May 6, 2012
As a surprise for me, Jim bought us tickets to the Performing Arts Center’s program on Cinco De Mayo. Lighted stage performances disappoint when using a simple point and shoot, but the program was excellent. Besides, I found myself seated next to the bongo players wife and that made it more personal and interesting.
The theme of the program, celebrates the amazing mix of cultures that populates New Mexico. Native Americans mixed with the Spanish conquerors who in turn mixed with dominating Mexicans, which evolved into this distinct Mestizo, Latino, culture that is New Mexico today. Two performances stood out above all the rest for me. Shelly Morningsong sang and played Native American flute. Her beautiful voice and haunting flute brought me to tears. The backdrop of a prairie under moonlight, the calling flute, left me longing for wide open spaces, a campfire, and the call of the wild. It was so lovely.
And Frances Lujan, dancer and program choreographer, producer. This multi-talented woman did an astonishing castanet piece with graceful fingers moving in a blur. She was joined by two other castanet dancers, all dancing and clicking in sync with each other and the band. Throughout the evening, the castanets came back again and again. She made them talk. It was stunning.
Antonio Reyna was clearly a well-known audience favorite. He sings with such expression and passion that even if you don’t understand Spanish, you know when to sigh, laugh and clap. They were in love with him and he was in love with his audience. Masterful.
I mentioned the bongo player, Billy Loren on the left. The program moves through centuries of music, instruments, costume, and dance from Native American to all Latin music and dance, including rhumba, salsa, flamenco, tango, la bamba. Then intersperse the miners, cowboys, and rock music of today. At one point the bongos and a “keg” drummer had a dueling solo. Billy’s fingers move so fast, they too, become a blur.
During the contemporary segment, two of the guitarists performed a fun, humorous duel that is meant to display their talent.
The bands, Mariachi Raices de America, playing the traditional Mexican horns, violins, guitars brings you back to old Mexico. Los Primos, their variety and passion for latin and contemporary music and contemporary instruments. The many different dances, with beautiful costuming, colorful and lively. Ahh! An enviable evening.
After the show, we tried to drive the Neon Strip, but again, the police had barricaded much of Central Ave. I’m beginning to think this is standard behavior for the police around here. Hmmm. What should we close off tonight? I realize that I have no personal understanding of why we have been barricaded three times in five days. It is just life in this amazing town of Albuquerque. Earlier in the day, we visited the Kimo Theatre, but I’ll blog it another day.
And, that special moon I told everyone about? Or, maybe I just mentioned it in email? It was there, but hiding in the clouds.
March 28, 2011
After days of rain, it felt good to get out of a Sunday afternoon and attend our Calaveras Arts Council Ovations program in Angels Camp. The last of the season, the renowned Dunsmuir Scottish Dancers from the San Francisco Bay Area gave a two hour performance. My luck was a seat next to Amanda, the granddaughter of two Scottish Highland Dancers, Scot and Mary Maur. The program covers the history of Scottish dance in many forms from 18th century story dances, strathspeys and reels, to modern compositions.
The costuming, especially the women’s changes, represented a swath of history, some formal, and others more folksy country costuming. The music is lively and the dancers do complicated reels and precision stepping.
Pictures were not allowed during a performance, but back stage, the dancers willingly formed a reel and demonstrated for the camera. It reminded me of square dancing as I watched them reel through complicated movements. Then I realized these dancers move without benefit of a caller. They memorized precise steps and placement on the floor; and then never missed a beat or a position as they swirl at dizzying speeds .
The men had noticeably muscular legs and when I went to their website and found more exciting pictures than what I could take. On the link below, their leader and teacher, Ron Wallace, has a button you can press to hear a bit of the very lively music.www.dunsmuirscottishdancers.org/home2.htm
The music was live, back stage and we didn’t get to see the muicians until the end. Someone should have tooted that bagpipe as a solo. They are pretty fascinating instruments we rarelyget see.
The young girls in kilts did a lively sword dance, perhaps the Highland Fling? I thought it would have been nice to have an MC explain the charm and history behind the various pieces. You could tell a couple of the early dances were about a harvest or fishing. The costuming was fabulous, but still a mystery in time.
They gave the dancers, (I tell you, this is a strenuous activity), a rest, and had three musical interludes. One of note was a ribald song of a man from Inverness who travels to his beloved mountains and proclaims, he is “…a wage slave on Mondays, but a free man on Sundays.” The other two musical numbers were forgettable, but the dancing is what we came to see.
Amanda told me she wants to someday be a dancer like her grandparents. She was fascinated, as I was by the performance. I hope she follows through and it all works out. The website gives a glimpse of where the dancers will be next. Maybe in your area.