Ephrat Asherie Dance Mixes Choro and Street Dance in Philadelphia

Last night, February 8, 2020, Ephrat Asherie Dance performed “Odeon” at the Zellerbach Theatre at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia. The production was presented in coordination with Next Move Dance and opened on Friday February 7.

I was interested in attending this performance because of the music. “Odeon” is the title of Ernesto Nazareth’s most famous composition. Ernesto Nazareth is well known in Brazil in the context of 19th and early 20th century composers who were the foundation of Brazil’s samba. Along with Francisca “Chiquinha” Gonzaga, Antonio Callado, Pixinguinha and others, Nazareth improvised in choro ensembles, and composed maxixes (Brazilian tango) and other forms. Nazareth was trained in European music, as were many of his contemporaries in Rio de Janeiro, but combined this with popular and contemporary rhythms (of Afro-Brazilian influence), to create a “Brazilian” national (popular) music.

The performance of “Odeon” by the dance company, was energetic, upbeat and fun. At the very beginning, it was announced that the choreographer, Ms. Ephrat Asherie, herself, wanted the audience to “relax, enjoy and respond.” And that we did! The company of six dancers, (Manon Bal, Teena Marie Custer, Val “Ms. Vee” Ho, Matthew “Megawatt” West, Omari Wiles, and Ephrat Asherie) interpreted a joyful program, full of exhilirating interactions to live music. The instrumental ensemble included Ehud Asherie (music director and pianist, and the choreographer’s brother), Eduardo Belo (bass), and percussionists, Sergio Krakowski, Vitor Gonçalves and Angel Lau.

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Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

The musical selections included: Brejeiro, Odeon, Fon-fon, Tenebroso, Apanhei-te cavaquinho, Ouro sobre azul, Confidências, Ven cá, Branquinha and Bataque. Some of the musical numbers were with piano and others were percussion only. There were also instances when the dancers themselves created the sound and rhythm, with clapping and stomping, as in the opening. The style of their dances was a mix of street dance, acrobatics, samba no pé, voguing, African dance, to name a few.

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Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

The dancers were well rehearsed, but at the same time, it all felt spontaneous and fresh. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves onstage and this positive energy was transmitted to the audience. Each dancer cultivated and demonstrated a unique personality and atitude but when they danced in unison they fit together perfectly. There were selections when  the percussionists came into the center of the stage and directly related to the dancers. The pandeiro (Brazilian tambourine) and other percussion instruments were played in a call and response to the dancers’ movements in some selections.  The dancers and musicians were always in synch and this was truly a collaboration on all levels.

At the end of this breathtaking display of fast and fancy footwork, and stunning orchestration, the audience gave them a well-deserved standing ovation.  Ephrat Asherie Dance company transmitted the exhuberance of Nazareth’s pieces through their spirited execution of the imaginative choreography.

To learn more about Ephrat Asherie Dance and their upcoming performances, please visit their website. To see what’s coming up at the Annenberg Center, please visit their website.

 

 

Día de los muertos at Fleisher Art Memorial

After processing through the streets of South Philly, following the rhythmic beats on an indigenous drum, we finally arrived at Fleisher. There was a large crowd already mingling on the sidewalk in front of the closed doors. Some were munching on elotes, others stood in line for tacos, and others chatted about the costumed dancers or looked out from painted faces.

The preparation for the Día de los muertos procession and the subsequent celebration inside the building, had begun at least a month before. The previous year I had joined the holiday at the doors of Fleisher, where I waited for the procession and marveled at the life sized skeletal figures that had been created. Seeing the altar inside was the highlight. Here are some photos from this year’s altar:

This year I wanted to be more involved  so I participated in the paper flower making workshop on a weekend early in October. Resident artist, Claudia Peregrina, originally from Mexico, taught and guided us in making the paper flowers from coffee filters. The ages of the participants ranged from four to seventy. Some spoke Spanish, some spoke English. Children especially, were excited to be able to make a mess, so they volunteered to dip the paper flowers in the dye, while most adults cut wires, folded paper and put together the flowers. I don’t know how many I made over 7-8 hours that weekend, but it was a lot. I was dismissed early on the second day to go home and rest.

