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I have not visited New York City for a while; returning to the city after a long stay away from the Big Apple has been for me an enchanting experience.
Definitely, the citizens of New York City must find a way to keep their patrician mayor in power for one more term. He might be the best mayor that any city in the world may have, as he puts in a full day of engaging work for the symbolic income of one dollar a year, while he leads his phalanx of commissioners to do the same for a much higher income, of course.
I can hardly recognize old neighborhoods such as the flower district in Manhattan, where giant buildings such as the one accommodating the Sofitel hotel perched along the Avenue of the Americas provide a majestic urban column that rivals the uptown Sixth Avenue vista, near the Rockefeller Center and the Hilton hotel.
Times Square, with its plaza-like setting, is an open air cafe amongst the tohubohu of the cars cruising on both sides of the oasis divider. Late at night, this center of the world is filled with people of all nations who play the narcissist game of admiring themselves on a giant television screen.
The New York renaissance is all over town, whether you are wandering in the old Park slope in Brooklyn where the town houses rival in price and in splendor the Park Avenue district of Manhattan. It is also in Queens that has now its own casino where a deluxe bus will bring you there for the modest price of one dollar per trip.
More 'waou' gasping is the rendition of the new Lincoln Center. The oracles of Adelphi would feel at ease in such a setting, three majestic buildings, a modern imitation of the Acropolis of Athens in a 6.8 acre campus-like setting, with fountains, flowers, and seats under the trees to gasp the panorama that might be the best imitation of God's lost paradise.
It is in this plaza that the trustee of Lincoln Center has regaled the commoners with free public events to compensate for the high priced concerts, dance and theater produced all year long inside the majestic buildings for the society people, who dress up almost nightly for the occasion.
For the last 40 years, I have been a regular to these outdoor events, where the musical roots of almost every ethnic group has a chance to exhibit itself for the privilege of sharing with the larger citizenry the strong emotions that their cultural roots engender. I have missed some few nights; as such, I rushed to gain what I could from the reminder of the program.
The Lincoln Center has redesigned the Damrosch Park bandshell to suite a dancing lounge (with a modest fee of $17) , a stage for the musicians, a seating area for the VIP who prefer not to mingle with the crowd, and a large setting for the public to mingle, dance and frolic at ease, freely.
Upon presenting my press credentials to be admitted freely on the dancing stage, the director of the program entered into a bargaining deal with me. You will be let in free, if you agree to publicize the program on Haitian roots, suspecting through my French namesake, I was from Haiti. I promised I will: Haitian Heritage Day with La Troupe Mackandal will take place on Sunday, August 5.
I even promised more; I will write a story about the event and profiting from the bargaining session I will advocate for Trinidadian and Jamaican music in next year's program. Yes they will be there, I was told.
The program consists in two different major undertakings. The Midsummer Night swing that started on June 26 to finish on July 14, The Lincoln Center Out of Doors follows almost immediately from July 25 to August 12. Stay a little bit more in New York and you will be regaled by free outdoor classical music in the parks and later the West Indian Carnival on Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, followed by the U.S. Open in Flushing.
It is the Mecca of tennis lovers, where the aficionados continue their vagabond wandering from Roland Garros, France, to Wimbledon, England, admiring the tennis players, usually featuring Serena Williams beating each and every opponent.
While the Midsummer Night swing is about music by big bands such as Harlem Renaissance Orchestra (July 14) and other bands such as Johnny Colon and his orchestra, more legendary big bands are also in residence at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors.
It is more about seeking and presenting the roots music of the different ethnic groups that represent the citizenry of New York City. It is indeed an innocent pleasure to watch grownups let go in the magic of dancing.
I asked the organizer of the event, how much it costs to stage this extravaganza. The policy of Lincoln Center is not to talk about money but to use money to satisfy its customers. Indeed they did. Everything was designed to please the senses, with no concern for the price: sight, sound and sensation, it lacks only the jasmine plants to produce the strong perfuming smell of its open white flowers at night.
The crowd responds to that generosity; at the plaza of Lincoln Center you find men and women at their best, smiling, and dancing with each other in that communal feeling of bonding that Barbara Ehrenreich in Dancing in the Streets called the ecstatic ritual practiced by the aborigines as well as by the modern man to cement the society.
Who needs the Caribbean in summer? I do.
In fact, I am packing to go back to Haiti, so I will not miss the rituals of the collective effervescence of the fiesta of the Saints. From mid-July to the end of August, several towns that celebrate their patron saints abandon themselves to the spirit of dance, where voodoo and Catholic rituals intermingle freely.
People will come from all over the nation to give themselves into the Fiesta of St. Marguerite on July 20 in the town of Port Margot, followed by the very voodoo spell fiesta of St. Jacques le Majeur in the town of La Plaine du Nord on July 24, then proceed to the very Catholic and frolic fiesta of St. Ann in the town of Limonade on July 26, followed by the fiesta of St. Martha in the bucolic village of Marmelade. They are all rural fiestas that need much international promotion because they represent the last vestige of Middle Ages pilgrimages in this very modern world.
I will be remiss not to invite guests from everywhere, in particular the Catholic community to come and visit my home town of Grand River on August 30, which is celebrating the 300th anniversary of its foundation as the parish of St. Rose. The atmosphere will rival the piety of Easter Mass at Easter at the plaza of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, as well as the debauchery of St. Patrick in New York on March 17.
