June 21: Make Music Chicago, Thai Fest, Ian Maskin and Las Guitarras de España

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Summer Solstice, the official start of summer in the Northern hemisphere, is June 21st and marks the start of my favorite season in Chicago as well as the beginning of a very busy cultural agenda. There are so many activities going that it could get overwhelming! I will try to feed you bits of it at each post so you can keep up with them. These are my picks for June 21st.

Thai Fest (June 19-21). Discover a glimpse of Thailand right in the heart of Chicago. Once a year, you can indulge yourself with mouth-watering hot and spicy authentic Thai food, Thai traditional dance and classical music, exciting Muay Thai, pampering Thai traditional massage, soothing oriental fragrance of Thai orchid, refreshing Thai coconut juice and a blow-away-your mind Thai fashion show.
11am-6pm Free admission.
Federal Plaza Square, 219 S. Dearborn, (Adams St. and Dearborn St.) Chicago. Click here for the festival’s schedule.

Make Music Chicago (June 21st): This is a live, free musical celebration across the city that takes place each June 21st, like its international French counterpart Fête de la Musique (also known as World Music Day) that happens around the world. Throughout the day, people of all ages and from all backgrounds – beginners, amateurs, professionals, and marquee artists – gather in Chicago’s public spaces to make music of all genres. Click here for this year’s schedule.

Cello and flamenco with Ian Maskin, las Guitarras de España and Wendy Clinard(June 21st): Flamenco dancer Wendy Clinard and Russian-born/Chicago-based cellist Ian Maksin will join Las Guitarras de Espana for an evening of flamenco, world music, Spanish folk and classical music at City Winery. Click here for more information.

Iris devoilée (June 21st): Eastern and Western musical traditions entwine in the Chicago premiere of the sensuous Iris devoilée by Chinese composer Qiqang Chen. This show is part of the Grant Park Music Fest. Click here for more information.

Recommended for tonight: From the Arctic to the Middle East(Broken Narratives by an American Flamenco Dancer)

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Is it possible to combine the intricate presentational aspects of flamenco in a vital contemporary context? Wendy Clinard attempts to do that in her latest multimedia show. Clinard Dance Theatre is proud to present From the Arctic to the Middle East (Broken Narratives by an American Flamenco Dancer) tonight at 8:00 p.m., and tomorrow April 22 at 7:00 p.m. at Links Hall 3435 N. Sheffield Avenue, Suite 207, Chicago, IL 60657.

Artistic Director Wendy Clinard leads you on a journey inspired by travels with her daughter to Syria while reading the Arctic travel epic, Kaloona. The work fuses connections between the ancient and the modern, the spiritual and the physical, and those between the essences of struggle and celebration. Clinard questions the forces that shape human history and interdependence. From the Arctic to the Middle East (Broken Narratives by an American Flamenco Dancer) uses the timeless tools of story, song, music, and dance to provide an odyssey and a sense of transcendence which gives the feeling that the journey has just begun.

I recently met Wendy at her dance studio in Pilsen for a conversation about this show. Wendy is a thoughtful, passionate and enthusiastic artist from Chicago that I had the pleasure to know as a flamenco teacher. As her student, I learned that in Flamenco it is vital to be yourself. This is something she learned herself from her teachers in Spain. As an American learning Flamenco, she was encouraged to embrace her own identity and be genuine. Flamenco is about self-expression, and about taking a body of knowledge and work it with your life experience. It is about including people rather than excluding them. In fact, the roots of flamenco come from people from different cultures that were in itinerary camps exchanging ideas and needing to express their hardships. Likewise, ideas are now being exchanged rapidly at a global level; however, when we are exposed to cultural differences, we often get defensive and we try to impose our own worldviews on them. Wendy states that instead of having an attitude of separation, we should see these differences with a sense of curiosity. To her, exposure to Flamenco allowed her to see difference and diversity in this light.

She became interested in Flamenco when, as a painter living in NYC, she tried to sketch a flamenco dance class. The drawings she produced were meek compared to the feelings she had while looking at the dancers perform. She thought that by experiencing the movement of flamenco in her own body she would be able to better capture the feelings she experienced. She started taking flamenco lessons in pursuit of being a better painter. She never ever thought of becoming a dancer. It was not something planned, it was just a path that opened to her and she followed it. Painting to her was introspective, but with dancing she started to work on lifting and and grounding herself. Unlike painting, which is very loose and free, dancing has rules to follow. Having rules to express yourself and to grow was very satisfying to her. She became immersed in the Flamenco dance world, and people started introducing her as a Flamenco dancer without her being aware of this new identity.

