Celebrating culture, as only Port Chester can
What would you expect from a cultural festival in Port Chester, a village where half the population is foreign-born and the Latino population draws from every corner of the hemisphere?
Port Chester Fest, on May 22, is aiming to live up to the community’s own diversity, and you can expect quite the array of cultures.
For example: There will be a “tijeras” or scissors dance, a competitive, gymnastics-like performance from the highlands of southern Peru. Walter Velille and Luis Aguilar are pictured here with harp player Alejandro Velasco and his brother Ignacio on violin.
Tom van Buren, director of Folk Arts and Performance Programs at ArtsWestchester, helped identify performers that reflect the area’s immigrant traditions. Here’s his description of the tijeras performers and th dance he calls “traditional Peruvian break dancing”:
“Walter Velille, whose stage name is Qesqento (the name of a cicada native to Peru) is one of the foremost dancers of this style in the New York region and has lived in Port Chester for over five years. He grew up in Lima, the capital of Peru, in a family from Apurima in the southern Andean region. He learned the tijeres dance from elders in his family. His father was also a Tijeras dancer and later played the violin for dancers during community events. Later, Walter had the opportunity to teach the dance to apprentices in a program of the Museo de la Nación. He has performed this dance in Europe, China and Japan, and has also performed widely in the United States since 2002, when he attended a native American gathering in Seattle. He has performed many times for the UN conference on Indigenous peoples. He will be performing with Luis Aguilar “Paccaricha” (Quechua for ‘Tomorrow’).”
Another act is Grupo Ujyuna, a group of Bolivian musicians in Port Chester who play Andean flutes (see a video here).
Read on for the list of groups taking part in the festival. For more on the event, click here.
HAGUA (Hermanos y Amigos de Guatemala) is a folk dance troupe that grew out of a humanitarian initiative in the Guatemalan community. The group was born from the tragedy of the Hurricane Stan that devastated the coastal regions of Guatemala in 2005.
Today HAGUA continues to help Guatemalans inside and outside of the US. In 2008 a branch of HAGUA opened in Stratford Connecticut. HAGUA also seeks to teach and promote Guatemalan folklore. Under the direction of Guatemalan choreographer Liliana Lopez of New Rochelle, the dance troupe performs a range of festival dances and folk theatrical presentations that blend colonial themes and indigenous Mayan culture.
They have appeared at parades and festivals in the tri-state area.
Elias Ladino Ensemble: Daniel Elias (Clarinet and Vocal) & Maurice Sedacca (Guitar and ‘Oud) have been performing Sephardic music together for more than 30 years. Both are sons of Sephardic singers. They grew up listening, singing and living with these songs. In 1992, they toured Spain as featured performers at the invitation of the Spanish government in recognition of the 500th Anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews. The songs are in the language of Ladino. This is the language that developed when the Jews left Spain and lived in the diaspora of the Ottoman Empire. It is old Spanish with Greek, Turkish, Hebrew and even French words thrown in. The songs are mostly love songs.
The Keltic Dreams Irish Dancers, are a group of 33 children ages 7-12 from Public School 59, PS 59 in the Bronx, NY. The school is situated in a low Socio Economic area in the Bronx and has a 95% poverty rate. The students are all African American and Hispanic and have no background in Irish culture. Hired by the Department of Education, Caroline Duggan moved to New York over 4 years ago and began teaching music in the school. After being constantly asked by the children why she spoke funny, she told them that she was from Ireland. The fascination began with questions about the Irish lifestyle, leprechauns and Irish dance. They questioned me about a huge photo of Riverdance I had hanging in the classroom. I showed the children a few steps and was truly amazed by how quick they grasped even the most complicated steps. They were fascinated with the Riverdance video from Radio City, especially how the show incorporated different cultures into Irish dancing. With this idea in mind and with the amazing support of the principal and school, they began an Irish dancing program after school twice a week. The group, The Keltic Dreams was born and have since had their own one hour show on The Plaza at Lincoln Center, in the Bronx Botanical Garden for Bronx week, St Barnabas Nursing Home, on the Band shell at Central Park, at Lehman College in the Bronx and in The Manhattan Mall at Herald Square NYC. They were the sole performers at the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Queens for Mayor Bloomberg and afterwards all the students marched in the parade joined by their parents. The Irish dance program has encouraged huge parental involvement, bringing the whole community together!