 

Since I had spent so much time helping make the flowers that would decorate the altar and the gateway to it, I wanted to do more than just wait at the door. This year I met the procession at its stop at the Italian Market. When I heard the drums and other instruments and saw the group led by a police car escort I got goosebumps and a rush of adrenaline. For quite a while we slowly meandered through the streets of Philly, delighting in the sights and sounds and the overall sensation of joy and gratitude for the chance to remember those who lived before in spirit walked with us.

“Good Cuban Girls: A Heartwarming World Premiere

The relationship between mother and daughter is a common theme in theatre. “Good Cuban Girls” by Iraisa Ann Reilly, poignantly explores it in this world premiere directed by José Avilés.

“Good Cuban Girls” plays at the Bob and Selma Horan Studio Theatre at the Hamilton Family Arts Center and was produced by Teatro del Sol, currently in residence at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia, PA.

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The performance last night, October 10, 2019, appeared to be sold out. That in itself says a lot since it was a Thursday evening. Midweek shows don’t sell as well as the weekend. Audience members were graciously offered a free beverage before the show, which was a nice touch.

Having seen several productions by Teatro del Sol and La Fábrica, it is wonderfully evident that the extra support provided by the Arden for “Good Cuban Girls” has helped to create a professional show with high production values and outstanding characterizations.

The set design by Justin Romeo is nothing short of beautiful, in its detail and efficiency. This is identifiably a middle class home on the United States with Cuban-American touches, such as a small altar to the saints on a end table. Moveable extensions delineate Marisol’s bedroom and the park by the river.

Sound design by director José Avilés employs Cuban and Cuban-American music, including familiar tunes by Celia Cruz and Gloria Esteban. In addition, water sounds, telenovela audio in Spanish and other noises add depth to the mood and support the action on stage. Costumes by Tanaquil Marquez and light design by Amanda Jensen, add to the realism.

As the lead role, Marisol, Lorenza Bernasconi communicates a wide range of emotions and is totally convincing. Her Spanish and unaccented English are perfect since Marisol grew up in the United States speaking Spanish at home with her grandmother and sometimes with her mother. She used English outside the home in school and with “gringo” friends.

Yajaira Paredes shines as la Abuela. She expertly conveys an elderly woman who doesn’t have much time left. Changes in gait and posture complete the transformation. To top it off, she has a lot of the funny lines in the play. The ensemble is rounded out with veteran actor Melissa Sabater as Caridad, Marisol’s mother, and Frank Nardi Jr. as Todd, Marisol’s boyfriend.

I found the direction by Avilés to be exceptional. Act I is intense and I could feel the tension in the home and the stress and confusion of the characters. Movements, glances and gestures were varied, with some large and dynamic, while others were more nuanced, enhanced by exquisite timing.

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Overall, this is a polished rendering of the world premiere of “Good Cuban Girls.” I highly recommend it to Spanish speakers and learners for its humor, drama and superb acting.

Running time: Approximately two hours including a 10 minute intermission.

There are a few more show this weekend. Call the Arden Box office at 215-922-1122 or visit their website for tickets and more information: teatrodelsol.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“La reina del flow:” Sueños de Medellín

Yo llegué un poco tarde a esta fiesta. Pero como decimos en inglés, “mejor tarde que nunca.” Better late than never. La reina del flow estrenó el año pasado en Colombia en el canal Caracol Televisión. Yo vi la serie de 82 capítulos en Netflix, donde se puede disfrutarla en su original español. También hay subtítulos en varios idiomas. La producción colombiana ha sido tan intensa y exitosa que recientemente hicieron y pasaron la versión mexicana, la cual no he visto, este verano en Univisión.

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Esta serie, La reina del flow, (The Queen of Flow), era extremamente popular en Colombia.  Mezcla la vida dura de una comuna (barrio bajo) con los sueños de unos músicos jóvenes. El autor, Andrés Salgado, combina la música urbana colombiana, sobre todo el género reggaetón, con actuación experta y un guión emocionante y conmovador.

Crear y tocar música urbana es el sueño de los personajes principales, Yeimy Montoya (Carolina Ramírez/María José Vargas), Juancho (Andrés Sandoval)  y Charly Flow (Carlos Torres). Otros personajes menores, Erik, Chris Vega, Irma y Axl, también quieren hacerse famosos cantando reggaetón. Poder componer e improvisar letras son muy importantes en este contexto, y vemos el desarrollo de la talentosa Yeimy, desde su adolescencia en la comuna hasta su labor como agente y compositora profesional en los estudios Excelsior y Surround Vibes. Pero su camino no es fácil. Yeimy tiene una vida muy difícil marcada por la pobreza y la muerte y acaba en la cárcel en los Estados Unidos. Esta historia extraña la lleva de vuelta a Medellín como espía de la DEA para cazar a un narcotraficante violento, alias Manín.

