18 March 2018

Music, Food, and Dancing in East Portland: Portlanders Stand With Immigrants and Refugees

[Update, 19 Mar 2017: I have names to put to the Afghani dancer now and also the lady leading the Peruvian trio, for which thanks go to the lovely Sitara Razaqi Lones, who indeed happens to be the Afghani dancer. TA MUCHLY!]
[Update, 20 Mar 2017] Thanks also to Claudia Cuentas Oviedo, who shared the name of the other two thirds of her trio (see below)

Statistics show, or so I've heard, that my area of Portland, DavidDouglasLandia, Out 122nd Way, Portland's Heavy Eastside and That Part Of Portland East Of I-205, is the most diverse area of, probably, the whole state.

I think it likely. Of the places I have lived in Oregon, one seems more likely to see east Africans, Asians (eastern and western), than anywhere else. It's a real rainbow out here, and I'm pleased with this every day.

It's perhaps the ideal thing, then, that an evening celebration promoted by the City of Portland called Portland Stands with Immigrants and Refugees happened out here, at the East Portland Community Center, which stands just off SE Washington St on SE 106th Avenue. It was a simple thing, really: some great authentic food, dancing and singing by immigrant groups, and plays. It ran from 6PM to 9PM on Friday, and with only three hours there was a lot to cram in there. We didn't see everything but what we did see was delightful.

We enjoyed the food there (the wife had a chicken shawarma wrap and I had a beef burrito and both were immaculate) but there was a wait, but we couldn't be too sore; I knew the event was probably going to be popular but I had no idea it would be thronged.

The strawberry horchata? Superb.

The main event for us was the signing and dancing in the gym. I was at the end of a long day myself, but there was much happy energy and it kept me interested. Me and The Wife™ were both enchanted.

The first performer we saw was a lovely Afghani woman, Sitara Razaqi Lones, who did a passionate folk dance.

As the dance progressed she really got into the zone. The costume only added to the positive energy.

After that, a trio, led by Claudia Cuentas Oviedo, played Peruvian music, accompanied by Tanya Abernathy and Otto Gygax. The support system, a Mac laptop, was reluctant to come on board (at least that's what it looked like), so, when you're a creative performer, what do you do?

You get out the pretty flute and play. It worked.

But when they got underway, they were on. 

After that, we were treated to some really energizing Bollywood style dance. I was remiss in that, due to acoustics, I couldn't get a clear idea of who the other performers were, but thanks to the book of Face, I was able to figure that the dancers were led by Prashant Kakad, supported by dancers including Blake Schrein, Brittany Newton, Jasmine Jaramillo, and Kathy Nordskog.

Prashant is that stylish fellow in the ballcap in the middle. They had an energy that was infectious, and I can only speak for myself here, but watching a group of dancers like that doing such enthusiastic moves in such great synchronization is infectious, inflecting the spirit with happiness and causing even the most weary spectator to at least, at least, tap the foot and move while seated.

They looked great, they made one feel great, and when they got the crowd involved ...

... they really got involved. Everyone on the floor, regardless of who they were or what they looked like, looked good, looked beautiful. Art really connects.

And when they finish on a high note, everyone else gets to be there with them. I couldn't not feel glad I was there.

1 comment:

Brenda Klein said...

At least seventy different cultures are part of what makes Portland, and the David Douglas school district area specifically, such a rich and delightful place to live.