City Council member James Van Bramer, representing the 26th district (Long Island City) and Chairman of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations, successfully preserved arts funding for Thalia Spanish Theatre, the Coalition of Theatres of Color (CTC), and arts organizations throughout New York City, in the FY 2011 budget.

Angel Gil Receiving 2009 Mayor's Award

On October 6 Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg presented the 2009 Mayor's Awards for Arts & Culture to six individuals and organizations in celebration of their outstanding contributions to New York City's cultural life. The Mayor also presented the 2009 NYC Handel Medallion, New York City?s highest award for achievement in the arts, to Jessye Norman. Recipients of the Mayor?s Awards were Thalia Spanish Theatre, the Big Apple Circus, Jaynemarie Capetanakis, H.T. Chen, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and Vernon Reid.

The event, held at the newly-opened Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, was co-hosted by Bye Bye Birdie star John Stamos. It featured live performances by the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Dee Dee Bridgewater, the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts Musical Theater Ensemble, Cajun Cellist Sean Grissom, and Picaso, Jr. of the Big Apple Circus. Special guests included Executive and Artistic Director Clive Gillinson of Carnegie Hall and actor Avery Brooks. The Mayor was joined at the awards ceremony by Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin, and Cultural Advisory Commission Chair Agnes Gund.

Thalia Spanish Theatre was recognized "for its extraordinary service as New York City's first and only bilingual Hispanic theatre company in Queens, [home to] one of the most diverse communities in the United States. For 32 years, its more than 150 innovative productions and education programs have highlighted the richness of Hispanic culture, inspiring audiences from Queens and beyond."

Executive/Artistic Director Angel Gil Orrios accepted on behalf of the theatre. He thanked the Mayor "for acknowledging the major contributions of Hispanics to the arts and culture of this town, and recognizing us today with this important honor." He also announced a major new initiative: "We, the first and only bilingual Hispanic theatre in Queens, officially launch our Capital Campaign to find in Long Island City, our neighborhood for more than three decades, a long-awaited permanent home". "It is our goal to make sure that Hispanics in the city of New York will have the Thalia Hispanic Cultural Center, for promoting and diffusing the Hispanic Culture locally, nationally and internationally with innovative first class artistic productions of Hispanic roots."

"Our artists and cultural groups help make New York City a great place to live, learn and work, and a destination for ambitious and creative people from across the world," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Tonight's awards give us a chance to recognize the achievements of some of the people who work hard every day to ensure that New York City remains the place to be for artists and audiences from the five boroughs and beyond."

CDs of Maestro Raul Jaurena's original music for I LOVE TANGO/TE AMO TANGO are now on sale at the theatre's box office! You can buy them at the ticket window, or order by phone. CDs are $15 each; $2 for shipping and handling if ordering by phone.

Fabulous foot work celebrates freedom

by Arlene McKanic

Two things that let you know you?ve seen a great dance performance: You're exhausted at the end but want to dance all the way home anyway.

Such is the case with "Colombia: Alma y Pasion," a joyful and energetic show at the Thalia Spanish Theatre until Nov. 7. The dancing was so energetic at times that the reviewer worried some bit of some dancer's elaborate costume would come undone and go flying into space. A few minor things did unravel " there were no major wardrobe malfunctions " but it only added to the excitement.

The program, which celebrates the 200th anniversary of Colombia's independence from Spain, is without intermission and separated into four acts, which represent the country's four major regions: the Andes, the Eastern Plains, the Pacific Coast and the Atlantic Coast. Dances popular in those regions are presented. The viewer might be surprised to find out how Brazil-like Colombia is " the country also benefited greatly from the African diaspora in its arts and general culture."

The overture, composed by band leader Harold Gutierrez, presents all manner of Colombians, including two stately Indians in elaborate headdress, upper-class ladies in crinolines carrying parasols, fishermen, fruit sellers and chaps hefting burlap sacks of Colombian coffee. The dances reflect the everyday life, or what used to be the everyday life, of ordinary people.

The cumbia, for example, was a courtship dance of slaves. The women flounce about in voluminous skirts, which seem to speak their own language, and the men woo them wearing straw hats and flourishing red kerchiefs. The dancers move to composer Victor Manuel Gutierrez?s beautiful "El Arenal." The traditional Seresese and La Mina express the hardship of slaves set to work in gold mines.

Some of the dances have a mischievous sensuality. Are those supposed to be creatures from the Black Lagoon if the creature was beautiful and sexy? the reviewer wondered as two dancers in sparkling black body suits crawled onto the stage. Actually, this dance is a traditional one called the Viborona. A product of the jungle on the Pacific coast, it's all about folks stomping on the heads of vipers or bashing them with sticks. One can figure as much when the limp body of one of the slinky dancers is carried away on a pole.

The inexhaustible Mestizo Dance Co. " Michelle Jimenez, Sheyla Genao, Vanessa Ascanio, Amalfi Sanchez, Natalia Jimenez, Lilliam Uribe, Yolanda Castillo, Claudia Erazo, Julian Amezquita, Manuel Paque, Fernando Agudelo, Reinaldo Labrada, Miles Willada, Armando Morena and Fernando Mesa " is choreographed to perfection by Morena and Wilson Fernando Mesa, with Fabricio Saquicela as technical director. The numbers, save the remarkable "A Capella," danced without music by female dancers, are backed up by Gutierrez's powerful musicians. Moreno and Mesa designed the gorgeous costumes and accessories, which I suppose might include the Carmen Miranda hats piled with fruit and flowers.

Makeup and additional costumes and accessories were designed by Alex Fernandez. The sound is designed by Jaime Castullo and Angel Gil Orrios provides an often lush lighting design on the Thalia's small stage.

The subtitle of the program is "Alma y Pasion," which means "soul and passion." Rarely has anything been so perfectly described.

Maestro Raul Jaurena, who composed and arranged the music for our 2005 tango musical, TE AMO TANGO/I LOVE TANGO, won the 2007 LATIN GRAMMY FOR BEST TANGO ALBUM for the CD, which was recorded here at Thalia in 2005 and released on Soundbrush Records.

Thalia Spanish Theatre is proud to announce the installation of personal listening devices for the hard-of-hearing. Starting July 13, 2001, up to four devices are available per performance, for all of our productions of plays, musicals, and dance. Please request the device when you make your reservation, either by phone or online.

This program is administered by the Alliance of Resident Theatres/NY (ART/NY) and made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA).

Special grants from VERIZON and THE CHASE MANHATTAN FOUNDATION in 2001 made possible the launching of our own interactive webpage. Phase One, which you see here, is the design and implementation of the page.

Phase Two will include the development of a database and the creation of a computerized box office, linked to our webpage, that will enable us to track ticket sales and print our own tickets. In addition to the webpage, the funds from The Chase Manhattan Foundation helped us design our first-ever subscriber/membership campaign for the 2001/02 season.

For more information, please contact Administrative Director Kathryn Giaimo at (718) 729-3880 or via email at kathy@thaliatheatre.org.