The Performing Diaspora Festival

The Performing Diaspora Festival runs 3 weekends in November 2009. Each evening a different community organization co-presents new work from a group of 4-5 artists.

Weekend 1, November 5-8

All shows 8pm
Tickets: Online pre-sale $15-25, at door $18-25

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Thurs., Nov. 5 – Co-Presented by Museum of the African Diaspora
Fri. Nov. 6 – Co-Presented by AfroSolo
Sat. Nov. 7 – Co-Presented by Chitresh Das Dance Company & Chhandam School of Kathak
Sun. Nov. 8 – Co-Presented by Galeria de la Raza; Folk Dance Federation, Northern

Each evening will include performances from:

Charlotte Moraga, San Francisco
A Conference
in Nine
Many birds set off on a journey in search of God. Along the way most of the birds drop out but the thirty who make it to the end see only their own reflections in the “face” of God. Charlotte Moraga, a senior disciple of and principal dancer for Pandit Chitresh Das, performs Indian traditional Kathak dance around the world. Departing from traditional stories, Moraga creates a dazzling new dance based on a twelfth century Sufi poem, in collaboration with carnatic saxaphonist, Prasant Radhakrishnan, tabla artist, Salar Nadar, and sarodist, Ben Kunin.

Danica Sena Gakovich, San Francisco

Flamenco dancer/choreographer Danica Sena Gakovich explores her Serbian heritage and the divergent as well as shared ancestry between traditional Serbian and Flamenco music. Koreni (or “roots” in Serbian) also features an exceptional cast of musicians Miroslav Tadic (guitar), Alfredo Caceres (guitar) and Vince Delgado (percussion) who, along with Sena Gakovich’s rhythmical dancing, bring together pulse and voice, tonal and chord progressions, phrasing and poetry to create a visceral expression of transience, migration and new possibilities.

Gema Sandoval/Danza Floricanto/USA, Pasadena
Alma Llanera-Spirit of the Plains

In the 1960’s, Chicano identity in Los Angeles hit a flashpoint when Chicano activist and educator Sal Castro demanded that Mexican Folk Dance (or folkorico) be offered in the curriculum. Gema Sandoval was one of the student beneficiaries of this demand. Within ten years, every school in the east side of Los Angeles had a folklorico class. Spurred by that early experience, Sandoval is now creating a new aesthetic she calls “Chicano Dance.” “I want to not only represent where we came from. I also want to make dances that depict our current moment in time, here in America.” Integrating contemporary movement genres and music with Mexican folk dance in her new work, Alma Llanera-The Spirit of the Plains, Sandoval’s youthful, vibrant troupe draws inspiration from Rudolfo Anaya’s novel Bless Me Ultima about a young boy’s coming of age while negotiating two cultures.

Adia Whitaker, San Francisco

After teaching African Diaspora inspired “Neo-Folkloric” dance & music across the U.S. for 11 years, Adia Whitaker felt it was time to explore the connections between her African roots and her African American culture and embarked on a trip to Ghana. In her words: “Everywhere I went, people laughed, hid, pointed…” With short-cropped hair and a lighter skin tone than those around her, people labeled her a “white man” who danced and sang like an “African woman.” Her new work plays on the metaphor of “Ampe!,” a rhythmic competition game in Ghana in which two opponents try to catch each other off-guard. Through riveting ensemble dance, music and media, Whitaker explores her connection to Africa. “For 53 days, Ghana and I played ‘Ampey!’ I’m still trying to figure out who won.”

Weekend 2, November 12-15

All shows 8pm
Tickets: Online pre-sale $15-25, at door $18-25

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Thurs., Nov. 12 – Co-Presented by Hastings-to-Haiti Partnership & Haiti Soleil
Fri. Nov. 13 – Co-Presented by Streetside Stories
Sat. Nov. 14 – Co-Presented by La Peña Cultural Center
Sun. Nov. 15 -Co-Presented by California Poets In The Schools

Each evening will include performances from:

Opal Palmer Adisa, Oakland
The Myal Healer

This multi-media poetic piece examines the myal healing practice that was brought with the enslaved Africans from West Africa to Jamaica. Myalism has taken many forms including communication with the ancestors and the use of drums, movement and herbs to extricate and transform illnesses within the body. As a poet and scholar, Adisa’s myal healer is a wordsmith who uses the power of language to draw out and heal those who are afflicted, part of her ongoing work towards healing Jamaica, her motherland.

Ana Maria Alvarez/ CONTRA-TIEMPO, Los Angeles
Tangled Routes

Tangled Routes
is a new urban-Latin dance theater work exploring one young woman’s journey of self discovery and nourishment through food, music, Afro-Latin and contemporary dance. This diverse company of movement artists reflects the community it reaches: a tapestry of youth, immigrants, teachers, activists, and organizers living and working within Los Angeles. Dancing to a dynamic original score created by Cesar Alvarez, the performers will explore the relationship between what and how we consume to survive, and our own distinct purpose in life. Cuban American choreographer Ana Maria Alvarez challenges notions of how Salsa has often depoliticized Latinos, women and communities of color; reclaiming it as a complex and expressive form to give voice to those who have been silenced.

