Brazilian Lace in Ann Hamilton’s “habitus” Exhibition (translation)

Lace making is a very old art that was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese. Portugal is still known for its lace. In this tradition it is made with needles and with bobbins. Particularly in the Northeast of Brazil and in Santa Catarina, in the south, the lace-making tradition has been maintained.An example of bobbin lace making by Rosilândia Melo from Ilha Grande:


You can imagine my surprise when I saw lace samples from Brazil in Ann Hamilton’s habitus, a current exhibition in Philadelphia. The lace samples were located on the 8th floor of the Fabric Workshop and Museum with some other common objects made of texiles, like dolls, blankets and samplers.

Also in the exhibition are “commonplace books,” photos of textiles, and other cloth objects.  These books also originated in Europe. People would collect sentences from books they had read, recipes, newspapers and magazine articles and put them in the commonplace books. Quite unique to the habitus exhibition, was the public participation. The public was invited to contribute their “common sentences” by internet. Anybody could submit a text about clothing or textiles (figurative or literal) . They selected some of the submissions and these were reprinted and made available on sheets of paper on the 2nd and 8th floors. The public is able to read them in the museum and take them home.

The exhibition links text and textile in the Fabric Workshop and Museum, but there is another part of it on the Delaware waterfront at Municipal Pier 9. There is a huge installation that is so creative and fun. Ann hung several large cloths in the warehouse. The public can make the cloths move by pulling on ropes. The ropes go through pulleys which are also connected to some apararatus that produce sound. In addition, there is other performance art in the space that includes spinning thread and unraveling a sweater. Lastly, the text is again joined with cloth by way of a large poem that is projected in the space. The poem is also exhibited in the Fabric Workshop and Museum in another format.

The artist, Ann Hamilton, always has been interested in spinning, weaving and textiles. With enthusiasm she speaks about these arts, that some have referred to as “crafts” throughout her career. Nevertheless, the artist has exhibited many important works: she represented the United States in the São Paulo Bienal in 1991 and in Venice in 1999. She has won various national art prizes and she teaches art at Ohio State University.

The exhibit, habitus, is a the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia from September 17, 2016 to January 8, 2017. The Municipal Pier 9 installation is from September 6, 2016 to October 10, 2016. For more information,


Rendas do Brasil na exibição de Ann Hamilton, “habitus”

Rendas do Brasil na exibição de Ann Hamilton, “habitus”

Fabricar rendas é uma arte muito velha que foi levada ao Brasil pelos portugueses. Ainda hoje em Portugal fazem rendas e são muito cobiçadas. Fazem com agulhas e bilros. No nordeste do Brasil e em Santa Catarina mantêm essa tradição de fabricar rendas. Um exemplo de umas rendas de bilros de Rosilândia Melo de Ilha Grande: (wikipedia commons)


Imagine a minha surpresa quando vi rendas do Brasil na exibição “habitus” de Ann Hamilton. As rendas estavam colocadas no oitavo andar do Fabric Workshop and Museum com outros objetos comuns e de tela, como bonecas, cobertores, e mostras de tela.


(Photo by Celeste Dolores)

Também nesta exibição acham-se “commonplace books” , fotos de telas e outros objetos de tela. Estes livros têm origem também na Europa. As pessoas colecionavam sentenças de livros que leram, receitas, artigos do jornal e das revistas nestes livros. O que fizeram de especial para esta mostra, foi convidar o público para entregar suas sentenças comuns por internet para contribuir. Quer dizer, qualquer pessoa podia mandar algum texto sobre uma tela por internet. Eles selecionavam alguns e esses textos foram impressos e disponibilizados na segundo e oitavo andares para o publico ler e levar para casa.

A exibição junta texto e tela no Fabric Workshop Museum, mas tem outra parte na beira do Rio Delaware. No Municipel Pier 9 há uma instalação grande que é muito criativa e divertida. Ann pendurou varias telas enormes num armazém. O público pode fazer que as telas movam e emitem sons. Além disso, tem “performance art” de fiar e de desfazer um agasalho. Finalmente junta o texto com a tela com um grande poema projetado—este poema também aparece no Fabric Workshop and Museum.

A artista, Ann Hamilton, sempre estava interessada no fiar e na tela. Com entusiasmo ela fala sobre estas artes, que alguns têm considerado “artesanato” durante sua carreira. Mesmo assim a artista mostrou muitas obras importantes, e até representou os Estados Unidos no Bienal de São Paulo de 1991, e o de Venezia em 1999. Ganhou vários prêmios de arte nacionais e ensina arte na Universidade de Ohio. A mostra, habitus, fica no Fabric Workhop and Museum na Filadélfia desde o 17 de setembro de 2016 ate o 8 de janeiro de 2017. A instalação no Municipal Pier 9 fica entre o 6 de setembro de 2016 ate o 10 de outubro. Para mais informação:


Aquele Abraço: Brazilian Dance in Philadelphia

“O Rio de Janeiro continua lindo…” And so does Philly!