To Wendy, Flamenco is a dance form that welcomes a true seeker and that requires discipline, humility and love. And she dances for love. Flamenco is an activity that is deeply connected to her personal life and this is expressed in her work. For example, “ From the Arctic to the Middle East” is inspired by her daughter Sophie. The idea for this piece grew from a personal reflection during a trip they took to Syria and contemplating Sophie’s adaptation to a different environment. During that time, she was reading the Arctic travel epic Kaloona. Wendy started collecting picture files of personal events happening during this trip and quotes from the book that were inspiring to her. She started connecting the dots between them, and discovered a common theme. She found that what started as something very anecdotal became something universal. Her motif for this piece is to pull back from our usual way of seeing common things and to look at them from a different perspective. Through a combination of dancing, and hearing sounds, music, and text , she attempts to offer an opening to people to shift perspectives. The piece talks about biology, psychology, spirituality, and individual growth. Wendy is looking for a dialogue with her audience and for intimacy to occur together. She also hopes that the piece inspire people to have the courage to express and be themselves. She wants people to connect through her work, to reconsider, pause, and feel that it is okay to be who you are and talk about life in different ways. The gift she wants to give through her work as an artist and as a teacher is to allow people to be themselves, to connect, and to create dialogue. If you want to find more information about Wendy, her current production, and her classes, visit her website at http://clinardance.org/wordpress/

Flamenco with a Chicagoan flavor: An Open Heart conversation with singer and composer Patricia Ortega’s from Las Guitarras de Espana

A few days ago I had the pleasure to have an open-heart conversation with Chicagoan singer and composer Patricia Ortega from Las Guitarras de Espana. I met Patty during my flamenco studies at Wendy Clinard’s Studio. I had the chance to dance to her beautiful singing during Wendy’s open houses, but I had no idea that she was also a composer. I was greatly impressed when she told me she is about to release a CD that is featuring her work in collaboration with Las Guitarras de Espana. The album is titled “Tantas Cosas” (So Many Things), and as the title indicates, this CD has many musical styles that reflect Chicago’s rich cultural diversity. Patty took the forefront on this CD, and taking Spanish guitar as the foundation, the compositions are spiced up with touches borrowed from African, Brazilian, Arab, Indian, Funk, and Rap genres. Patty herself is the product of cultural fusion: She was born and raised in Chicago, but her mom is from Mexico and her dad from Cuba, and as a child, the family parties were infused with Mexican Folk music, Cuban Son, and Flamenco. She mentions that pop, rock, R&B, Mexican ranchera, and artists such as Cafeta Cuba, Ojos de Brujo, Chambuco, Concha Buika, Lila Downs, and Michael Jackson are the inspiration for her compositions.

Patty also borrowed excerpts from her own personal journey during the last two years to write the songs for this album. She has lived “tantas cosas” so intensely during this time that she had plenty of inspiration to create. The CD is a journal in which love is the main protagonist. Patty has poured her heart in these compositions and writes about the joy of being in love, of the sadness of unrequited love, of the pain felt when a relationship ends, of the tender love that a mother feels for her daughter, and also about learning to love unconditionally and live in the present moment. Here are some songs from the CD for your enjoyment:

Tantas Cosas

Dos Besos

No Me Queda Mas

Cada Dia

Alegria de las Ninas

You can buy the CD at www.the guitarsofspain.com. Also, if you would like to be part of the CD release party, then go to Mayne Stage this Saturday June 4 at 7:30 pm. The show promises to be amazing. There will be 25 performers on stage, including Las Guitarras de Espana large ensemble, dancers and guest artists such as Satya, Silvia Manrique from Beaba do Samba, and New-York based Alfonso Cid and his flamenco rock band Dientes de Caramelo. You can get tickets to the show here.

Wanna win a Free CD of TANTAS COSAS? Then visit my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/chicagourbanite), post “I LIKE CHICAGO URBANITE” on my wall, and have your friends comment on your post saying that they were referred by you. Winner is the one getting the most comments. Contest ends tomorrow June 2nd at 10 am. Good luck!