Watching my father at 100 years old holding tight on life, I reflect and ponder that life is short but sweet if one remembers to take advantage of all the rituals that this world offers. I will miss New York, while frolicking in the Caribbean awaiting the next Midsummer Night swing of the year to come.
In the meantime, the invitation is open to come to the Caribbean during winter time when the grip of frigid weather renders New York not as hospitable as it is during summer time.
o Jean H. Charles MSW, JD is executive director of AINDOH Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol. Printed with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
If two round trip tickets to Greece and a week's stay at the Hilton Hotel on someone else's dime sounds like your kind of vacation, then you've got to try your hand at winning it, as it's the top prize at this year's Hellenic Ball. And if you want to win, you have to be in attendance because that's the only place tickets will be sold. Actually, the Greek trip is just one of eight other vacation trips that will be raffled off on the night.
The biennial ball this year will be held under the theme "Sunset In Santorini" in the Imperial Ballroom at Atlantis, Paradise Island on Saturday, March 10. Ball patrons will be entertained with music from "A Night in Athens" Trio (George Antonopoulos, Nic Trivelas and Joanna), a Greek band out of South Carolina, and The Falcons with their traditional Soca, Calypso, down home sounds.
"It's a fun, cultural ball," says Alexandra Maillis-Lynch. "It's a welcoming ball, which people can feel comfortable coming to alone because they don't need a partner to dance, because Greek dancing is all about line dancing." People who want to have some idea of the kind of dancing that will be done at the ball can participate in free Greek dance lessons that will be offered by the Greek community on Thursday, March 1 at the Greek Orthodox Church on West Hill Street. Greek mezedes (hors d'oeuvres) will be served.
While having fun, patrons will also support a worthy cause, as funds raised will aid the Ranfurly Homes for Children. It's a charitable arm of the ball that has been taking place every two years since 1974. Past recipients have included the Cancer Caring Centre, the home for the aged, the Governor General Youth Award, the Police Force Dependents Fund, the Hope Centre, Boy Scouts, and Princess Margaret Hospital's burn unit.
"The purpose really of establishing the Hellenic Ball was to bring the Greek community closer through all walks of life in the Bahamian community to recognize our customs, dancing, cooking and to become familiar with them, but it's primary purpose is to benefit charities," said ball founder Tony Klonaris. "The ball represents an instrument through which we Greeks, a small segment of Bahamian society, can contribute greatly."
The Hellenic Ball all started as a result of Bahamian Greeks celebrating Greek Independence Day, one of the most important holidays in Greece, which represents their independence from the Turks. Like Greeks around the world, Bahamian Greeks celebrated it like a church event at their church that was founded in the 1930s. That changed in 1973 when they decided to take the event public and donate proceeds to a deserving Bahamian charity. In 1974, they made their first donation to the Ranfurly Homes for Children
With this year's donation to the Ranfurly Homes for Children, the Hellenic Ball has come full circle 38 years later. Klonaris estimates that to date they have donated over $600,000 to charities since 1974.
Maillis-Lynch who is president of the board of directors at the Ranfurly Homes for Children said it was fantastic, that the home would benefit this year. She says they really need the money.
With a diverse cross-section of the community attending the ball every two years, with other nationalities outweighing the Greeks, there is a variety of food on offer to satisfy all palates, along with a few Greek specialties - desserts, and lamb and Greek salads, of course.
Tickets for the black-tie optional Hellenic Ball are $250 per person. Cocktails are served from 7 p.m. to 8 pm., with dinner following. To RSVP, telephone 359-0999 or 424-0400.
A NIGHT IN SANTORINI
What: Hellenic Ball
When: Saturday, March 10
Where: Imperial Ballroom, Atlantis, Paradise
Time: Cocktails 7 p.m. - 8 p.m., dinner to follow
Entertainment: "A Night in Athens" Trio (George Antonopoulos, Nic Trivelas and Joanna) and The Falcons
oDonation: $250 per person
Dress: Black-tie optional
To RSVP: Telephone 359-0999 or 424-0400
Freeport, Bahamas -
The Pelican Bay Hotel in Grand Bahama officially opened their new
conference facility called the Canal House on September 17th with a
brief ceremony and night of celebration on their property. The Rt Hon Hubert A.
Ingraham was in attendance for the occasion along with local
dignitaries, politicians, and business persons.
Guests arrived to
live Junkanoo music. The Grand Bahama Youth Choir led by Kevin Tomlinson
opened the ceremony with several Bahamian musical numbers, and after
remarks by general manager Magnus Alnebeck and the Prime Minister, a
ceremonial conch shell was smashed by Prime Minister Ingraham to
officially open the building.
Those in attendance were
then welcomed into the 5 level facility to enjoy food, drink and music
provided by The Matrix band and DJ President...
Twenty-seven students at Dance Bahamas School (DBS) have a reason to pirouette around their house all day long as they successfully passed their Royal Academy of Dance examination -- an international test which assesses the growth and achievement of dancers of all ages and ability levels.
The candidates between the ages of six and 16, acquired exceptional results, achieving either a distinction (gold standard) or merit (silver standard) pass on their exams. For DBS director, Robert J. Bain II, it was great to see the kids do well at the examination which he says is a great means for young dancers to be able to judge themselves and push themselves beyond their limits in a timely and healthy pace.