Bahian Gilberto Gil’s “Aquele Abraço” (That embrace) makes me think of the dance happening in Philadelphia these days. Gil is originally from Salvador, yet wrote this song in 1969 to the people of Rio de Janeiro, where he had been living and making music. The sounds of Afro-Brazil and Bahia are in Gil’s music, but he was quintessentially brasileiro. His music went beyond Salvador, and appealed to cariocas and people all over the world. Philadelphia is a long time home for ballet, flamenco and Middle Eastern (belly) dance, and new comers include Indian and Asian dance companies, Argentine tango, and Brazilian dance and martial arts. It hugs all of these cultures and this is even evident as you fly into the city, with its depiction of the airport mural How Philly Moves.

Brazilian music has been around in Philly for a while. Minas, which specializes in MPB (including bossa nova) and originally composed music, is one of the longest running ensembles, started by carioca Orlando Haddad and his wife Patricia King. Aló Brasil developed out of earlier Brazilian bands in the area. Michael Steven’s led “Unidos da Filadelfia” (samba school/band) and the Philly Bloco professional band are younger groups that include many local Americans. In terms of movement, Brazilian styles are starting to gain more of a foothold in the city, thanks to local and Brazilian dancers who are teaching Americans how to move. ASCAB Capoeira School has been teaching capoeira (Brazilian martial art) to adults and children.

Angelica Cassimiro started teaching Samba dance classes in 2009, with Alex Shaw, leader of Alo Brasil. Afterwards she independently organized and taught the classes, which included renting space in Philadelphia. Angelica was born and raised in Brazil and trained at the Palacio das Artes in Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais, In the U.S. she received scholarships to train with Garden State Ballet, Alvin Ailey, American Ballet Theater and Philadelphia’s University of the Arts.

I was fortunate enough to attend some of the classes in the past and they were a lot of fun, a superior workout and quite authentic. When we had classes at ASCAB Capoeira’s old space in Bella Vista, the Pelourinho scene from Salvador, painted on the walls, and the capoeiristas who joined us, set the scene for the best you can get outside of Brazil. The mood was exciting, electric and intense. Angelica always ended the classes with an inclusive “roda” or circle dance, which created a sense of community and group sharing of talents.

Angelica now performs with the aerialist troupe, Australia’s “Strange Fruit” and is currently offering “SambaDelphia” a six week samba dance workshop culminating in an informal public performance on June 14, 2015 in Philadelphia’s Performance Garage.

For more information about Angelica:

The newest addition to the Philadelphia Brazilian arts scene is Cleonice Fonseca, who is originally from Salvador, Bahia. Salvador is the Afro-Brazilian center of Brazil, and her classes focus on African dances from Brazil:


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Cleonice Fonseca is an experienced dancer who began her training in Bahia at Dança do Colégio Central da Bahia, where she learned and performed African dance, folkloric dances, religious dances (candomblé orixás), and contemporary dance with important dance masters. For 10 years she was part of the Grupo de Dança do SESC, and also performed with other companies in the area. She arrived in Philadelphia in June 2014 and has been involved with various projects through ASCAB Capoeira, Mamadêlê Produções and Sunrise of Philadelphia. She has been teaching music and dance in South Philly public schools and for adults, and the Wissahicken Dance Studio and Philadelphia Capoeira Arts Center (ASCAB Capoeira).


Her classes are ongoing! Check them out. Aquele abraço…

Ainadamar: Breaking the Spanish Silence

Some 80 years ago Spain was being torn to shreds from within. The Spanish Civil war, of 1936, saw the deaths of many, including Federico Garcia Lorca, probably the most important playwright since the Golden Age’s Calderon de la Barca. Lorca was shot by the Falange, along with thousands of others, and thrown into an unmarked grave in Granada. For years Spaniards have keep silent about these crimes (on both sides). It is only in the 21st century, a generation after Franco died, that the silence has been broken.

Novels about the “disappeared”, demands for the exhumation of bodies, and actual public discussion about the Franco era, started to emerge over the last 12 years. Curiously, the composer of Ainadamar, which is about Lorca’s execution, told from the perspective of his friend/colleague, Margarita Xingu, hails from another country in which dissidents were disappeared and children given away. Osvaldo Golijov does not choose to compose or write about Argentina, but about Spain, and specifically about Lorca. He personalizes this tragedy by focusing on Lorca, but this is the story of many, and it’s about time that the world hears it.

Ainadamar, in the Opera Philadelphia production (originally mounted in Granada, Spain), is a tightly woven musical, dance and theatrical experience. The set and the projected video and stills greatly enhance and complement the score. Most of the cast comes from Spain, and the passion and spirit shines through. This is of cultural and historical significance—this generation of singers and dancers were not under Franco’s rule—yet they are able to participate in a retelling of Lorca’s execution as if they were present. Their bodies and voices resonate with Lorca and their countrymen’s memories.

