Latino culture featured at Chase festival

Chase Latino Cultural Festival offers whirlwind tour of Latin culture in 13th year
Albor Ruiz, NY Daily News, July 12th 2009

It is that time of the year again. The Chase Latino Cultural Festival is once again about to kick off.

This extraordinary artistic event has been taking place in Queens every summer since 1997 and this year's edition promises to be better than ever.

Even in a city like New York, where so many great music, theater and film festivals occur, the Chase Latino Cultural Festival ranks as truly unique.

"This is the largest and most diverse Latino festival in the city," said festival director Claudia Norman. "It offers a wide range of culture, from traditional and folkloric to new and popular voices."

Actually, the festival is much more. It is a whirlwind tour through the richness and diversity of the cultures of Latin America and Spain. As such, it offers New Yorkers the opportunity to enjoy the talent of individual artists and ensembles who - while popular and, in some cases, even legendary beyond U.S. borders - are unknown in this country.

The Chase Latino Cultural Festival is billed as "the nation's largest and most important Latino multidisciplinary cultural festival, featuring music, theater, dance, film and family productions, as well as visual art exhibitions."

This year, 12 events are featured at the Queens Theatre in the Park, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The celebration begins on July 30 with Afro-Cuban dance group Oyu Oro, and concludes on Aug. 9 with Mexican jarocho legend Don Fallo and the youthful Son Candela.

The festival runs for 11 days and is full of first-class acts. Here are some of them:

- Toto La Momposina, the grandmother of Afro-Colombia song and dance.

- Japanese singer Anna Saeki, recognized as the tango diva.

- The legendary Chilean group Inti-Illimani with Francesca Gagnon. Their cultural and musical exchange has crossed borders onto the stage from Chile to Canada.

- Popular Cuban singer and songwriter Albita, who will perform original works from her new CD, "Mis Tacones."

- Sabrina Lastman Quartet. Lastman was trained in Israel and Uruguay. Her music is a novel fusion of jazz, Afro-Uruguayan traditions like candombe, and the classics of Latin-American songwriters.

- The Golden Age, a theater group that explores the daily reality of Central and South Americans in Corona, Queens: laborers during the week, and enthused, passionate soccer players on the weekend."

"We think it is important to bring artists to the U.S. from abroad and expose people to the classics and innovators through live performance," Norman said. "We want to communicate that the mainstream Latino culture you get from the media is only part of the story."

For those of you who don't know it, the Queens Theatre in the Park occupies a great building originally designed as the New York State Pavilion in the 1964 World's Fair. It is an air-conditioned, extremely comfortable state-of-the-art performing space.

As always, tickets are reasonably priced "to encourage audiences to experience the wide variety of performance traditions found in Latino culture," said festival organizers. Admission is free to selected events for children and families.

For a complete schedule, tickets or other information, call the Queens Theatre in the Park at (718) 760-0064, or visit its bilingual Web site at www.queenstheatre.org.

aruiz@nydailynews.com

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