Tag Archive | "Music"

[VIDEO] Sounds of Brazil in Midtown

[VIDEO] Sounds of Brazil in Midtown

Brazilian guitarist João Kouyoumdjian performed at the Brazilian Endowment for the Arts in New York City on East 52nd St. Nia Phillips reports on how the young musician is breathing new life into the classics.

Produced by Colleen McKown.

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A Belly Dancer Unlike Others

Belly-dancing is a sensual dance from the Middle-East involving hip-shaking and sensual belly movement. One New York performer is standing in the face of the long-held tradition that the dance is just for women… Eléonore Hamelin reports. Produced by Salim Essaid.

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Teaching Dance Without Language

By Elaisha Stokes

Peniel Guerrier doesn’t speak much and when he does, it’s in Haitian Creole, a language his students don’t understand. But the barrier is not important for this respected dance teacher, who believes the art of movement should be taught with the body, and not the tongue.

Every Friday at the Djoniba Dance Center in the East Village, Guerrier teaches a group of about 20 dance students and five drummers the tradition of Haitian folkloric dance.

“You don’t speak dance, you dance dance,” said Guerrier. “And that is what I do.”

On a recent day, Guerrier’s class was packed with gyrating students. Their feet stomped and hips thrust, while shoulders and butts moved awkwardly in unison. Most of the students in Guerrier’s class have little or no dance experience. None of them are Haitian.  Guerrier stood at the front of the room, dressed in a red T-shirt and oversized batik pants, dancing gracefully When he clapped, it sounded like lightning. Guerrier did not say a word – and for good reason.  It would be hard to compete with the aggressive pounding of the drums. All of his teaching is done through mimicry and eye contact.

“Dance is physical,” said Guerrier, “and so it should be taught with the body, not with the voice.”

Haitian folkloric dance is an African-based tradition that incorporates a rich variety of physical movements with the rhythms of the drum. There is no hard data on the number of dancers who practice the tradition, but Guerrier remains one of only two notable teachers in New York City.  An hour and a half group dance class with Guerrier costs $17.

While Haitian dance is closely linked to Vodou culture, Guerrier is adamant that his classes are strictly agnostic. For Guerrier, dance is a physical exercise that assures well being of both body and soul.

“What we are teaching here is physical movement,” said Guerrier. “It’s about connecting with your body first.”

Though dance has long been a central part of Guerrier’s life, his true passion has always been education. He attended L’Ecole Nationale des Arts for one year before opening a preschool in Haiti dedicated to teaching the arts. Since moving to America, his efforts have been focused on promoting Haitian cultural traditions through his organization, Tamboula D’Haiti, an educational and dance company.

“Promote, preserve and educate,” said Guerrier. “That’s my motto.”

Guerrier’s teaching technique begins by demonstrating a choreographed sequence of dance steps to his students. The room is then divided into two groups, which face one another. Each groups repeats the movement sequence one at a time, like a bizarre mating ritual. When a student falls behind, Guerrier rushes to their side. He looks them straight in the eye and paces their movements with his own, always remaining silent.

“It’s incredible,” said Eleanor Simon, a senior citizen and 10-year veteran of Guerrier’s class who lives in New Jersey, “Guerrier just knows how to get you to tap into your inner self. He could be looking in the opposite direction from you, and yet he will know exactly when you make a mistake.”

Guerrier said his teaching method is based on years of experience and a belief that the most effective means of communication is often non-verbal.

“When you teach, you have to pay attention to the details,” said Guerrier. “I work with old people, young people, even disabled people. Communication is the key.”

Tessa Wright, 31, agreed. She has been attending Guerrier’s class on and off for the last six years. The tall thin graphic designer started life as a ballerina, but an accident left her with an injury that forced her to leave her dancing life behind. Beyond this, she had grown tired with the dogmatic rigidity of the ballet tradition. When she discovered Haitian folkloric dancing, it was a revelation.