Vocal highlights of this performance are María Hinojosa Montenegro, who sang Margarita Xingu, and Alfredo Tejada, the flamenco singer. Ms. Hinojosa voice has a rich and beautiful timbre, and her singing is clear and strong throughout. (Of note, the Spanish singers were amplified, something that is not quite acceptable in American opera houses). In addition, Ms. Hinojosa is especially adept at coloring her voice to reflect the necessary emotion. The cante jondo by Afredo Tejada is spectacular and really brings a raw Andalusian/ gypsy feel to the piece. A stunning scene is the death – in which the gunshots contribute to the rhythm of a dance of zapateado. Spanish music, popular and classical, has always been about rhythm, about dance. Underlying the lyricism of this opera, the rhythm of Andalusia pulsates in the dancers’ feet and in the percussion in the orchestra.

Golijov depicts an imaginary Granada, an Ainadamar, through tone, while the production team uses old newspaper articles, photos of Lorca and friends, and videos of nature to set the backdrop of the drama. The physical scene and the music are not the Granada one visits in Spain, where the blend of Byzantium and mozarabe meet, in centuries old romantic architecture, inhabited by both royal and ordinary ghosts and 21st century folks, but Golijov’s interpretation. Nevertheless, it works. There is a tension from the opening number, in which 5 female dancers in pink/purple dresses dance in front of the stones that are soon covered with water—symbolizing the fountain of tears. This same montage is repeated at the end of the opera, marking the end of this journey through Margarita Xingu’s memory and that of many unidentified Spaniards and their descendants. The silence has been broken.

¿Qué pasó en Chile? (What Happened in Chile?)

El año en que nací  (The Year that I was Born) by Argentine playright, Lola Arias, showcases the stories of parents and grandparents during the Pinochet dictatorship.  The actors (not all professionals) are the sons and daughters born between 1971-1989. I was fortunate to attend a live performance on January 19, 2014 in Philadelphia. This production was sponsored by FRINGE ARTS. Here is a trailer from another production:

The piece is more “testimonial” than a drama in the traditional sense. It weaves real stories of the actors’ families in a tapestry of representational and presentational scenes. Rather than a realistic narrative or a stylized dramatization, depicted behind a fourth wall, it is a series of vignettes, and sometimes makes  use of storytelling, rather than role-playing.

The production exploits modern technology and audio-visual effects. The play is performed in Spanish (the native language of all the performers) with English supertitles projected above the stage. A camera/projection system is rigged in order to enlarge and project authentic newspaper articles, photographs and other items onto a large screen. Additional props include student desks, chairs, lockers, electric guitars and amps, food, tables, desks and a bicycle.

The strength of El año en que nací is its ability to impart so much factual information about Chile during that era in a non-judgmental fashion.  The cast includes people of various social classes and ideologies, which would clash in any real life confrontation. It was part of the director’s/creator’s vision to feature such diversity.

One of the most effective techniques employed in the play was the “line up,” which was used a few times.  Characters were asked to line up chronologically according to their ages, with respect to political ideology (left to right), social class and skin color.  It became evident how ridiculous some of these attempts to classify were, and how biased and/or nuanced these distinctions could be. For example, is someone more “left/right” because of what he/she believes, or because he/she followed orders and killed a lot of people in the name of said ideology? Rather than tell us this directly, or use a more heavy handed or didactic approach, they depicted this polemic in the “line up.” The “line up”, the protest and the eating scene are the “stories within a story/play within a play” or the representational acting.In other instances, the acting is presentational. The fourth wall is broken and the actors present or seem to tell their stories directly to the audience.

The manner of storytelling had a certain detachment and was not overtly emotional or melodramatic. There were some jokes but rarely does one feel the sadness or devastation that surely these family members experienced. An exception is the highly charged protest scene. The fourth wall is in place and we are transported to the streets of Chile.  Water gun wielding police, sirens, protestors waving placards, chairs flying–it all results in a loud big cacophony of sound and motion. The audience senses the confusion and danger of such protests through this depiction. Later, a particularly poignant moment was when one of the cast revealed that her mother had stopped speaking to her because of this play. At that instant we are stunned with the gravity of the situation–those years were so groundshaking and the legacy of the period still impacts young Chileans today to the point that participating in a theatrical work about it would estrange a mother and daughter.

El año en que nací left me wanting to research the newspapers mentioned in one of the first stories: “Patria y Libertad” and “Puro Chile”. The play gave me more insight into what these families had endured under Pinochet, and how Chile has since developed. The election of Michele Bachelet seems to have been good for Chile–yet Chileans are very insecure about the future. The play  itself is a process–the stories change as the politics change,  and the actors discover more about their family histories. The script changes the next time around. So only “time will tell.”  Perhaps, this is the most profound message of El año en que nací–that history is personal, and not set in stone or paper. People’s ideas and memories are always morphing in tandem with circumstances and perspectives on historical events. The Pinochet era meant one thing to him, and another to her, and the meaning transforms as life transforms us.