Antes de ver La reina del flow, había mirado otras series colombianas, como Betty la fea, Sin tetas no hay paraíso, La esclava blanca  Sempre bruja, todos programas muy bien realizados. Sin embargo, La reina del flow resultó aun más entretenido por su uso de música actual (compuesta por la serie) y el habla popular llena de “colombianismos.” Predominan el uso de vos, y palabras como parcero/a, qu’ubo, te caigo, mona, etc. Como Sin tetas no hay paraíso, el lenguaje y la temática son fuertes y no apropriados para niños pequeños. Además de destacar la lucha de Yeimy de vengarse y rehacer su vida, toca los temas serios de la violencia doméstica, el tráfico de drogas, el abuso de drogas y bebidas alcoholicas, la traición y la pobreza.

Muy recomendado para mayores de 14 años. ¡Vean la serie en NETFLIX!

A Review of Millicent Borges Accardi’s collection, “Practical Love Poems”

“Practical Love Poems”? Practical and Poetry? How is poetry practical? Does Millicent Accardi’s title, “Practical Love Poems,” refer to the content or the form? Or both? If one googles “practical” several definitions appear including: 1) “of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory or ideas; “ 2) suitable for a particular purpose, and 3) sensible and realistic in their approach to a situation or problem. “ It is a curious title because in a way it is ironic– since poetry, at least that which is written down, and not recited or improvised, is often considered anything but sensible or realistic. It is usually not a “practical” art form or genre in the United States, but one practiced and read by the highly educated, often in the academy.

“Practical Love Poems” by Millicent Borges Accardi, of Portuguese-American descent, includes 61 poems on a wide range of themes. The style of the poems is for the most part free verse, and none of them rhyme. Each one does maintain its on rhythm, although lines and verses (when they exist) are not based on classical or traditional forms. The form is “practical” since it is contemporary and open. She is not concerned with imitating traditional form or stylistics as much as with conveying emotions and ambiance. Also the content is often “practical” in the sense that she writes about events and things that happen to every day “regular” people. This poetry highlights how important one person, event or thing, can be in the life of another—love (or hate). What does come through this collection is a love of and importance of the home, of family, and the simplicity of life. That seems to me to be very português, even though she writes in English and there are hardly any references to Portugal or anything Portuguese.

When one reads the Table of Contents, one gets a taste of this “practicality” and earthiness as well. “Something Dirty,” “It Didn’t Feel Dangerous, “ How to Cope with Living,” and “On the Phone to the UK” are just a few of the poems in this collection. I don’t know if all the people referenced or the narrators in these poems are real or not, but I did feel I got to know a little about them after reading the poems. Accardi’s descriptions are realistic but at the same time there is an underlying meaning, multiple interpretations, to these images. So this is not narrative. It IS poetry, even though it eschews more romantic lyricism and symbols. For example, in I Make Soup from the Leftover Turkey Carcass, she describes the recipe and what she and her husband do to the leftover turkey:

…I fill

The spaghetti pot half-full

Of water and break up

The bones to fit the vessel, adding

Brown, wrinkled onion

Skins, onions, celery…

Middle age, our time together,

The house. All re-energized

By this second thanksgiving.

In detail, we savor the ingredients and the aroma of this soup. She creates the atmosphere of the kitchen and gives the reader ample sensory information to imagine this scene. Yet, the key to it all, the underlying message, that we discover, is not necessarily that the soup was delicious, which I’m sure it was, but that there is real love there. The cooperation between her and husband, this couple time, is special. The “second thanksgiving” in this home, seems to be more intimate and more important than the big party thanksgiving that was already experienced. To me, com certeza, it feels like uma casa portuguesa.

Not all the poems are sweet though. There is something for everybody in this collection. Love, saudade, revenge, and trauma can all be part of daily life. In Perpetual Motion, Accardi pulls out the vivid raw language to describe someone who lives a difficult life, possibly on the edge of madness:

She moves through

Space like a raw cut

On an arm that won’t scab:

Bleeding, tender, at will

Nearly ready to break open

And bleed into the sidewalk….

