Welcome to our blog "All Cuba" where we provide updated information on all things Cuban as it pertains to the art scene in the New York City metropolitan area and beyond.  Please visit us often and send us your listings.  Theatre, art, music, film... read about it here!!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Benefit Gala to Support Art Youth Group

The Grace Theatre Workshop, Inc., a not-for-profit youth based organization dedicated to providing free classes in the performing arts to children, will be holding their annual Spring Benefit Gala on Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 7:00 PM at the elegant The Graycliff, 122 Moonachie Avenue, Moonachie, New Jersey.  The Gala will feature live performances, delicious dinner, dance music, and a great time.  The organization will also be presenting Community Service Awards to individuals who have contributed to the betterment of the community as a whole.  

The evening will feature first class performances by West Hudson Opera members John Jay Hebert Jacqueline Thompson accompanied on piano by Jason Hart; a special performance by Jeanne Koehler on the harpand Eric Grossman on violin with Lida Mancheva on piano.

Donations for the Spring Benefit Gala are $100.00 per person and can be purchased by visiting:  http://www.gracetheatre.com/annualspringbene.html

Now into its fourteenth year, The Grace Theatre provides free classes in Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop, Tap/Rhythm, Folkloric Dance/Salsa, Flamenco, Singing, and Acting to children from Hudson County as well as free admission to professional performances to the students and their families. This school year alone, over four hundred students received free classes at the Grace Theatre.

The Grace Theatre Workshop, Inc. has received much critical acclaim for its professional theatrical productions and is the premiere presenter of bilingual and Spanish language theatre in the State of New Jersey.  This year alone, the Grace Theatre has been the recipient of the prestigious ACE Award as well as the ATI Award.

The Grace Theatre Workshop, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization, and therefore donations are tax deductible.  Any contribution is greatly appreciated.  If unable to attend but would like to make a donation, please log on to:  www.GraceTheatre.com

Or mail a check or money order payable to:
The Grace Theatre Workshop
P.O. Box 4412
Union City, NJ 07087

For more information, please visit:  www.GraceTheatre.com 

Please support the arts and our children.  
It will undoubtedly be a wonderful evening. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Interview with Ricardo Bacallao

