Thursday, April 3, 2014

Festival of Nations at Dollywood - Mother Africa and La Danza de Columbia

Some of you know how much my family loves to visit Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We especially enjoy going during the times when the various festivals are taking place in the park. When the park opens each year in the spring, usually around the third week in March, it welcomes guests with an extravaganza called the Festival of Nations.

This year the Festival of Nations opened on March 21, 2014 and runs through April 21, 2014. This season marks the 29th year of this festival. We have attended the festival a number of times and it seems to get better with each passing year. This year, we went into the park on the first two days, March 21st (a day for pass-holders) and March 22nd. I took a lot of pictures and am posting a number of them here, in hopes of giving anyone who might be thinking of visiting during the Festival of Nations some idea of the first-rate character of the shows. On the first day, we attended two of the biggest shows of the festival. I always enjoy sharing with my readers the things we like to do and the places we enjoy visiting and what goes on at these places.

The first show we attened is named Mother Africa and features  a group of extraordinarily talented artists from, of course, Africa. This troupe is composed of a number of top-notch professional musicians, singers, dancers, acrobats, contortionists and more! It takes place in Dollywood's enormous DP's Celebrity Theater. Because of our proximity and distance from the stage and the lighting effects (low and mystical), my pictures are not as vivid as I would have liked. You can go here to get a more close up look at the troupe, if you like.

You can see the backgrounds and stage props bring to mind the animals in the jungles of the continent. The costuming in the opening act is tribal in nature and the singing and music is, as well. Throughout the show, the music and dancing ranges from tribal and native to modern and funky. It was all very lively and entertaining.
Mother Africa at Dollywood's Festival of Nations
The young man wearing a blue costume in the picture below is the most mind-boggling contortionist I have ever seen. At one point, he bends totally over, backwards, with the backs of his legs touching all the way up the length of his back, like a folded sheet of paper. He then places a ring about the size of a round dinner platter or embroidery hoop over his backwards-bent body and performs a lot of other feats while he is in that ring. Truly, truly, amazing!
Contortionist in Mother Africa

This picture is of one of the acrobats, whom I should mention are solid muscle, who continues to balance on his hands on top of the chairs as they are  being added and, at the very top of the pile, two stacks of blocks is added, one by one. Then each block is removed, one at a time, and each chair, while he remains balanced upside down on his hands, as the stack of chairs decreases. Oh my arms are breaking, just thinking about holding myself up at all, not to mention for that long! Honestly, you have to see these people to understand how mind-blowing it all is to behold. I was holding my breath, as there is no net to catch him if he falls.

An Astounding Acrobat in Mother Africa

This beautiful young woman is incredible, in that she is able to keep an unbelievable number of hoops, added one at a time, twirling around on her body and move to the music at the same time.

Mother Africa  Performer with Many Twirling Hoops
These are just a few of the awesome acts in the Mother Africa Show. There is much more, but I was not able to get pictures clear enough to share with you.

At the end of the show's performance, the gracious and beautiful Dolly Parton came out on stage to welcome everyone to the park and Festival of Nations.

 La Danza de Columbia, another new show for the festival this year, is spectacular. The narration, music, dancing and costuming are extraordinary. The performance takes place in the Show Street Palace Theater. The entire performance is narrated and accompanied by the songs and music of a wonderful band. I was not able to capture all of them in this picture.  
The Band of La Danza de Columbia at Dollywood's Festival of Nations

The bands costumes are beautiful in pristine white and red. Their music is wonderful!

The narrator tells the audience some of the history of Columbia as the show progresses along. He tells of the rich cultural, ethnic and industrial aspects of the country over the years as the performers illustrate, through their costumes and dancing, the rich and diverse cultures of this beautiful country.

To represent Columbia's background of farming, including the working of cattle, the dancers in the following pictures are wearing costumes that exemplify the clothing that would be worn by the gauchos and llaneros for those activities and by the women in their lives. Different parts of the country wear different clothing. Some carry guns and others swords and whips. If you understand the lively and exuberant nature of dancing in this country, you will appreciate how difficult it is to catch these photos in still frame while using my tiny point and shoot camera. Therefore, it is my hope that you will understand and enjoy my imperfect effort.

The pictures do not do the performers or their costumes due justice. The women are drop-dead gorgeous and the handsome men could make many a heart skip a beat. And the costumes, well they are so luxurious and flamboyant as to take one's breath away. They are totally outrageous, with so much rich and vibrantly colored satin and all the lace and ruffles. I have never seen more beautiful costuming! I have heard that the people of this country have a great passion and love of dancing, the use of vibrant color and extravagant clothing and if this is any example, then surely it must be true!

Here are some red gingham dresses that somehow do not seem at all plain or simple to me. They, too, are gorgeous!

Here is an enactment of a young and flirting couple in the act of courting.

In the seaside villages and towns of Columbia, fishing is a very important way of life, so is represented in the performance, as well. There is no lack of color here either!

 Here is another couple in courting.
  These pictures will show still more elaborately vibrant and lustrous costuming, though it is difficult for my simple little camera to catch the wonderful movement that is taking place in the dance. 
 Aren't these ponchos wonderfully colorful?

I was able to capture a portion of the grand finale and aren't these people beautiful?

Here is another link to Dollywood where you can read more about La Danze de Columbia.

Mother Africa kept us on the edge of our seats. It is chock full of high drama and breath-holding anticipation. The many and varied talents of all the performers is magnificent. La Danze de Columbia offers an awe inspiring display of unsurpassed beauty and sumptuous color and awesome talent and entices me to visit Columbia.

Both shows are wonderful and helped to make our morning in the park spectacular.

A day at Dollywood is always immensely entertaining and great fun and this one was no exception!
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