TONIGHT: GYPSY, FLAMENCO, AND TANGO

Today is Friday May 13, and some people may be afraid to go out tonight. If you are not, and are actually looking for some options to spend your Friday evening, let me suggest the following shows:

Flamenco and Gypsy Jazz with Alfonso  Ponticelli and dancer Cristina Gutierrez at Katerina’s

1920 W Irving Park Rd Chicago

$10 cover

Ponticelli has played gypsy-jazz music for more than a decade, having traveled several times to the annual Django Reinardt Festival in France. He introduced gypsy-jazz to Chicago in the 1990s. A multi-intrumentalist, he won the 1994 U.S. National Mountain Dulcimer Championship and plays both banjo and guitar with the Illinois Philarmonic Orchestra. He’s also a gypsy flamenco guitarist, and went  to Cordoba, Spain, to study with the great flamenco guitarist Rafael Riqueni. I saw this show last month and had a great time. I loved the energy of the place and the people working there, and  the connection between the performers and the audience. Here is a sample of what I saw that night:

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Las Guitarras de Espana presents an Intimate Evening of Flamenco Music at Uncommon Ground on Devon

1401 West Devon Avenue Chicago

Las Guitarras 2011

In its incarnation as a small ensemble, Las Guitarras de Espana features the gorgeous vocal melodies of composer Patricia Ortega, the Indian vocalist, Satya and the rhythmic footwork of flamenco dancer Wendy Clinard. The intensity and beauty on display at the front of the stage is anchored by Afro-Cuban percussion, the melancholy cello work of the Syrian artist, Kinan Abou-afach and the studied Spanish guitar of composer Carlo Basile. Las Guitarras de Espana will release its 5th CD, “Tantas Cosas” in 2011. 10pm, $15. Advance tickets only, purchase HERE  or call 773-465-9801 for reservations.

ARTango Gala Opening Night Party

4203 N Ravenswood Ave

ARTango Center is a studio that offers group and private tango classes and milongas. Tonight, the studio is proud to present a NEW TANGO HOME in Chicago, a place where you can enjoy tango as well as experience authentic Argentinean culture. With its interior designed and built by Argentineans, who put much effort into creating a vibrant modern space that, at the same time, would have an authentic feel of an Argentinean home, the NEW ARTango home is like a little Buenos Aires in Chicago where everyone can come and dance tango, and feel the heat of the passionate milonga nights.
ARTango wants you to fall in love with tango and become friends with the wonderful people of the ever growing tango-community in Chicago. The studio has FREE Parking and the Gala Opening Night Party is scheduled  from 10:00 pm until 5:00 am.Have you ever try Argentinian Asado (BBQ)? Here is your chance to try it because this party will have authentic Argentinian asado. This event is BYOB

Cost: $15 (asado included in the price)

Today is World Dance Day!

Since 1982, UNESCO has designated today, April 29, as International Dance Day (World Dance Day). This day was created to increase awareness of the importance of dance among the general public, as well as to persuade governments all over the world to provide a proper place for dance in all systems of education.  Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO declares that “Dance, being a central part of every culture, constitutes the ideal means for bringing together people from different countries….For vividly illustrating cultural diversity, for embodying rapprochement, there is no better means than dance”.  I cannot agree with her more.

Dance has the power to bring people from different cultures and backgrounds together. I see it every time I dance. My current Tango class, for example, has students from different countries and ages. Despite all of our apparent differences, we all have something in common: our love for dancing. To me, dancing is a way to express myself and to connect with others through music. It allows me to communicate beyond spoken languages.  One word that describes the way I feel when I dance is JOY. I have also seen that joy in others, and many times I have  felt compelled to learn from them. So, today, I would like to thank those who inspire me to keep dancing: Wendy Clinard , Edo Sie and Azucena Vega for Flamenco;  Jenny Avellaneda, Pierr Padilla, Ruben Pachas, and Jessica Loyaga for Peruvian Folk Dance; Ariel Yanovsky, Shafqat Manzur, and Maria ArTango for Tango, and all the other impromptu teachers that I have encountered throughout my life. I also want to acknowledge my dear friend and fellow dancer Hector Bustamante for sharing his love and commitment to dancing with me and for encouraging me to keep improving my dance skills.

Tonight, I am planning on spending the night away dancing some Bhangra. I hope you can also feel the beauty and joy of dancing tonight. And remember: