politics, current events and everyday life. Enjoy performances by local musicians, including Kinito Méndez and Fernando Villalona.