Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cracking the Codes: A 21st Century Conversation About Race

This weekend was as full as usual. I found myself juggling events, trading one for another and disappointed that I could not be in three places at once. I found out this afternoon that Luisa Tuish hosted a ritual at the beach Saturday morning to send prayers and light to the gulf region where lives are being lost and lives are forever changed as the oil continues to spill into the sea.

I'd planned to get by the Wise Women event that afternoon to see Nikki Giovanni, who has a new collection describing how much she loves her bicycle, but my younger daughter had a horrific car accident early that same morning and the day was spent having the car towed, calling insurers, and visiting the hospital.

She walked away from an accident which could have been deadly. I went to opening night of the final weekend of the Ethnic Dance Festival. It was marvelous, with companies representing Afgahnistan--a company I really enjoyed, the live music and lovely costumes, the women in long colorful scarves and dresses which they twirled as they turned.

Another company with lovely costumes and choreography performed dance from Boliva--the men wore feathered head dresses which rotated like wheels and the women had on white flowered head dresses. When they leaned forward so that their faces disappeared it looked like a field of flowers. Other head ornaments were hats which looked like flower pots...these festive costumes and the lively music just enhanced a marvelous performance.

There were a couple of a solo artists, between the larger company works. One was a belly dancer. Her belly was too small...she was too skinny. Cute, great personality, but physically didn't have what it took to pull it off. When she used her scarf to bring in the Red Sea, the inspiration for the piece "Progression" one could see the rippling water, sunlight reflected on its surface and the light beneath its surface as the dancer interpreted the folkloric baladi progression in a modern way.

Wan-Chao Dance company's "Follow the Footprints," incorporated choreography of the normatic traditions from Balkan dance style, the Central Asian steppes. One could see the influences of Turkish, Arabic, medieval European and Persian influences in the choreography as the women took their audience along certain migratory roots.

The company from Zimbabwe, the Chinyakare Ensemble, was excellent--the three women the women moved gracefully with a basket of grain on their heads. Drummers sang and played as the company members also sang...their bodies fluid as they shifted from one dance to another. It was really exciting as one company segued into the next, often showcasing two styles and repertoires at one time.

Such was the case with Shabna (Persian tradition) and Las Bomberas de La Bahia (Puerto Rican tradition).

The ensemble, Imani's Dream were a favorite. This year the piece, A Rose That Grew from Concrete, based on the Tupac Shakur poem was the theme, while company members whose ages ranged from five or six to young adult executed their moves with skill and amazing procession, especially three youth who soloed and also improvised using hip hop phrases such as upper body locking and breaking and spinning. One dancers danced on his head.

Charya Burt Cambodian Dance company was so elegant, each movement measured as one of the three dancers turned her head, bent a wrist or lifted an ankle. The dance, Vileer Churuar Knear explored "the dancer's journey from isolation as an American immigrant into new found possibilities," the choreographer sang at the end in a plaintive voice. Perhaps the slow movement or measured pace reflects the passage of time as acculturation takes place.

Sunday, I bopped over to Samuel Merritt University for the World Trust event which was a fundraiser for Shakti Butler's latest film: Cracking the Codes: A 21st Century Conversation About Race--excellent film. I can't wait until it is completed. Dr. Butler includes new voices as well as a familiar face, Ericka Huggins. As we watched the film, we were asked to take notes and then between the three segments had a conversation within small informal groups within the auditorium.

We then shared our comments.

There was a reception afterward where people mingled and continued to talk. I connected with an old friend and got a chance to meet Dr. Butler's husband and daughter and grandchildren, along with others.

I dashed home, changed clothes and ran over to La Pena Cultural Center for Jovelyn Richards's newest work: Ma. Pat's House, the story of a brothel, and its inhabitants. She had a live band and the piece was certainly provocative as Richards told the stories of how each person ended up at the house...the circumstances which landed them at 515...Street whether that was becasue a woman's husband learned that his wife was "passing" as white (and was really black) or the woman could make the weather change when she danced--snow in the summer, or a boy liked to wear women's clothes...each story had its own song...particular sadness and a room in a house where all seemed welcome and all was taken care of and all were loved.


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