Free Afro Cuban Workshop and Performance Set for Madison Square Park, 7/18

On Saturday, July 18, 2015 from 12:00PM to 2:00PM, Madison Square Park Conservancy will host Dia de Reyes, a free, public Afro Cuban dance workshop and performance organized by Cuban-American artist Teresita Fernández, Cuban-born performer and scholar Yesenia Selier, and Global Rhythms, a cultural enterprise devoted to Cuban dance, music, and cultural education. Dia de Reyes (Three Kings' Day) is conceived to travel seamlessly through the golden procession of Fernández's Fata Morgana, the artist's shimmering outdoor exhibition currently on view in Madison Square Park. The performance coincides with the annual July celebration of Carnaval de Santiago de Cuba, one of the largest carnivals in Cuba.

The program will encourage the types of group participation and active spectatorship that are integral to public life throughout the Caribbean and African diasporas. Fata Morgana, Fernández's golden, mirrored canopy in Madison Square Park, likewise encourages an experience of art and public space in which viewers are always active, reminded of their own movement and the movement of the city by the work's impressionistic, reflective ceiling.

"I'm delighted to work with Yesenia Selier and was especially interested in her unique perspectives as both scholar and performer," Teresita Fernández said. "Her depth of research will bring performances that are rigorously and authentically contextualized within history, religion, tradition and contemporary practice. Bringing Yesenia's expertise into the setting of Fata Morgana is also an opportunity to amplify the shared identity and deep-rooted traditions that are key to understanding Cuban culture both on the island and in the Cuban diaspora. At a moment in time where it seems more crucial than ever to uphold principles of social justice, Yesenia's historically-rooted Dia de Reyes celebration of freedom will be a powerful way to reinforce the democratic spaces that public art can create."

Combining celebratory carnival forms with other aesthetic and spiritual practices of the African and Cuban diasporas, Selier and over a dozen professional artists from the New York metropolitan area will lead six simultaneous afternoon music and dance workshops to prepare visitors for a group performance: a procession through Madison Square Park. Adults, children, and families are encouraged to join these six free, informal (15- to 30-minute) workshops from 12:00PM to 1:00PM on Saturday, July 18. The procession begins at 1:00PM.

"I have followed Teresita's work for years and was particularly excited about the installation of Fata Morgana in the center of New York City," Yesenia Selier said. "I was thrilled when she asked me to create a performance for Fata Morgana. Her work is fascinating and pierces the identity of the viewer. Fata Morgana's mirror-texture creates a unique interplay between temporality, virtuality and reality. That's the purpose of Dia de Reyes - a piece that breaks temporal and regional boundaries, inspired in Cuban Carnival origins. In colonial times, Dia de Reyes was the only day when Africans, free or enslaved, could publically perform their dances and music. It was a day of racial, ethnic, and religious freedom. I envision this procession marching freely through Madison Square Park in New York at this decisive moment in time, when American society is updating the state of civil rights for marginalized populations. Dia de Reyes is a celebration of inclusion, identity, and pride, and an event that helps preserve the identities of people of African descent in the Americas."

With both Fata Morgana and Dia de Reyes, Fernández wishes to address and increase visibility of Latino communities and cultures in New York City. As a daughter of Cuban emigrants, Fernández emphasizes Fata Morgana's role in bringing prominence to Spanish-speaking publics in New York City. By encouraging an active experience of art in public space, Fernández hopes to expand our assumptions about who exactly constitutes "the public," the makeup of which is as mutable and fluid as the reflections captured by her sculpture.

Dia de Reyes
Workshop and Performance Schedule

Saturday, July 18, 2015
Madison Square Park
23rd Street and Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010

No preparation or RSVP needed!
Workshops and performance are free and open to the public.

12:00PM to 1:00PM
Workshops

Global Rhythms artists present six informal (15- to 30-minute) workshops, teaching visitors percussion, dance, and musical elements that will be incorporated into a large group procession and performance.

1:00PM to 2:00PM
Performance Begins

Yesenia Selier and Global Rhythms artists lead a procession along Madison Square Park's central pathways and under Teresita Fernández's Fata Morgana.

Participants join a celebratory parade exploring the colors, objects, songs, and dances of the Orishas, deities of the African Diaspora that represent natural forces: Oshun (the River), Yemaya (the Ocean), Shango (the Lightning), Elegba (Children and Universal Order) and Obbatala (Wisdom and Peace). After the last Orisha dances, the procession will march in a proper Cuban carnival fashion around Madison Square Park.



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