One of my favorite poems is called My Talisman. In this poem, her talismans are catalysts for nostalgia, or even saudade. The lemon candle, an arrow head from Wyoming, part of a glass dome from Germany, a kaleidoscope, a unicorn and a doll take us down memory lane. Each one brings back a moment in time that was important to the poet. The objects, just like the verses, evoke cherished experiences.

Practical Love Poems, in its simplicity and down to earth language, is an accessible read even for those not accustomed to reading poetry. It is pleasant enough a book to open up while relaxing, yet offers enough profound emotions to ponder and analyze if one wishes.

“Tu boca en los cielos:” A New Documentary about Sephardic Jews of North Africa

Imagine if you could confront every person who ever wronged you. Well, maybe not every single one. But how about the one(s) who you felt mistreated you the worst in your life? Would you want to tell them about how terrible they were? Or would you prefer to show them how you picked yourself up and made the best of your life in spite of their cruelty or injustice?

In Tu boca en los cielos, (directed by Miguel Ángel Nieto), Rachel, a Sephardic Jew from Tangier, takes the second approach and writes a letter (and delivers it to their tomb in Granada) to the long dead Catholic monarchs of Spain. Queen Isabel and King Fernando, exiled the Jewish people from their Catholic kingdoms in 1492, with the infamous “Edict of Expulsion.”  In this stirring and heartfelt documentary, Rachel’s letter serves as the point of departure to explore adaptations and accomplishments by descendents of the expelled Jews over the last five centuries in North Africa. Specifically, the documentary highlights individuals, communities and traditions from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

The official English title of the documentary is the poetic “Your Wishes in Heaven.” When I watched the documentary, and thought of the title in Spanish, Tu boca en los cielos, I was reminded of a more literal and physically descriptive phrase uttered by Jewish friends: “From your lips to God’s ears!” which I’ve heard many times, and conveys a similar meaning. Regardless, this saying in either English or Spanish, is in the vernacular of many Jewish people and can be traced back to the Psalms in scripture. But it also appears in Arabic and Hebrew, which epitomizes the blend of cultures that characterize the subjects of the film.

Tu boca en los cielos is a captivating and enlightening documenary. Although I had some knowledge of Sephardic cultures and history, I had never delved into the experience of those in North Africa. The film features several elderly Jews who tell the story of their ancestors and/or their communities in the region.

Some of the highlights for me were the explanation of the “Noche Berberisca” (The Berber Night), a celebration held the night before a Sephardic wedding in Morocco. The bride’s dress and exotic headgear in themselves are alluring, and the ceremony is entrancing.

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Thrones for bride and groom in the Noche BerberiscaMaor X [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

I also learned about  the “Mimuna,” an event to mark the end of Passover, and pilgrimages. “La Haketia” is the language passsed down for generations spoken by Sephardic Jews in Morocco. Very similar to Spanish, the language incorporates influences from Hebrew, Arabic, French and Portuguese. The archives of Simancas in Valladolid, Spain is a significant repository of  documents about Spains’ Jews before and after expulsion. Moreover, many Sephardic writers have commercially and self-published books, such as Lusia Salama, Luna Bentata and Èlie Benchetrit.  The quantity of cultural information in Tu boca en los cielos is overflowing and just too much to list here. 

Finally, what adds to the charm of Tu boca en los cielos is the soundtrack and the inclusion of original music by Tomás Lozano and performances by other musicians, such as Mara Aranda and Paco Diez.  In this documentary, “Sefarad”, in all its visual and auditory splendor, is posited as more than the Iberian peninsula pre-1492. It is a spiritual memory or consciousness.   It has remained in the mind, heart and soul of a people for over five centuries. What I understood from this film, is that being Sephardic is not just about being a descendent of those Spanish Jews who had to leave for maintaining their religion, but also about all the new cultures, languages and experiences that these people encountered and embraced for more than 500 years.

Tu boca en los cielos has been shown in different cities in Spain, in New York City and is making the rounds in film festivals around the world. I definitely recommend you catch it when it comes to your area–especially those interested in North Africa, Sephardic Jews or their history. Here is a glimpse from the trailer:

TU BOCA EN LOS CIELOS / teaser from Miguel Ángel Nieto on Vimeo.

 

Bakosó: Afrobeats de Cuba…A New Genre of Street Music!!

