Latino Festival Returns to Queens Theatre in the Park
BY CLIFF KASDEN
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall led a distinguished group of guests and an audience of more than 500 who recently celebrated at Queens Theatre in the Park. The event, the 11th annual Latino Cultural Festival, continues through Sunday, August 5. It showcases the creative Latino influence that thrives in Queens.
On opening night, every seat was filled. Dozens lined the aisles. Bassist/producer Pablo Aslan and his ensemble “Avantango” kept the audience mesmerized with their combination of creative jazz and tango. The dancers strutted and dipped with the passion and power of the tango.
The standing ovation at the conclusion of their performance merely reaffirms the tango as an undisputed creative outlet. It has electrified the world for generations. Originally, from Argentina, the troupe is currently based in New York. Their credentials include participation in venues with Julio Iglesias, Yo-Yo Ma, Shakira and the film “Tango.”
Following the main performance, the audience was invited to a second event under the summer stars. A full salsa band, “El Contraste,” led by El Salsero Edwin Gomez and El Sonero Pichardo were outstanding. Enthusiastic guests picked up the beat as the troupe entertained the crowd. A multicultural meal was also served. What a magical evening, all just a few minutes' stroll from the legendary Unisphere.
The festival's Artistic Director, Claudia Norman, who has coordinated this event since the 1990s, was on hand. Queens Theatre in the Park's Executive Director Jeff Rosenstock was the exuberant emcee, while his lovely wife, Milady, danced salsa with dignitaries.
Eager to highlight different art forms from different Central American, South American and European countries, the festival boasts performers from many regions. Spain's dance company Noche Flamenca offers an award-winning glimpse of flamenco music and dance. Brazilian/Chilean mega-star Joe Vasconcellos presents music and lyrics that are often politically charged. Mexican musical group “Semilla” combines folk and flamenco. Ecuador's “Yarina” reflects Andean rhythms. The Banda Sinfonica from Valencia, Spain, is a gigantic group of more than forty musicians.
The film “Mi abuelo, mi papa y yo” (my grandfather, my father and I) shows three generations of Colombian family life (with English subtitles). A one-woman show is entitled He(R) evolution by writer/performer/educator Julia Ahumada who has Chilean roots. Costa Rican “Diquis Tiquis” combine music, dance and mime. Argentinian trumpeter Diego Urcola performs with his jazz quintet.
The Afro Colombian rhythms of “Coba” with Peru's “Claudia Trio” dominate Thursday's events. Puerto Rican singer/songwriter/activist Roy Brown traces his public voice to the 1960s. For the kids, an animated picture, “Piratas del Callao,” plays twice on Saturday. Afro-Colombian music by Petrona Martinez and Peruvian Vocalist Tania Libertad (with Brazilian and Mexican influences) completes the twelve day festival.
Located at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, parking is ample. A complimentary shuttle “trolley” is also available. Some events are free. Call 718-760-0064 or visit www.queenstheatre.org for more information in English or Spanish.
As always, save me a seat on the aisle.