Festival brings international dancers to Tupelo

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The moves and motions of Singapore and Finland will be on display in Tupelo on Saturday, courtesy of the Yocona International Folk Festival.
The festival showcases international dancers at performances throughout north Mississippi.
This year’s festival features the Lipokkaat dancers of Finland, the Reitoku Kai Japanese dancers of Singapore and the Tenko Japanese drummers. The Cripple Creek Cloggers of Tennessee also will perform.
“It’s a cultural exchange between these countries and us in Mississippi,” said the festival’s director, Mary Sloan. The dancers show off their moves in north Mississippi, but they also get to tour the state, from the Delta to Elvis Presley’s birthplace.
Naya Reitoku, who teaches dance in Singapore, said he is presenting traditional Japanese dances.
“We will be doing Japanese classical and folk dancing. We’ll be presenting some geisha dances, in full geisha makeup and costumes,” he said.
Fifteen drummers make up the Tenko Japanese Drummers, he said. Their program involves some dancing as well.
In light of Toyota’s investment in the region, the folk festival is about more than culture, Sloan said.
“We’re in a global economy now, and it’s really important that our children learn why it’s important to learn a foreign language and why they need to learn math to do exchange rates – it’s to be a global citizen, not just the citizen of a small town in Mississippi,” she said.
“It’s not just an economic development issue, it’s a world peace issue. It’s learning about how other people live.”

Contact Sheena Barnett at (662) 678-1580 or sheena.barnett@djournal.com.

Folk festival
- When: 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, children’s workshops, music, storytelling, folk dancing. Free. 7 p.m. Saturday, family performances.
- Cost: $10/adults, $5/students and senior citizens
- Where: Link Centre Reception Hall, rear of building
- Info: yoconafestival.org
Sunday, too.
- The Yocona Festival wraps up Sunday at the Grove at Ole Miss. Starting at noon and going to 9 p.m., there will be performances by the dancers, educational activities and a twilight candle walk. Sunday’s events are free.