Today, May 31, 2019, I had the enormous pleasure to view the new documentary Bakosó: Afrobeats de Cuba, by independent filmmaker, Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi. This documentary features DJ Jigüe (Isnay Rodriguez)  a Cuban musician who Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi (from Puerto Rico) met over 20 years ago.  Eli’s brother, Kahlil (based in New York City) is a co-producer along with Dj Jigüe. The Philadelphia Latino Film Festival presented the hour long documentary at the University of Arts, and afterwards there was a talk-back with Eli and DJ Jigüe. Kahlil, also present, offered support from the audience.

The film is making the rounds at different international festivals and has already premiered in California in the United States.

Bakosó follows the path of DJ Jigüe from Havana to Santiago de Cuba to the Afro-Latino Festival in NYC. Along the way he stops at Palma Soriano in Santiago, where he was born, to visit his grandmother. His grandmother is a santera, who practices the yoruba (lucumi) based religion, more popularly known outside of Cuba as santería. Although DJ Jigüe’s mother worked as a teacher in Angola, it is his grandmother, Cuca, who affirms that their African heritage, traditions and religion are of utmost importance in their lives.  These traditions and links have been passed down for generations in his family.

Throughout the fast paced documentary, we are introduced to these different neighborhoods in Cuba and the street music culture to trace the origins of Bakosó. DJ Jigüe meets up with various musicians doing this kind of music, who I, and I believe most people outside of Cuba, are not familiar with, such as: El Inka, Maikel el Padrino, Kiki Pro, and the singer Alva. The children’s dance group, “Sangre Nueva” is also featured.

The fusion of music, storytelling, performance and image is seamless and powerful in Bakosó, and make this documentary a joyous delight to experience. The crowds and unnamed people in the streets of Santiago, dance  expertly, yet naturally with abandon, and you can see how much they enjoy it. Their enthusiasm jumps out of the screen. But this is not just another movie about popular music or about Cuba. It delivers a glimpse into the heart and soul of people who were born to make music and dance in the steps of their ancestors. The connection with Africa is the focus of Bakosó, and the  dance of Eleggua, the orisha of roads/paths, begins and ends the film. Eleggua must open every santería ritual and he is also a messenger of Olofi, one of three manifestations of the Supreme god in the Yoruba religion.

While watching the documentary, I was reminded of rumba dances and chants to the orishas that I heard decades ago in Havana, and how music and dance have been cultivated in Cuba by way of the Afro-Cuban religions and by the government in the schools and conservatories. African rhythms and dances have existed in Cuba since Africans were brought to Cuba and enslaved in colonial times. Bakosó also mentions the 35,000 Cuban soldiers who fought in Angola, and the many Africans studying medicine in Cuba, as more contemporary connections to the mother continent. Bakosó is a mix of these many influences and rhythms. Some of the rhythms mentioned are: Kuduro, afrobeats, conga, rumba,  conguita and makuta.

The recital hall on the 17th floor of the University of the Arts building, where the film was screened, was nearly full to capacity. Many excited and happy audience members also stayed for the question and answer session afterwards with Eli and DJ Jigüe. At least 7 or 8 questions were answered in English and Spanish, and it could have gone on for another hour at least! To raise money, tee shirts and hats were sold at a table in the lobby. In answer to a question, DJ Jigüe said that each time he left the island, one of his most important goals was to show the world what Cuban artists were doing in Cuba, since Cuba has been in isolation due to politics for some 50 years. He did that and more with Bakosó. Overall, it was a rare opportunity to meet the director and producers of this documentary, to discover what new music is being developed in Cuba, and feel the alegría (joy) and spirit of the musicians and dancers of Santiago de Cuba.  I highly recommend this documentary–if it comes to your city, don’t hesitate, just GO see it!

For more information about this new Cuban genre and the producers, check out: https://jigue.bandcamp.com/track/bakoso

https://www.facebook.com/BakosoCuba/  

Eli’s films

@BAKOSÓ_CUBA
#BAKOSÓ

 

Bilingual Comedy Well-Received in Philadelphia!

¿Qué te hace reir? (What makes you laugh?) ¡La Gringa!

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Teatro del Sol took down its sets on Sunday May 5, 2019 after 3 weeks of performances of La Gringa by Carmen Rivera. Several of my students (intermediate Spanish speakers) attended the show during its run at the Latvian Society in Philadelphia, and when asked the question what makes them laugh, they spontaneously replied “that play, La Gringa.” Others, who were second generation immigrants from non-hispanic countries, related to the main character and her struggles to fit into the United States and the culture of her parents and relatives. They too felt as if they belonged nowhere. Others simply were moved by the story and cried when Tío Manolo passed.

