Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dance Parade

Just a warm Sunday sitting in Tompkins Square Park, eating Arepas and watching the old men play chess while tourists take pictures of squirrels. What is everyone waiting for? The third annual NYC Dance Parade. They started dancing to raise awareness for the importance of dance in the community. Registered dance groups range from ballet to belly dance, capoeira to the rumba, and from salsa to zydeco. In addition to the dance companies and individual dancers, colorful floats, live bands and DJs waltz, tango and pirouette down Broadway from 32nd Street to Tompkins Square Park with a dance festival finale in the park through sunset. Best dance parade ever!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Caracas Arepa Bar

Pale gold arepas, made from scratch daily, they have been described as "dense yet spongy corn-flour rounds, pitalike pockets, corn muffins, cake-swaddled mélange, white corn cakes, Latin sloppy Joe, sandwiches of a flat cornmeal patty, soft and smooth within, golden crispiness, tasty treats, burrito-killer, panini-killer, wheat-free, gluten-free crisp on the outside, steamy-soft in the middle..."

The truth is that arepas resist definition. They are the result of a relentless dedication to homemade quality slow food. Straight from Venezuela, Caracas Arepas Bar is located in Manhattan's East Village, but has its original location in Williamsburg Brooklyn. The versatility of arepas is probably the reason why in Venezuela they are at the center of every meal; from breakfast to lunch, dinner, and the occasional after party treat.

Kevin had the De Guasacaca for $5.75 which is filled with Venezuelan guacamole and paisa cheese. I had the La Jardinera for $6.00 stuffed with grilled eggplants, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions and guayanés cheese. Both were delicious and so filling that the sidekick Yoyos for $5.00 (fried sweet plantain balls stuffed with white cheese) were really not needed but still tasty.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

West Side Story

I was fortunate to find a Saturday night ticket for the Broadway show “West Side Story”. The musical, revived for the first time in almost thirty years, opened this past March at the Palace Theatre and is already sold out until the end of the summer. Fifty years ago, when Tony just met a girl named Maria, theatergoers were shocked by the brutality of the ethnic gang warfare of “West Side Story” and a review in the New York Times said the material is “horrifying” and “rooted in ignorance and evil”. My, how the city and times change. This modern audience is less fearful and more sympathetic for the lovable misfits and their knife-jabbing side-kicking dance-offs.

There were a variety of forces causing the public to be frightened by the original WSS. The postwar “Migración” was in full swing and tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans were settling into the city each year. Being “Spanish” in New York use to mean being treated as an outsider and island natives were not even officially counted into separate ethnic groups until 1955. The population continued to grow and by 1960 Puerto Ricans made up 14 percent of the Upper West Side population, where the 1961 movie version was filmed. Now, Puerto Ricans comprise about one-half of NY Hispanics.

But over all Hispanics make up just a tiny portion of Broadway’s audience. In the 2007-8 season, according to the Broadway League, they bought 5.7 percent of all tickets purchased, compared with 4.8 percent the previous season. So when Bernardo and his gang take the stage at the Palace and speak to one another in Spanish, some have complained the dialogue was difficult to follow. When Maria confides to friends about her secret love and she playfully swirls to “Siento Hermosa” instead of “I Feel Pretty”, some say adding Spanish was an unwarranted contrivance.

So many objections were made that English had to be strategically deployed so non-Spanish speakers could understand what was going on. Who doesn’t already know what is going on in West Side Story? There are few new aspects to this rendition besides the genuine use of language and I barely noticed the change. I wish more Spanish had been used to give the show an aspect of something unique and updated from the original. Many people prefer performances to stay the same but different can be exciting too. By the end of the almost three hour production, my view on the use of language changed to either do it all or not at all. The snippets of Spanish followed by fluent English seemed just inane.

Overall the production was excellent but there was lack of passion and chemistry among the characters. The numbers were all well prepared but never started a fire. Anita was the standout in every way; in the candy store scene at the end, she looked like she could have taken on all the Jets single-handedly. I was so excited at the prospect of the revival, and I feel let down. Oh, well.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Nas @ Hunter

I haven’t heard much about Nas in awhile until I got the email informing me of his show at Hunter. I did not even know that Hunter hosted concerts but they can fit almost two thousand people in Thomas Hunter Hall and the tickets were only $10 for students.

After about an hour of the opening act, Blitz, and another 30 minutes of security yelling at the crowd to back up from the stage, Nas finally came on stage and did about an hour long set. All of the classics were played and the finale was his most popular song One Mic, from his fifth album, Stillmatic. One Mic has been noted by music writers for its political consciousness and dystopian themes. Nas' gold-certified album Untitled was nominated for a 2009 Grammy award for best rap album.

This morning I woke up to this yahoo news story which may help expain why Nas is spending his Friday nights playing Hunter College. Kelis, who is seven months pregnant, is rumored to be unhappy with Nas' "verbally abusive and cheating ways" reports Thursday Kelis officially filed for a divorce from her husband of five years and nine months. They met when Nas made a cameo in Kevin’s favorite video for Kelis' song Milkshake. Kevin will be so sad his favorite Hip Hop couple is breaking up.