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Port Washington festival showcases Asian culture

Megha Kalia, center, of the Manhattan-based NYC Bhangra

Megha Kalia, center, of the Manhattan-based NYC Bhangra Dance Company, performs Indian Bhangra dance at the seventh annual Asian-American Festival, Saturday, May 21, 2016, at North Hempstead Beach Park. The community celebrated Asian cultures with music, dance, food, and crafts from throughout the world. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Traditional music and dance from Mongolia to Japan were on display Saturday — and sometimes given a modern twist.

An invitation from one Indian dancer — “Would you Bhangra with us?” — proved irresistible to some of those attending North Hempstead’s Seventh Annual Asian-American Festival.

The dance troop led children and adults through a Punjabi dance, simplified so that no one was left behind.

One opening move became the “roly-poly,” rotating one’s arms and hands around each other. The exercise concluded with double OK signs.

“They’re so Americanized but they still have their culture,” said Jean Bartholomew, 40, of Garden City, who lived in Japan for five years.

Singers performed Korean and American pop music after the more austere Japanese harpists.

Dedication and a love of the various art forms from Pakistan, India, Japan, Mongolia, China and Korea were the performers’ passports.

Nanami Horie, 11, of Port Washington, who performed a stylized dance in a red kimono, has been studying for five years.

“I wanted her to learn Japanese culture here in America ... and she likes it very much,” said her mother, Tomomi.

“This is my passion,” said Anju Jhawar, 44, of Woodbury, who holds a master’s in finance, before performing a Ghumar-style of dance from Rajhasthan.

The hundreds who attended despite the clouds and chilly temperature could try their hand at calligraphy and origami, don formal Korean dress, or enjoy Japanese or Chinese tea ceremonies.

Sometimes dodging raindrops, the crowd also sampled various Asian cuisines.

After lunching with her mother, one arts-and-craft-lover, Autumn Mayley, 7, painted a rainbow before moving on to decorative stamps.

“This year we liked the steamed pork buns and the red bean pastry — and we also liked the Indian rice,” said her mother, Donna Lee, 44, of Manhasset.

“We’re taking the Indian food, which is new to me,” said Fred Scala of Mineola, with his wife, Sarah.

Indian pancakes and red curry also found favor with two Manhattan parents, Wallis, 44, and Ron Yu, 50.

Karen, their 5-year-old daughter, however, stuck with macaroni and cheese from home.

Dancers from the Flushing-based RuDanceNY studio were among the performers, and director Bao Ru embraced the festival’s unifying nature, saying some of the traditional Chinese dances share formal and beautiful elements with their Latin counterparts.

And to him, the Tai Chi and kung fu performances revealed the underlying grace and even musicality in what perhaps is more commonly thought of as martial arts.

“There are very kinds of beautiful movements in the Tai Chi,” he said on Friday. “Tai Chi is a dance.”

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