Colette Eloi, Oakland
The Politics of Poverty

Over a period of four centuries, millions of West Africans were transported to North America and the Caribbean Islands in the Atlantic Slave trade. Colette Eloi, a Haitian-American educator, choreographer and dancer offers a passionate exploration of the politics of poverty in Haiti and America. A powerful ensemble of young women blend traditional and contemporized Haitian dance with hard-hitting social commentary. “A wise griot once told me that I couldn’t stay mad… it results in sickness. I asked him what do you do when your soul has been raped. Won’t this make you mad, how could you just tell me to calm down and forget? I did not say to forget. Big Medicine is required. Big Medicine.”

Sri Susilowati, Pasadena
Eating Dance

Backstage before a recent performance, classically trained Indonesian dancer Sri Susilowati sat eating a large meal. She looked around and saw the other dancers sticking to a few carrots before they hit the stage. Eating Dance is a hilariously clever and exquisitely performed one-woman dialogue that features contemporary dance and spoken word along with traditional Indonesian dance vocabularies to address food rituals and the meaning of food for dancers in Indonesia.

Festival Weekend 3, November 19-22

All shows 8pm
Tickets: Online pre-sale $15-25, at door $18-25

Buy Tickets!

Thurs., Nov. 19 – Co-Presented by Kularts
Fri. Nov. 20 – Co-Presented by Arkipelago Books
Sat. Nov. 21 – Co-Presented by Maitri & Center for South Asia Studies at the University of California, Berkeley
Sun. Nov. 22 -Co-Presented by North American Guqin Association & APIQWTC

Each evening will include performances from:

Yannis Adoniou/KUNST-STOFF, Catherine Clambaneva & Leonidas Kassapides, San Francisco

Rembetiko is the “illegal” folk music of the underground hashish dens of Pireaus and Thessaloniki, frequently compared to the American blues as a form of musical expression for the desperate and despairing. The Greco-Turkish War uprooted some two million people, and Rembetiko gave voice to their extreme anguish. Using elements of Greek folk and post-modern dance, darkness and song, choreographer Yannis Adoniou, vocalist Catherine Clambaneva and shadow theater artist Leonidas Kassapides excavate their homeland’s history to create a sensorially captivating work.

Dulce Capadocia / Silayan Philippine-American Dance Company, Los Angeles

The Tikling bird (goddess of legacy) trains her young to avoid deadly bamboo traps in the jungles of ancient Philippines. Fast-forward to the urban jungle of Los Angeles, where many Filipino teens are finding new expression in the phenomenon of “Hip Hop Tinikling,” a fusing of traditional rhythmical dances with bamboo poles and the pulsing beats of urban hip hop. With music by an award-winning sound design crew which includes a foley artist and a DJ, BIHAG is a journey through mythical and contemporary stories of personal entrapment and escape. A violent battle for territory and power is the exciting climax and centerpiece of this new work performed by members of the intergenerational Silayan Philippine-American Dance Company.

Prumsodun Ok, Long Beach
Robam Lom Arom

In the stillness of night, Neang Sovann Atmani bathes in a river as she waits for her absent husband. She succumbs to the phantom weight of his memory and gives herself to its caress. Drawing upon the hypnotic, serpentine vocabulary of Cambodian classical dance and personal history, Prumsodun Ok interweaves text, video, sound and movement to create a world of longing. Through reincarnation and the image of the sacred androgyne — spirits that manifest themselves differently with each life, a brahmin that is half-male and half-female — Ok invites us to contemplate the fluidity between vinhean (spirit) and rub (form), man and woman.

Devendra Sharma, Fresno
Mission Suhani

Nautanki, a traditional folk musical theater from rural north India, is marked by lively dancing, pulsating drumbeats, and full-throated singing. Mission Suhani follows a confident young Indian bride, and her Non-Resident Indian groom, who has taken her dowry and left her in India. Against familial and societal pressure, Suhani travels to the U.S. where she finds her husband, recovers the dowry…and more! Working with his father Pundit Ram Dayal Sharma, a prominent Nautanki master, Sharma crafts a brilliantly entertaining, thought-provoking and moving musical that examines women’s empowerment.

Wang Fei, Union City
From Beijing to San Francisco

Internationally acclaimed guqin player Wang Fei reflects on the rapid changes in China over the past 30 years through her personal story with this exquisite and ancient Chinese instrument. From the Cultural Revolution when the guqin was considered one of the “Old Evils,” through China’s Open Door Policy when western culture upstaged traditional culture, and culminating in China’s explosive economic development at the turn of the century, Wang and her collaborators explore how cultural heritage survives in a globalized environment and how traditional art challenges the contemporary audience.