“Haitian dance is a whole new skill set,” said Wright. “It feels more natural than ballet. There’s a lyricism to the movements.”

The movements by their very nature are incredibly complex, accompanying a drum beat that moves at speeds as fast as 260 beats per a minute. Guerrier is adamant that drumming is a critical component in Haitian dance. He considers it to be so critical, in fact, that he teaches a drumming class at the same time as his dance class.

A select group of Haitian students are invited to attend. There is no fee for this service. Guerrier views it as an important component of keeping the folkloric tradition alive. Kenny Joseph, a 21-year-old newcomer, said that learning to drum has helped him connect to his Haitian roots. He said he loves contributing to Guerrier’s dance classes because they allow him to practice his craft.

“Drumming and dancing work hand in hand,” said Joseph. “You can see the rhythm of the drums in the movement of the dancers. You can’t have one without the other.”

Guerrier’s current focus is the launch of a series of educational DVD’s which he hopes will help bring Haitian folkloric dance to a larger audience. He is also working with his students to prepare for their recital next May. It’s a long way off, but it’s a chance for Guerrier to showcase Haitian culture to a larger audience.

“I want to do everything I can to positively promote my culture,” said Guerrier. “Haiti needs to be viewed in a more positive light.”

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Beyond Riverdance: Irish Dancing in New York City

When the Irish immigrated to America, they took their music with them. Traditional music sessions are a staple in Irish pubs across New York. Now the sessions are accompanied more and more by Irish dancing. Jake Heller reports. Produced by Ines Novacic.

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Slideshow: The “Subway Sinatra” Kicks off the Marathon

by Olivia Smith

Gary Russo, aka 2nd Avenue Subway Sinatra, was working on an MTA project when he started singing on his lunch breaks. With the help of YouTube, Russo is now world famous. He was asked to sing at the New York City Marathon this year, where he performed at the starting line on the Verrazano Bridge.

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Video: At a Dance Festival in Queens, Colombians Reconnect with their Culture

At the Encuentro Dance Festival, Colombians connect back to their culture through food, music, and, of course, dancing. Many people may only know Colombia for its drug problems, and the festival tries to teach people about the rich culture Colombia has to offer. Daniel Fetecua Soto is a charismatic dance instructor who teaches people traditional Colombian steps, and tries to get everyone to have a good time. Leisha Majtan filed this report from Town Hall in Flushing.

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On the Day of the Lord of Miracles, Peruvians Carry Christ

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by Nathan Vickers

Men in purple robes flooded the streets of Paterson, NJ on a recent Sunday to celebrate Peru’s most notable holiday, the Day of the Lord of Miracles.

The holiday celebrates the survival of a religious painting, the only thing left after the destruction of a church in a Lima earthquake 350 years ago. Peruvians regard the painting’s preservation as a miracle, a sign of God’s blessings bestowed upon Peru.

Now, in a month most people would associate with the colors black and orange, Peruvians call October “the purple month.”

Louis Bardales was one of more than 200 Peruvian men who dressed in purple and took turns carrying an image of the Crucifixion down River St. in Paterson, part of a series of parades throughout October.

Bardales said when he was young he became very sick, so his mother prayed for a miracle in exchange for his service to God.

“I was dying and my mother, she asked God to help me out, told Him I was going to carry Him,” Bardales said.

He said he recovered, and has since kept his promise. This was his 20th year carrying “Him,” the image of Jesus, in the parade.

The image sat on a large base decorated with banners, jewels, flowers, and four stone statuettes of angels. It weighed nearly 1000 pounds.

The men carry the icon in a different community every weekend. They will finish with a much larger procession in Manhattan at the end of the month.

It took 20 of them at a time to carry the image slowly down the street, 150 paces at a time. They swayed back and forth to the beat of a solemn marching band. When it was time to switch off an older member rung a bell, stopping them. On his command they slowly lowered the image to the ground and took a break to pray.