Grupo Ujyuna was founded in March 2007 in order to show the wider public the value of Andean culture and specifically that of Bolivia. Members of the bands represent families in the community who are committed to celebrating the instrumental and vocal music and dances of their native land. They are regular participants and organizers of cultural programs in Port Chester, and throughout the metropolitan area. The band was initially founded by Marin Riveros, Edgar Palazuelos, Franklin Alarkon and Jerry Riveros, before it was joined by the rest of the musicians performing tonight. They have performed at many different cultural celebrations, private parties, festivals and parades, including the Bolivian Festival in Virginia, The first Festival of Peruvian and Latin American folkloric dance and music at the University of Connecticut, and the Hispanic Parade in Manhattan.
El Grupo Ujyuna fue fundado en marzo de 2007, para mostrar al público en general el valor de la cultura andina, particularmente la de Bolivia. Los miembros de las bandas representan a las familias en la comunidad que se han comprometido a difundir la música instrumental y vocal y las danzas de su tierra natal.
El grupo organiza programas culturales en Port Chester, y en toda el área metropolitana. La banda fue fundada por Marin Riveros, Edgar Palazuelos, Franklin Alarkon y Jerry Riveros, antes de que se integraran los otros músicos que actúan esta noche.
La agrupación ha realizado presentaciones en diferentes celebraciones culturales, fiestas privadas, festivales y paradas, incluyendo el Festival Boliviano de Virginia, el primer Festival de Danza y Música Folclórica Peruana y Latinoamericana en la Universidad de Connecticut, y la Parada Hispana en Manhattan.
Ujyuna includes / Incluye:
Edgar Palazuelos – Charango, Guitar
Franklin Alarkon – Drums
Vicente Maldonado – Bass, Guitar, Charango, Composer
Ricardo Daza – Guitar
Sergio Jimenez – Zampoña, Quena, Guitar
Alvaro Riveros – Zampoña, Quena, Guitar
Paul Contreras – Violin, Guitar
Jerry Riveros – Zampoña, Quena
The Mount Vernon Gospel Knights are the pride of Mount Vernon’s gospel community. The whole family will be moved by the 30 voices and instrumental accompaniment. Founded in 1989 by Carson Stapleton, they are two time winners of the Annual Gospel Choir Competition and the only choir program to win 13 awards in a division at one time.
Carlos Jimenez is the next generation of great Puerto Rican flute players, following the steps of Dave Valentin and Nestor Torres. Born in Yonkers, New York, he started playing trumpet at four years old, under his father’s guidance. He then moved to Puerto Rico and studied trumpet and flute at Fransisco Zayas Santana High School with Professor, Pablo Leon.
In 1995 Jimenez moved to New York City to study at the Music Conservatory of Westchester, with flutist and saxophonist, Dave Fenucane. While completing his education in classical music, he studied with master musicians Dave Valentin, Hilton Ruiz, Mario Rivera, Bobby Porcelli, Sonny Bravo and Mike Longo.
Jimenez’ talent and passion for Latin Jazz has resulted in him recording and performing with many jazz greats, including Hilton Ruiz, Barry Harris, Dave Valentin, Jay Hoggard, Sonny Bravo, Dick Griffin, Eddie Allen, Cecil Bridgwater, John Benitez, Earl May, Leroy Williams, Wiilie Martinez, Chico Freeman, Pete Nater, Richie Viruet, Kevin Bryan, John Walsh, Jimmy Delgado, Richie Flores, Luisito Quintero, Edy Martinez, Harry Adorno, Chembo Corniel, Alfredo Valdez Jr., Javier Vazquez, Edy Zervigon, Little Johnny Rivero, Willie Cintron, Karen Joseph, Ruben Rodriguez, Lewis Kahn, Gregg August, Vince Cherico and Bobby Porcelli. His latest CD is titled “Thoughts”.
Committed to his craft and community, Jimenez has perform for the National Hispanic Business Group, Local 802 AFM, United Federation of Teachers, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hostos Community College, New Milford High School, New York City’ Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Castle Hill Senior Center, ST Baldrick’s Foundation, Westchester Arts Council, NYC-Labor Day Parade, NYC-National Puerto Rican Day Parade and Yonkers Downtown/Waterfront BID. Jimenez has performed as a special guest at Tribute to the greatest flutist of Cuban Charanga, Jose Fajardo with Jose Fajardo Jr. & All-Stars. Alternately, Jimenez has also performed at world-class hotels & casinos, such as the famous “The Borgata Hotel, The Ramada, Crown Plaza, The Pierre Hotel, Cipriani Hotel, Double Tree Hotel, Palm Pavillion, andEmpire City At Yonkers Raceway.”
(Photo: Tom van Buren/ArtsWestchester)