According to co-founder Christina Heimlich, the idea for the International Children's Festival was born 35 years ago over a cup of coffee. Catherine Shouse, who donated the land that became Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, suggested to Heimlich that she begin a children's festival, said Heimlich.
"I said, 'Wouldn't it be nice if we could make it international?'" said Heimlich, who came to the U.S. from Germany 55 years ago and founded a dance troupe, the Christina Heimlich Dancers.
At the 35th annual International Children's Festival, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 17 and Sunday, Sept. 18, Heimlich’s dance troupe will join local performers and young dancers from around the world at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. The outdoor festival, organized by the Arts Council of Fairfax County, will feature dance, music, storytelling and crafts.
"[The festival] is designed to bring children of other cultures to perform for the children of Fairfax County," said Ann Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Arts Council. "Over the years, it has come to be considered as a premier example of connecting cultures through language and art."
Dancers from Mexico, Georgia, India and Nigeria will perform at noon both days, said Rodriguez, and at 2 p.m., award-winning musical duo Trout Fishing in America will perform on the Filene Center stage. Local performers will appear onstage at the Meadow Pavilion and Theatre in the Woods, said Rodriguez.
The festival also features the hands-on Creative Kids workshops, where children of all ages can make crafts from around the world, as well as the Arts & Technology Pavilion, where adults and children can take place in activities from DJ sampling and scratching to animation.
"It’s a festival experience, from the time you park your car and come up to the gates of Wolf Trap," said Rodriguez.
The festival will be preceded by the four-day World Cultures Enrichment Program, she said, where the international youth dancers perform for fifth-graders from across the Washington, D.C. area.
Chveni Shvilebi, a youth dance troupe based in Tbilisi, Georgia, will dance at the festival, with Bharat Kala Sangam from Udiapur, India, the St. Gloria Cultural Troupe from Lagos, Nigeria and the Folklore Ballet American School of Puebla, Mexico. After the children perform, said Rodriquez, they will go sightseeing in D.C.
"Kids from four separate parts of the world, speaking four different languages, that’s part of the enrichment program as well," she said. "It’s really all for the kids. That’s what we say around here."
This year, said Heimlich, her dancers will perform to music by Aaron Copeland. She teaches dance forms from across the European continent, she said, but this year, will focus on America.
"It is children dancing for children," she said. "Now they bring children from other countries over, and I think that is very educational and wonderful."
"It is one day this year when the entire park is really opened up to children and families," said Chris Guerre, assistant director of media relations at Wolf Trap. "It’s a great time for children and families to enjoy the 130 acres of Wolf Trap National Park."