The Way of the Art: An Interview with Filmmaker Ricardo Bacallao
by Amy Evans

As an African Diaspora dramatist with an American passport, I occupy a position of unequivocal privilege. I can cross national borders without applying for a visa or even undergoing so much as an eye scan. And yet even this privilege fails to alleviate the feeling of emptiness, of something missing, something situated far beyond the borders of my present location. In everything I write, I directly address this emptiness, and with each new piece comes a new incarnation of who I am. 
Writing from this position poses a complex dilemma. How do I as a Diaspora artist negotiate the task of sharing truths with audiences that are not ready to hear them? How do I avoid the trap of becoming a spokesperson rather than a storyteller, a translator instead of an inventor? My solution has been to seek out scriptwriters whose work explores questions of race and identity without compromising artistic integrity. 
One such artist is Ricardo Bacallao, one of the most versatile and prolific young filmmakers to emerge on the New York scene. Since he was a kid, Bacallao had it in him to tell stories. He grew up in Havana next to a cinema and played there after school: “The workers in the cinema were friends of my family. It was like my backyard.” That he would one day pursue a career in filmmaking was not a choice, but a given. Bacallao attended the prestigious Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA) in Havana and graduated in 2002, his thesis -- a feature film in three segments, one of which he would later develop into the short film Mondongo cubano (2010) – having been censored the year he was meant to finish. He finally completed his studies at ISA with a different project, a documentary on the Havana Film Festival and society entitled Mimesis. This film was also censored, this time by the film festival itself, and was only shown in festivals outside of Cuba.
In 2002 Bacallao left Cuba for Germany, where he completed two of his best-known documentary films, Short Radiography of Hip-Hop in Cuba  (2004) and The Maji-Maji Readings (2006). He relocated to the United States and is now in his final year in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Asia Program, which has brought him to yet another part of the world: Singapore. I interviewed him a few weeks before he was due to head back to Singapore and asked him what the term ‘Diaspora’ meant to him. “Diaspora for me is a big journey,” he says. “Physical, spiritual. Cultural … it’s a big journey that never stops.” 
The first leg of this journey was Berlin, a city with a pulsating arts scene and a brutal colonial legacy: it was during the Berlin Conference of 1884 that the so-called ‘Scramble for Africa’ was formalized, and the continent was effectively divided up among European nations. “When I was living in Cuba, I never thought I belonged to any Diaspora. It was only when I started living in Germany. In Germany, if there’s another Black person [on the street], he says hello to you, greeting you. This was something very weird to me. I said to myself, ‘Why?’ I realized at that moment that I belonged to a community, the Black Diaspora.” Making documentaries was a way for Bacallao to explore this shift in perspective. The Maji-Maji Readings features some of Berlin’s most prominent creative and intellectual voices -- Ekpenyong Ani, Philippa Ébené, and Grada Kilomba -- reflecting critically on everyday racism and German popular culture. “It’s like when you are far away, there’s something pushing you to go on this kind of journey, the journey to find out who you are. In Cuba, this pressure is not going to be there in the same way.”
What is the driving force behind this push for self-discovery? Under the British, the slave system in the United States sought to permanently wipe out the languages, religious practices and traditions that enslaved Africans had brought with them from the continent. The manner in which the slave system developed in Cuba differed significantly, resulting in a greater sense of connection with African traditions: “In Cuba, African culture was so strong,” says Bacallao. “We don’t look toward going to Africa because Africa is in Cuba.” And yet, for Bacallao, leaving Cuba – traveling abroad and looking back from a distance – has created a new urgency to embrace what has been left behind. “As an artist it’s important to go out traveling, to see what’s going on outside in the world. This is the good side of being in the Diaspora. At the same time you have many questions about who you are and where you are going. You’ve left behind your own people, your family, your friends, you start up a new life. Sometimes it’s very traumatic, this kind of thing. Not sometimes - all the times. It’s something you’re not ready for. You think you’re ready, but you’re not, because you don’t know. Diaspora is not voluntary. It’s a situation where there are external elements pushing you to move.”
Bacallao admits that he would probably not be making the same kinds of films if he had remained in Cuba: “When I was living in Cuba, [the films] were more about social conflicts, communities.”  Being far away has challenged him to move in a more intimate direction. In Offering to Yemaya: Goddess of the Sea (2009), Bacallao allows his audience a measured glimpse into the world of Santería, a religion brought to Cuba by Africans who had been captured and transported to the Caribbean as slaves. The film documents a Santería ceremony in which worshippers pay tribute to Yemaya, the mother of all the Orishas, or deities of Santería. “I decided to do something about Santería because I needed to know more about this. That was my feeling, like, ‘Oh, I need to do something there.’” Aware that he stood a chance of alienating viewers who might find images of the ritual overwhelming, Bacallao made careful choices about what to film and what to cut. “For me it was so fascinating to be there inside of the ritual, but I realized for many people it’s too much. So I cut out many scenes. I showed some part of the ritual, and for me, it was enough.” His strategy for achieving this level of accessibility is to take an economical approach: “You don’t try to say too much,” he says. “I think this is the challenge: to be specific with the audience but at the same time not be superficial. A good story is a story people will understand.”
The strategy seems to be working. Whether the setting is in an impoverished Cuban household, the ultra-trendy streets of Berlin, or a shrine in downtown Singapore, Bacallao’s films, while unapologetically political, are at heart good stories:, challenging, bittersweet and unpredictable. In his short fiction film The Offering (2008), a young African widower going to pay tribute to his dead Indian wife at a local shrine is turned away by a Chinese caretaker who insists that Blacks – as well as dogs – are not allowed inside. Defeated, the young man starts to leave, but an act of divine intervention leads him back to the shrine and inspires him to fight for his right to honor his loved ones. Shot in black-and-white in a style reminiscent of 1970s kung-fu films, Bacallao weaves humor and irony into a touching story about pride and redemption without downplaying the contentious issue of racism in Singapore: “I think this is the way
of the art, to give light or illuminate conflicts.”
So how does an artist with such a broad range at his disposal decide what stories to tell? Bacallao’s response is to remain true to himself and to his own point of view in seeking out stories that have universal appeal: “The challenge is to be explicit with the audience without being superficial,” he says again. “This is the challenge for any artist who lives in a different country.” Mondongo cubano (2010), his latest film, is set during the ‘Special Period’ in the 1990s during which Cuba was plunged into the most disastrous economic crisis since the Cuban Revolution. An ageing zoo-keeper, unable to bring himself to poison the zoo’s last lion, decides to bring the animal home and take care of it himself. His family, struggling already to make ends meet, balk at the idea at first – until they realize that the scheme might persuade the state to grant them a new and better house. Certain the additional hardship will pay off in the future, the family welcomes the beast into their home -- with desperately tragic consequences. How does this story translate for mainstream American viewers – many of whom were too busy celebrating the collapse of the Soviet Union to notice the devastating knock-on effect it had in Cuba? “Before starting to shoot, I deleted many political situations I had written before,” says Bacallao. “I tried to concentrate more on the story instead of the context.” Political tensions become familial tensions; the desperation of an entire nation is encapsulated in a single family’s willingness to gamble their lives on the promise of a better future.  
“I’m always part of the minority,” says Bacallao. “When you’re part of the Diaspora, you’re part of a minority everywhere you go. It’s curious … I have been some places where I say, ‘Whoa, if I’m not here, there’s no Black person!” For Bacallao, this means he has a duty to come to voice, to ensure that his story and the stories he gathers throughout his travels are told. “I realized, ‘OK, there’s something you need to tell that nobody has said before.’”
Ricardo Bacallao is currently at work on a feature film set in New York and New Jersey, a thriller featuring another Diaspora to which he belongs: the Cuban community.
Playwright Amy Evans seeks through her work to critically examine the impact of displacement, alienation and political violence on the human spirit. Her newest play, The Most Unsatisfied Town, based on the death-in-custody of Oury Jalloh, was completed while in residency at the Institute of Cultural Inquiry in Berlin earlier this year. She is based in New York. www.scriptingrage.com

SonSublime... NEW Music Video

New York's Premiere Charanga Band has a new video.
Check it out:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KVlrZichgc

(Courtesy of www.HavanaNewYork.com)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014 @ 3pm
The Union City Performing Arts Center presents:

in concert, pianist 
Angel Roque 
& his Orchestra

A musical journey through his recordings.

Union City Performing Arts Center (UCPAC)
2500 Kennedy Boulevard
Union City, New Jersey 07087

Tickets: $50., $40. & $30.

For tickets and info, please call: (201) 348-4332

Tickets for sale at:
America's Stationery, Inc.
4302-04 Bergenline Ave.
Union City, NJ, 07087
(201) 348-4332

Free Parking
available at the 23rd Parking Deck between Summit & Kerrigan Avenues.

For more info and directions go to: www.unioncitypac.com

For more info on Angel Roque, please go to: www.aroquemusic.com

To listen to and/or purchase Angel Roque's album "Romancero" go to: