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Ashkenaz Celebrates Golden 50th Anniversary With Two Special Event Series For 2023

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Ashkenaz Celebrates Golden 50th Anniversary With Two Special Event Series For 2023

Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center (Ashkenaz)-the music venue and dance hall in the heart of West Berkeley-will celebrate its Golden 50th anniversary throughout 2023 with two special event series, the Golden Genre Series and the 50th Anniversary Events Series. Both series will showcase the legacy of the Bay Area institution and pay homage to those who have created a home at Ashkenaz. In addition to the two series, 2023 will feature a full lineup of performances under three new programs: International Music, Americana and Roots, and Local Artists. Lineup of performances and special events will be announced throughout the year. To keep up-to-date, visit ashkenaz.com.

The festivities begin with the Golden 50th Kickoff on Saturday, January 14, declared David Nadel Week in 1997 by the City of Berkeley in honor of Ashkenaz's Founder. The Golden 50th Kickoff will feature Nakarat (Balkan), Karamo Susso (West African), SambaDá (Afro-Brazilian), with dance demonstrations by Kathy Reyes (Bachata) and Nonstop Bhangra (Indian), highlighting various live world and roots music that Ashkenaz has presented over the years.

"Since 1973, Ashkenaz has been a place where Berkeley neighbors and visitors come to build community and understanding of the world through concerts and classes in participatory dance, and music rooted in traditional cultures," said Sarah Travis, Executive Director. "Our golden anniversary year will be the first full year of programming since our hiatus. It provides us with an amazing opportunity to introduce even more people of all ages to the magic of Ashkenaz, while also bringing the community together that we have built over the last 50 years."

The 50th anniversary celebrations come after Ashkenaz had to close its doors for more than two years during the pandemic. The nonprofit venue reopened in June 2022, having upgraded its facility and equipment. Now, with a growing staff under the new Executive Director Sarah Travis, Ashkenaz's golden anniversary will shine a light on all the people and elements that make it one of the most unique spaces in the Bay Area, while also setting the stage for the next 50 years.

"Ashkenaz is the embodiment of Berkeley's culture, a place where people of all ages and backgrounds can come together in celebration of an endless variety of music," says Mayor Jesse Arreguin. "I am excited to celebrate their 50th anniversary and wish many more decades of success to this unique institution."

Adds Rashi Kesarwani, Councilmember for Berkeley's District 1, "Ashkenaz has been a part of Berkeley's history since 1973 and has shaped the musical culture of the larger Bay Area over the years through presenting local, Americana, and international music and dance. Their 50th anniversary is a testament to the unique culture of Berkeley that has been alive for decades and still thrives to this day."

"Ashkenaz has become such an iconic and loved arts organization in Berkeley," said Barbara Hillman, CEO of Visit Berkeley. "Thank you for offering our visitors and residents such a culturally diverse and vibrant entertainment venue for so many years. Congratulations on your Golden Anniversary in 2023!"

The 2023 lineup will include the 50th Anniversary Events Series, highlighting Ashkenaz's history and the community that helped it become the institution it is today. For Women's History Month, Ashkenaz will pay homage to The Women Who Built Ashkenaz (March 30). On April 30, the free Ashkenaz Community Picnic will celebrate the foundation of Ashkenaz as a nonprofit arts organization in 1997. Ashkenaz dancers, musicians, employees, patrons and activists will come together to welcome the community to a potluck filled with live entertainment.

A special Ashkenaz History & Archives Exhibit will be on display from March 26 through March 30. Never-before-seen archival images and footage will take visitors on a journey through the past, capturing the stories of Ashkenaz and the colorful characters that have been a part of the venue throughout the years. The Dance Legends of Ashkenaz on October 7 will feature everything from Bachata and Cuban Salsa to Dholrhythms Bhangra and Latin Rhythm Swing.

Founder David Nadel created a home for performers across a variety of genres and the Golden Genre Series will explore this range of music and the foundations the performers have built at Ashkenaz. The Golden Genre Series will host one-night-only showcases of genres, featuring the music of Southern Africa, West Africa, Caribbean Music, Latin, Indian, and Brazil, as well as a special Very Jerry evening, dedicated to the music of the Grateful Dead.

Ashkenaz will announce new programming throughout its golden anniversary year. The 2023 lineup culminates with the Ashkenaz Gold Anniversary Gala on December 9.

"Ashkenaz is a space for everyday people to come together, express themselves, and dance in a non-competitive and positive environment. The community we have built here is like none other and the reason I am still teaching and performing," says Vicki Virk of Non-Stop Bhangra who has been teaching dance classes at Ashkenaz for nearly 20 years. "It truly is a gem of a place and so vital to the performing arts. There's no other place like it, and I am so grateful for it."



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