Tangoing Across Central New York

Every Wednesday night, a group gathers at the Skybarn on Syracuse University campus. It is a mixture of students, community members, men, women, old people, young people, Americans, Europeans, Middle Easterners, Latinos, and more. What brings them together is Argentine tango, a dance that has enjoyed a strong following across Upstate New York for decades. In addition to Syracuse – Ithaca, Buffalo, Utica, and Geneva all boast their own tango communities and many dancers travel from city to city to take classes and dance with new people. These tango events include “practicas” where dancers gather informally to practice and learn from one another, and “milongas” – more formal social dances with lots of wine and food.

As I learned more about tango, I began to wonder how an Argentinean dance spread so far and attracted such a diverse array of devotees. The story begins in Buenos Aires during the late 1800s and early 1900s. As a powerful seaport, the city had lots of traffic coming in and out from Europe and other parts of the world. Tango had developed locally but carried strong influences from abroad. Many of its most influential composers have Italian names and the instrument most associated with tango – the bandoneon, is of German extraction. Buenos Aires was plagued by a lack of women compared to the number of men, and tango grew in popularity as a way of allowing men some contact with the opposite sex. Though it started in the brothels, bars, and rougher areas of Buenos Aires, the dance was spread across the world by sailors. It would catch on in Europe and eventually across the world.

At its basic level, Argentine tango is based on walking in unison with your partner in connection to the rhythm of tango music. I call it “walking while hugging”. However, as it develops for the individual dancer, it becomes an incredibly creative dance. Individual movements are strung together in an infinite number of ways in an improvised manner, so that each tango danced is a unique experience. Additionally, you can dance to the melody of the song instead of just the rhythm. Rather than memorizing figures, dancers develop the connection to their partner so that each step is communicated individually. When the connection is strong, the result is magical.

If you are interested in visiting a tango community near you, the local schedules are summarized below:

Syracuse: Wednesdays at the Skybarn on SU Campus (7:30 pm – 10:30 pm)
Ithaca: Thursdays at the Baker Portico on Cornell Campus (7:00 pm – 10:00 pm)
Utica: Sundays 6:15 to 9:15 pm at the Function Better Studio, 5094 Commercial Drive, Yorkville NY Buffalo: Every Wednesday except the last Wednesday of the month. Movement 716 at 3111 Delaware Ave, Buffalo NY (7:00 pm – 10:00 pm)

About the author – Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He has experience working in the drug policy field and writes about it every month for CNY Latino. Maximilian learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at maxeyle@gmail.com.

Breaking the Waves

by Ana María Díaz de Lewine, www.ruimonte.us

Translation into English by Alan Lewine, www.owlsong.com

September 27, 2016, 7.30pm, Perelman Theater, Philadelphia.

Missy Mazzoli, composer; Royce Vavrek, libretto; Stephen Osgood, conductor; James Darrah, director; Adam Rigg, scenic design; Elizabeth Braden, chorus master; Chrisi Karvonides, costume design; Adam Larsen, projections; Pablo Santiago, lighting. Kiera Duffy, Bess McNeill; Eve Gigliotti, Dodo McNeill; Marcus DeLoach, minister; Zachary James, Terry; John Moore, Jan Nyman; John Miles, Sadistic Sailor; David Portillo, Dr. Richardson; Patricia Schuman, Madre de Betsy; George Ross Somervill, The Runt; Daniel Taylor, The Stone Thrower.  Chorus of church elders, oil rig workers, voice of god and towns people. 

Based on the 1990s movie of the same title by Lars von Trier, in September the Philadelphia Opera presented the world premiere of Breaking the Waves set on Scotland’s Isle of Skye in the early 1970s, tells the story of the dependent relationship between young Bess and her husband Jan. Shortly after their marriage, Jan was disabled and left a bed-ridden quadriplegic from a horrible accident on the oil rig where he worked. To maintain his sense of life and sexuality, Jan asks the innocent Bess to have multiple sexual relationships with strangers and then return to describe her sexual experiences to him in detail later. At first, Beth said no, but then gave in to his pleas and became known as the slut of the community until eventually she suffered social exile from her family and community. A doctor tries to help Beth, explaining that in the early stages of a marriage it is common to suffer depression. Beth soon dies after a violent rape. We see the hypocrisies of the church and the towns people, who not only persecuted Beth, but also Dodo, her supporter and sister-in-law. 

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Beatle John Lennon last visit to Syracuse

Beatle John Lennon last visit to Syracuse took place in 1971. The big occasion was the opening of an art exhibition put on by his wife, Yoko Ono, at the Everson Museum of Art. The power couple was  accompanied by another Beatle: Ringo Starr, who came with his spouse, Maureen Cox. A third Beatle, George Harrison, also visited Yoko’s art show, but at a later date.

John, Ringo, Yoko and their entourage stayed at the Hotel Syracuse and stopped by its Wise Guys Comedy Club. Further, John celebrated his 31st birthday, which fell on October 9, in the Salt City. He even wrote his tune “Attica State” in the lead-up to his birthday commemoration. 

At the Everson show’s reception John and Yoko hobnobbed with Syracuse’s cream of the crop, such as its corrupt Mayor Lee Alexander (also known as “The Greek Alexandrides”). The Syracuse’s VIPs pushed each other out of the way in order to rub elbows with John and Yoko. The locally produced movie “King Lee,” which is a spoof, immortalizes scenes seen at the Everson exhibit.