The immediacy of these reactions speak to the acting ability of Teatro del Sol’s ensemble, the universality of the script and the accessibility of a bilingual Spanish/English production. If La Gringa had been presented only in Spanish without some kind of simultaneous translation (such as titles on a screen), my students probably would not have understood much of it. Moreover, even if one does understand the language well, the cultural references and jokes are often lost on those not intimately familiar with the culture. If performed in Engilsh, it would be more accessible to a non-Spanish speaking audience, but the language puns and the jibes or references to Maria’s poor Spanish would not have been easy to render. IMG_0619

La Gringa was a low budget endeavor but this new company on the Philly theatre scene, made the most of what they had and then some. (Direction was by José Avilés, stage management, Tanaquil Márquez and lighting by Dalton Whiting).  For example, the sound design by Eliana Fabiyi, reproduced the chirps of the “coqui” (native to Puerto Rico), which are central to the play and its symbolism. The lighting as decoration for the holiday season, set the stage for Manolo’s burst of wellness, and subsequent over the top antics.  Props were few, but the rosary for her grandmother’s headstone, a jacket with the Puerto Rican flag on the back, luggage, Manolo’s wheelchair and a yucca root, were all significant to the plot, and provided just enough visual effect to stimulate my imagination.

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The minimal set on two planes, separated by a few steps, created a feeling of depth and distance that facilitated scenery changes, whether in the house, on a farm or in the Yunque forest.

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Each audience member’s image of the location was unique, especially if they had never visited Puerto Rico. But perhaps that is part of La Gringa’s strength. Since each of us had to recreate the set in our minds, the characters and the actions were more personalized,  and deeply felt and experienced.

The ensemble cast worked well together and the pace was steady and appropriately quick. As Tío Manolo, Víctor Rodríguez Jr. was hysterical. He and Iris, played by Diana Rodriguez, inspired the most laughter. As Maria’s aunt Norma, Yajaira Paredes, was somber and serious in contrast. Her husband, Victor, played by José Avilés, was an all around good guy, buffering his wife’s abrasive personality from other members of the family.  As Maria, Marisol Custodio is a wide eyed idealist. Her naivete was palpaple and naturally expressed. The character of Monchi, played by Daniel Melo, was a breath of fresh air. Monchi is an engineer turned farmer, and it was encouraging to see a college educated male in the play, instead of the stereotypical latino characters (janitors, gangsters or struggling immigrants) that still predominate in film and television.

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This compelling family dynamic and the identity issues faced by Maria, made for a heartfelt and fun theatrical experience on Saturday afternoon, May 4, 2019. Not surprisingly, at the end of La Gringa,  the audience stood up and applauded enthusiastically.

Teatro del Sol has big plans for the rest of the year! To keep abreast of their future productions and initiatives, please visit their website:  http://www.teatrodelsol.org/

 

Los alebrijes: From Dreams to the Big Screen!

There is no translation for this word, alebrijesAlebrijes are a folk art from Mexico, that depict imaginary creatures, made out of paper mache or wood. I bought one a few years ago in Oaxaca, and it was made out of wood.

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They are all over the city and a favorite souvenir for tourists to buy. They were brought to life in the recent movie, Coco, in which they act as spirit guides for the dead in the land of the dead.  img_20190505_124558

Today at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia there was a special event that feature alebrijes, sponsored by the Mexican Cultural Center for Mexican Week. This was also PECO First Sunday at the Barnes so there was free admission for everyone. Artist Cesar Viveros spoke about the history of alebrijes, there was a small exhibition and a contest, and children decorated some alibrijes by gluing on different fabrics (paints were not allowed in the museum).

Viveros explained that the alebrijes do not have anything to do with Day of the Dead, as they do in Coco. The alebrijes are a relatively new addition to Mexican folklore. Pedro Linares, a Mexican artisan born in 1906, first created alebrijes in the 1930s. He was ill and while unconscious dreamt of these marvelous beings, who called out “alebrijes”  in his dream. Once well he wanted to craft these creatures since he attributed his healing to them. From them on, important artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera began commissioning his alebrijes and the trend took off. Now these animals are recognized and treasured around the world as Mexican folk art.