Tradition With a Twist

by Dakota Blackman on August 18, 2010

in Dance,Music,TRaC


New York City is universally known as “the Melting Pot,” for it is a perfect blend of races, religions, and in the case of the International Body Music Festival Concert, even sounds.  On the night of August twelfth at Lincoln Center Out Of Doors, the city lived up to its name, bringing in performers from throughout the city and from around the world to provide a unique sense of culture and to reveal to an audience just what the human body is capable of.  (Musically, that is.)

The evening began on Josie Robertson Plaza, where the staccato (and somewhat random) call of loud drums marked the start of the Lion Dance, performed by the Chinese American Arts Council.  Though the dance initially appeared to be very impromptu, the first few minutes made it clear that it was anything but.  Artistic Directors Rongrong Chen and Zhiqiang Wang, who were also part of the twenty-person cast, regulated a flawless performance; the traditional Chinese dancing and a full spectrum of colored costumes drew a crowd so large it occasionally made it impossible to see.

The night’s main event, a concert (appropriately) entitled “The Americas” followed.  The namesake of this particular show stemmed from its performers; they came to New York from California, Canada, and even Brazil, bringing with them an assortment of phenomenal acts that left the audience awestruck.

The pleasant culture shock began with a duet of Canadian cousins, Celina Kalluk and Lucie Idlout.  They performed katajjaq, the traditional Inuit musical act of throat-singing.  Sharing one microphone, they stood merely inches apart, noses touching, and turned oddly-pitched guttural grunting into strangely beautiful melodies that left me both intrigued and somewhat disturbed; though the act was described as a popular game, it seemed so incredibly intimate that it made me feel almost uncomfortable to watch.  While the performance was enchantingly different, I believe that Kalluk and Idlout should have been the only ones to experience it.

Following them were three more performances, each one distinct and noteworthy; more importantly, however, they all exercised the full potential of the human body and its musical capabilities.  The SLAMMIN All-Body Band, featuring human bass line Bryan Dyer and powerhouse vocalists Destani Wolf and Zoë Ellis, lived up to their name by flowing through jazzy tunes and funky songs, using nothing but their voices and their bodies; not one instrument was played.  Next, Derique McGee, wearing a spiffy blue suit and tie, sat on a single folding chair to perform Hambone, a traditional African-American dancing and drumming act, dating back to the times of slavery.  McGee utilized his fast hands and genuine sense of rhythm to create an intricate, enticing beat that made up for his adorably corny jokes.

When his act was over, Barbatuques took the stage, and transformed the atmosphere into one typically found at a rock concert.  They sang, danced, whistled, buzzed, snapped, clapped, popped, and stomped their way to the hearts of the audience, and loved every minute of it.  Their truly captivating cacophony of sounds was a perfect way to end the show; though only four acts performed, each one was so extreme and intense that any more would have made the two-and-a-half hour show excessive.  If, perhaps, more comfortable seating was provided, then my opinion would change; the music performed is something I could never tire of.

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