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A Musical Leap from New York to the Desert of Spirituality of Arizona

During the summer gig, Los Ruimonte performed in live for the people of the experimental city of Arcosanti in Arizona. This city was a discover for the Spanish singer Ana María – “I have the impression to be in another planet” – while Alan had already been there in 1978 during the famous music festival – “we were lucky for our car didn’t burn that night when several cars were burned at the parking, in what it was known as “Car-B-Que”.

Designed by Paolo Soleri, Arcosanti is an experimental city which is continuously under construction and expanding following the principle of the Arcology, where the nature gives the hand to the ecology. In a natural location, its design resemble the sun and the clay ground of the Great Canyon of Arizona. Cities nowadays, full of cars, where the individuality and the consume prevailed, and pollution is produced, and where to access to any place the cars are indispensable, lead to resurge this movement of coexistence with the nature, around the 70’s. In August 2016, after more than 40 years of its birth, it continues being active and alive. In a spontaneous recital, during a hot summer night of Arcosanti, and with the background of the sky, the stars and a beautiful moon, the sweet voice of Ana María Ruimonte, rhythmically accompanied by the chords and low notes of the bass of Alan Lewine, the night was colorful of Sephardic music, boleros, and the famous Star Trek, which is so appropriate in the location of Arcosanti. Outdoors, under the dome of “The Vaults”, which was designed by the architect and built by collaborators and volunteers who believed in the idea and the project, a natural eco was originated and everything was evolved of magic and music – “Your voice echoed to the heavens this night” said Rob Jameson, the Technology Manager of Arcosanti. At the end of the night, a little scorpion, surely attracted by the music, was around, so the people of Arcosanti live together and peacefully with the invertebrates and arthropodes, animal species of the beautiful desert of Arizona.

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Chinese Mythology: Love melts the ice Princess


Promoted with the line “Provoke the Passion within Opera Philadelphia”, the Fall season of Opera Philadelphia starts strong, with Turandot, a co-production with the Minnesota Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Pittsburg Opera, Utah Opera and Seattle Opera. Turandot offers great soloists, a full chorus, supernumeraries and ballet on a traditional stage set. The program quotes stage Director Renaut Doucet and the Stage and Costumes Designer André Barbe: “[O]ur Turandot [is] inspired by the myths of China’s Hmong minority, which tells how all creatures, including humans, are descended from a Butterfly mother.” He refers to the princess Turandot’s costume, the sleeves of which can be opened like the wings of a butterfly, but inside we can see the skulls of those who died trying to conquer the princess by answering her riddles to win her hand. Indeed, the staging and costumes, like the Chinese myth, follows a pattern of numbers and shapes. The circular motif prevalent in the sets and costumes represents the idea of transformation in the cycle of life and death. The large circular gong that appears on stage is rung three times when a person has just died. The number three “represents heaven, earth, and man as well as the three stages of a man’s life: birth, marriage and death.” We meet the three comic characters: Ping, Pong and Pang, who are the advisor, the provider and the cook. The auspicious number six in Mandarin is pronounced “liu”, also the name of a central lovelorn character, and represents the blessing and happiness which could have been Calaf’s had he accepted Liu instead vainly pursuing his love for Turandot. The eight scholars who know Turandot’s riddles and pronounce the fortune of Calaf when he correctly answers the three riddles, align with the mystical number eight, associated with prosperity and fortune. Chinese mythology describes humanistic personal growth as most important, and the princess Turandot finally recognizes that Calaf as her love and chooses him over death and anger.

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Ava’s Impossible Things

Letters from a Lesbian… 

Dear World,

If you don’t know Marina Rice Bader, let me take this opportunity to introduce you to her. She’s a filmmaker, and an incredible one at that.

I recently had the chance to watch her latest movie, Ava’s Impossible Things. Which proved to me that nothing is impossible for Rice Bader.

In just nine days, she and her cast and crew had completed a beautiful, full-length, feature film. Marina Rice Bader wrote, directed, and produced the movie. It was originally slated for 15 days of shooting, with a larger budget. Unfortunately, things changed at the last minute, so they lost several days of shooting time, and even the cast had to be cut down. Rice Bader said in an interview with Afterellen.com that she would stay up after filming every night to re-write the script to fit the new budget and time frame. Yet in watching in the piece, you would never know any of that took place.

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Ruimonte Triumphs in CUBADISCO at Havana1

Ana María Ruimonte and Alan Lewine traveled to Havana from Philadelphia at the invitation of the Ministry of Culture to take part of the 20th annual International Festival Cubadisco. The Spanish Association of Artists and Interpreters (AIE), and Owlsong Productions, Inc. of the United States supported their travel and concerts.

Ana María Ruimonte, the “Spanish Mezzo & Soprano”, performed the concert “Roses for Ernesto Lecuona” with the prestigious Cuban pianist Huberal Herrera at the Theater of the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana. The recital, which included songs by the composer as Noche Azul (“Blue Night”), Rosa la China (“Rosa the Chinese”), Dame de tus Rosas (“Give Me Your Roses”), Siempre en mi Corazón (“Always in My Heart”), and others, and Herrera also presented solo piano dances and waltzes as Preludio en la Noche (“Prelude in the Night”), Poético (“Poetic”), Aragón and Lecuona´s most famous Malagueña. The concert closed with Spanish repertoire by Granados and the zarzuela romanza Canción Andaluza (“Andalusian Song”) from the zarzuela Dúo de la Africana by Fernández Caballero, that brought a standing ovation. As a final encore they performed the Lecuona´s popular María la O to great acclaim and loud “bravos” to Spain and Cuba – an emotional and warm end.

This collaboration opens the frontiers between United States and Cuba, on the hand of our Spanish music, this universal language that we all share across Latino America, and which music has so much in common because of the continuous influence of styles.

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