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Arts fests spice up summer

By Elisabetta ColettiSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / June 11, 1999


Your neighbors are already charring hamburgers on their backyard grill. The kids are counting down the weeks, days, minutes until school lets out. Adolescent boys are spitting watermelon seeds at each other. It's time to fish out the swimsuits and, ugh, wear them - in public.

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Among these harbingers of summer is the annual mushrooming of arts festivals across North America. Long weekends and vacations beckon you to crush into the SUV, take to the open road, and engage in the ritual of family outings.

Why not sneak a little Culture 101 in between your jaunts to the beach and theme parks? From learning to hula and belly dance at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival to getting a breathtaking glimpse of the Bard at Shakespeare & Co. in the Berkshires, there's something extraordinary for fans of all ages.

For fun-in-the-sun, consider events like the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the Central Park Summer Stage events in New York, and the 1999 Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Ore. For more highbrow fare, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C., and the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C., are spectacular venues. Remember to buy tickets and make travel arrangements as soon as possible.

CALIFORNIA SAN FRANCISCO SAN FRANCISCO ETHNIC DANCE FESTIVAL June 11-27. Some of the world's most eclectic dance troupes descend on the Bay Area, performing Irish, Cambodian, flamenco, and other styles. (415) 392-4400

CANADA MONTREAL MONTREAL INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL July 1-11. Downtown Montreal is the colorful setting for one of the world's greatest jazz parties. In its 20th year, the festival will host such biggies as Branford Marsalis, Toots Thielemans, and Paco de Lucia. (888) 515-0515

COLORADO ASPEN MUSIC FESTIVAL June 24-Aug. 22. The chic ski resort transforms itself a classical- music powerhouse. Bernard Rands's new opera "Belladonna"- commissioned for the festival - and Mozart's "Cos Fan Tutte" will be highlights of the 50th anniversary season. (970) 925-9042

TELLURIDE BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL June 17-20. Some down-home fun in the Rockies with headliners Willie Nelson, Earl Scruggs, Shawn Colvin, Ricky Scaggs, and Kentucky Thunder. (888) 783-0257

CONNECTICUT NEW HAVEN INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS AND IDEAS June 18-July 3. An eclectic mish-mash of cultural delights - from the Manhattan Transfer to the puppet group Hugo and Ines and Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company's production of "Troilus and Cressida." (888) 278-4332

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DANCE PLACE Through Aug. 22. The nation's capital plays host to an exciting lineup of dance performances. A tribute to tap and the dances of Africa are featured. (202) 269-1600

GEORGIA ATLANTA GEORGIA SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL Through Aug. 15. One of the country's newest festivals moves into a new 510 seat auditorium with productions such as "Romeo and Juliet" and Shaw's "Saint Joan." (404) 264-0020

ILLINOIS CHICAGO GRANT PARK MUSIC FESTIVAL June 19-Aug.21 The free lakefront concert series opens with Jubilant Sykes and the Grant Park Symphony. (312) 819-0614

HIGHLAND PARK RAVINIA FESTIVAL Through-Sept. 6. The Chicago Symphony hosts such notables as Frederica von Stade and Yo-Yo Ma. Contemporary acts include Chris Isaak and Cowboy Junkies. (847) 266-5100

MASSACHUSETTS THE BERKSHIRES Becket JACOB'S PILLOW June 23-Aug. 29. The lovely Berkshires are the backdrop for this acclaimed celebration of dance. Headliners include the Mark Morris Dance Group, Nina Ananiashvili, and the Bolshoi Ballet. The Sean Curran Company will premire a new work set to the music of Seamus Egan, an Irish composer. (413) 243-0745

Lenox Through Oct. 17 SHAKESPEARE & CO. Tina Packer's renowned theater group, considered by many to be the country's premier Shakespearean company, performs "Richard III," "Love's Labor's Lost," and others. (413) 637-3353