“Of course it’s heavy,” said Bardales, “but it feels good to carry Him. When you carry Him you feel, like, a relief. It’s a relief that his giving is strong, that’s what I feel.”

The parade lasted nearly six hours, which Bardales said is typical.

As the men trudged down the street, people clamored over each other trying to reach the image. They stretched their fingers out until they barely brushed it, then crossed themselves and said a prayer.

Rosa Garcia said to touch the image is to receive a blessing from directly from Jesus.

“The Lord is going to forgive you for your sins and for everything you’ve done,” she said.” A lot of people really believe He is the Lord of Miracles.”

Garcia said she and her 12-year-old son, Jovan Poggi, come and see the parade for the spiritual experience, but also for the cultural connection to their country.

“If you just come and watch you feel how…the harmony and the spiritual thing goes on and you feel that there is something more,” she said. “It’s something very interesting for a lot of people.”

“They feel so united. Everybody just gets it once a year,” she added.

Jovan, a dancer in the parade, said he sees the procession as an opportunity to use his talents to express spirituality.

“When you dance you have the heart to dance in front of God, too,” he said.

Street vendors lined the sidewalks, selling traditional Peruvian foods like choclo (Peruvian corn), jugo de maiz morado (purple corn juice), and some hard-to-find dishes like veal hearts and cow stomach.

“It’s good, but you have the sauce and it’s spicy,” said Luis Veratudela, explaining the veal hearts.

Veratudela said he sells food at the parades in October as a weekend hobby.

“I do this just because I like it,” he said. “I have a job and I don’t really need to do this but it’s sort of a tradition and I like to keep up with it…I want to do this for the Lord of Miracles.”

Veratudela said the religious undertones of the parade are handed down through Peruvian culture. That’s why the parades include traditional foods, dancing, and singing alongside the solemn tribute to Christ.

“We brought that tradition here,” he said.

Cecilia Centurion, who helped plan the parade, agreed. She said the generational importance of the parades is part of the tradition.

“It’s our faith that comes from our parents, our grandparents, and now to our children, too,” she said. “When I was a little girl my mother always brought me to the procession. When I see all that my mother asks, and all my family’s good. So we have many thanks to say to God.”

Click to read the transcript

Nathan Vickers: A solemn marching band trudges behind a procession of priests, dancers, and a group of 20 men dressed in vibrant purple robes. The men are carrying an elaborately decorated icon of Jesus Christ. It’s big–the size of a Volkswagen. They sway side-to-side as they march. 150 paces later an elder stops them.

Ambience: Shouting….”Presente,” etc., “ding,” applause.

Vickers: He rings a bell and the men carefully lower the icon to the ground.  As the crowd applauds, they stop to rest.

Louis Bardales: “Of course it’s heavy but it feels good to carry him.”

Vickers: That’s Louis Bardales, who has been carrying him–that is, the image of Jesus–for 20 years now. He says carrying the image gives him spiritual satisfaction.

Bardeles: “When you carry him you feel like a relief. That’s what I feel. It’s not like, ‘Oh I got to carry him…’ The way I feel about it is that I like to carry him.”

Vickers: Bardales and some 200 other Peruvian men take turns carrying the image through various New Jersey communities. There will be a much larger procession in Manhattan at the end of the month. Cecilia Centurion helps organize the parades. She says they unite the Peruvian community, and carry on traditions from her country.

Cecilia Centurion: “It’s our faith that comes from our parents, our grandparents, and now to our children, too. When I was a little girl my mom always brought me to the procession. I see what she’s asking and I see that my family is good…so we have too many thanks to say to God.”

Vickers: As the image of Christ passes through the crowd people reach for the statue, their fingers outstretched. Many Peruvians believe to touch the icon is to receive a blessing directly from the lord. It’s a spiritual bond, and one that connects them to their native country. For Faith in the City, I’m Nathan Vickers.

Read more on the Day of the Lord of Miracles.

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