The eighth annual Woodstock Goddess Festival, held at the Colony Café March 8, 9 and 10, celebrates the feminine for a good cause: the Ulster County Battered Women’s Shelter, which will receive 80 percent of the proceeds (the remaining 20 percent will go to the Colony). Helping victims of domestic violence is one good reason to shell out the $12 per night or $7 per day admission charge for performances by numerous local and metropolitan New York City-area musicians, dancers and poets. An almost equally compelling reason to attend on Friday and Saturday nights is the variety of belly dancing. On Friday evening, Mala Desai performs a classical Indian dance, called Odissi, followed by Jenny C. and Marreskeh of Vida Wellness and Bev and Andrea of Shakti Tribal, journeying up to Woodstock from New Jersey. The Wild Roses (pictured above), Audrie Bellydance Troupe (also from New Jersey) and Angelique perform their version of belly dance on Saturday night. There will also be workshops at which you can try some hip-swiveling moves yourself.
It will be a great opportunity to compare styles, danced in top form. Desai, for example, who has performed in India and America and recently completed her fellowship for the New York Foundation for the Arts Folk/Traditional Artists Development Program with a performance at the Queens Botanical Gardens, will dance a Mangalacharan (translated as “an auspicious beginning”) with Pushpanjali (“a floral offering”) and Bhoomi Pranam (“seeking blessings and forgiveness from the Earth)” to Sanskrit poetry. She’ll also dance the Trikhandi Pranam (“salutations to the Lord, guru and audience”) and finish with a Pallavi, accompanied by a classical Indian raga. Andrea and Beverly, of Shakti Tribal, will showcase what they call “American Tribal Style,” which is “earthy, sensual, powerful and grounding.”
Other types of dance include Korean, performed by Karen Kriegel, creative director of the World Dance Initiative in New York City, wearing an elaborate traditional costume, on Friday night. Although she is not Korean, the former Juilliard student said that Korean traditional dance appeals to her because it is similar to jazz, with movements tied to the breath.
The bands include Fre Atlast and her women’s drumming group; Electric Rubyfish Band, a local group that plays danceable rock; and the Liana Turner Band, all on Friday night. Saturday night will open with kirtan chanting and bells, followed by Elizabeth Clark and Mama Lama and Hemingway’s Cat. Most of the performers are female, of course.
A poetry festival is scheduled for Sunday, from 4 to 8 p.m. Host Teresa Costa will read from her work and introduce six performers: singer Jennifer Lewis Bennett, actress/comedienne Audrey Rapoport, poet/fiction writer Sonia Pilcer and poets Alison Koffler, Patricia Martin and Cheryl Rice. In between the readings there will be time for members of the audience to read their stuff. “You can read anything you want, as long as it’s not violent and against women,” said Costa, noting the Festival will end with a performance by the Woodstock Collective, a woman-led band, at 8 p.m. There will also be an art exhibit throughout the Festival.
Men shouldn’t be shy about attending; in fact, it was a male, Jean Desjardins, who founded the Festival in 2001. “I appreciate the feminine very much,” said Desjardins, noting that he took a break from the Festival for a few years while visiting Japan and marrying and settling down with his Japanese wife.
Desjardins, whose areas of expertise include organic gardening and wilderness skills, which he teaches to children, credits Bob Marley’s mother with inspiring him to start the Festival. He met her at the Coconut Grove farmers’ market shortly after his mother died, and worked for her briefly as a cook, then became her masseuse. Eventually Desjardins returned from Florida to the Hudson Valley, where he was born and raised, and launched the Festival. “She encouraged me to do good things,” he said.
Woodstock Goddess Festival, Friday/Saturday, March 8/9, 7 p.m. -1 a.m., $12; Woodstock Goddess Poetry Festival, Sunday, March 10, 4-8 p.m., $7; Colony Café, Rock City Road, Woodstock.