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Breakin it down at the Main Event

By Michael Sitzman

Section: Arts

October 20, 2006

What beams with the pride of flags waving, educates us in rhyme and verse, and pulses with tangos yearning? What commands with flamencos exquisite urgency;

rivals salsas exuberant joy;

and curses loudly with the desperation of the street?

It is the struggle to break down the barriers that confine us, and it was the theme of this years Main Event show.

Sponsored by AHORA!, Brandeis Hispanic-Latino student organization, Saturdays signature event for Hispanic Heritage Month 2006 was true to its theme of Breaking Borders. Why borders, not barriers? The word evokes images of immigration, which wasnt the central topic. Yet the border as metaphor was catchy. Provocative. A theme emerged. And it wasnt all just talk

AHORA!s E-Board members did something magnanimous at the opening ceremony on September 20 when they announced their intention to reach out to include more nationalities and cultures in the celebrations. They broke the first border, setting an uncommon example.

In the Main Event, I had the honor to participate in Qu Bonita Bandera!, the opening flag parade, and to serve on the decorating committee. I got the insiders view this time, and, in my biased opinion, the event was a sweeping success.

The stage backdrop spelled out the theme in looping, red letters with arrow-tipped ends. As the stage lights caught their glitter, the words seemed to suggest devilish naughtiness. Only then did it hit me: Breaking borders means daring to be naughty, to defy taboos. Bingo!

Following the march of flags was Ayer! Fusion, a mix of Aztec, African, punta, and cumbia dances. I cant describe the talent I witnessed;

I hope you saw it for yourselves. I found myself overwhelmed with a deep respect and joy, not just at seeing such dedication, but at realizing how our generation cherishes the traditional along with the modern. Another border gone.

In the next piece, Johanna Nuez, a.k.a. Jo-Jo, drew thunderous applause and brought me to tears with heart-rending poetry about suicide, broken relationships, and searching for identity. I dont like being called a poet, but rather, an educator, she said after the show. Realize the strength behind words. Find your voice.

The Argentine Tango Society next showcased the famous dance style that has won the hearts of Americans. Brooding and melancholy with dragging steps, passionate with choppy rhythms, tango drips with a longing for something. It defies words, but the feeling is understood instantly by the spectator. I cant imagine how much that emotion must be magnified in dancing it.

Brake Yo Self Foo, a video created and narrated by Adriani Len 08, brought us home with a series of interviews from around campus. This poignant project explored what borders exist between students. It offered no answers. I think the mere act of questioning is powerful enough.

Candis Bellamy 07 kept it real with TIME, a moving spoken-word piece derived from personal experience. It appears that at least two of our friends, through video and poetry, are indeed finding their voices

Stop the presses;

this one should be for the front page. Im talking about none other than Chispa Sevillana, a flamenco piece performed by Stephanie Spiro 10. While her flowered dress rivaled the glittering stage backdrop, neither could compare to the sheer color of her motions, alternatingly snappy and fluid in a way that is flamenco and nothing else. Originating in the Andalucia region of Spain, and combining Islamic, Gypsy, and Sephardic Jewish influences, flamenco demands a serious level of grace and precision. Stephanie delivered.

Our local Boston artists, T3K + Ak Flow (Robert Tynes 10 and Alissa Nuez), complemented the tradition of the previous acts with the contemporary Cuando Te Veo. This number showcased reggaetn, a music/dance style introduced to Brandeis at last years Main Event.

Brandeis own salsa club, Salseros, followed with Cgele El Gusto Otra Vez! When, at just the right moment, Sam Barros 08 paused and tossed his hat, the audience applauded gleefully, delighting in the show of spunk and flair.

And then, a mix of traditional and modern dance: Rompiendo Barreras, a salad of reggae, R&B, bachata, merengue, and the requisite hip-hop. (The title, by the way, means breaking borders.) But there was one more number to go, an unusual choice for a final act

Anthony Morales brought it down to earth with more powerful poetry. This Nuyorican (New York-Puerto Rican) poet, who has been featured on HBO, connected instantly with the audience. His words, which I wont try to interpret, serve to remind us of our continuing struggle to break borders in a changing world. Its an honor and pleasure to be here at a gathering of young adults trying to make sense of things, he told me. Writing is a beautiful thing, a way we can share our stories with each other. If I can move people or touch their lives, I did my job. Indeed he did.

And so, our friends at AHORA! took it again to the next level, pushing the limits in some novel ways. But this show continues, and were all in the next act, for we are challenged now to break our own borders. Perhaps Hispanic-Latino history itself, the process of which began long ago in a fusion of cultures and continents, can serve to point the way.

Come, stop by soon at the ICC and meet us. Break it on down, Brandeis!

horseradish

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