If you aren’t aware of Homeland Cultural Center and what they do, Dancefest was the perfect place to get to know them. As the Arts Council for Long Beach’s intern I was invited to attend the event with my supervisor Shay Thornton Kulha and I was very pleasantly surprised! The program informed me all about how the cultural center is located in MacArthur Park and has “free classes and drop-in programs in street dance, instrumental music and graffiti art”. What struck me personally was the wide variety in the performing groups- both in style and age. Because I enjoyed it so much, and want everyone to check it out next year, I’m going to give a breakdown of my impressions of the show because it was truly an energetic atmosphere with so many groups to enjoy!
Dancefest featured a huge list of performing groups such as:
West Afrikan Drum and Dance Ensemble
Cambodian Fine Art Heritage Relief Foundation
Xipetotec Aztec Dance
Ballet Folklorico Maria
Homeland Sound Army
Ancient Khmer Martial Arts
Homeland Street Dance Crew and Kids
Hmong Association of Long Beach
Homeland Grand Finale
In addition to the dance groups there were four spoken word performances by:
Aaron Taylor (Wolf)
The show started with the West Afrikan Drum and Dance Ensemble and their wonderful high energy kept the audience engaged, clapping and cheering along. This was followed by a gorgeous dance from the Cambodian Fine Art Heritage Relief Foundation, where three young girls performed an elegantly controlled blessing dance. The pace picked up after their performance when the Homeland Funkstylers featured several ensembles ranging from hip hop to a diva all girls number! Following them was the Xipetotec Aztec Dance group- and they had a huge ensemble of children dancing in traditional costume (the amount of feathers was truly impressive)! Then finishing the first act was several numbers by Ballet Folklorico Maria, which was also performed by children. They actually had my favorite performer- probably the youngest boy in the show- who was SO excited to be dancing, but sometimes forgot to follow the group and had a couple cute unintentional solos!
By this point two of the spoken word artists, Felicia and Sean, had performed and they both had incredibly positive messages about love- loving others and romantic love- that resonated with the audience that responded quite well with them. The later artists, Wolf and Jumakae, had different focus- identity. Wolf spoke quickly and it seemed to be a battle machismo cry of manly skill and identity. This was quite different than Jumakae who spoke about her heritage both as Thai and American and reclaiming her body- something many women in the audience audibly supported!
The second half of the show began with Homeland’s Sound Army, which started with an original piece that was heavily instrumental, then transitioned into a rendition of Michael Jackson’s Beat It that had the audience singing along. Ancient Khmer Martial Arts was the next group, and they demonstrated to a fun soundtrack group movement and form, and then a series of intense mock sparring between individuals and sometimes groups! Then Homeland presented another of its groups, the Street Dance Crew and kids- which featured all ages and choreography I would never be capable enough to rock! It was clear from their comradery on stage that they loved performing and even more performing together. Next was the Hmong Association of Long Beach. Their leader Wang Xiong played a truly impressive traditional instrument (and I could not figure out how he was breathing) while a band of elegantly and traditionally attired youth marched in time and to subtle choreography around the stage. Then there was a girls number that was super sweet and involved another series of instruments I’d love to study! The Homeland grand finale had some truly impressive solos and a celebration of almost the full cast on stage!
All in all, this was a great showcase of what Long Beach has to offer, and the Arts Council was truly excited to see Jim Ruggirello, Community Services Supervisor’s vision come to life!
If this performance sounds exciting- get ready for A LOT 2014’s “Color Me Long Beach” a multi-media event that will feature many of the groups from Dancefest on September 27, 2014! A FREE event with 5 hours of programming, booths, and food trucks it’s going to be quite colorful indeed!