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Queens Council on Arts brings boro performers together

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The third annual artist roundup will feature the dramatics of the Aisling Arts theater group, the moves of young women from the Anakawona Association dance troupe, the words of Juanita Torrence-Thompson, a poet from Kew Garden Hills, and the tunes of jazz musician Jacob Varmus. Each performer will offer audience members a flavor of their work with a 20-minute act."The event is very unique in the sense that we really have a little bit of everything," said Andreia Davies, program director at the Queens Council on the Arts, the non-profit arts group in charge of the showcase. "It's very diverse and has become more and more popular over the years," she said. Twenty Council artist members submitted their work this year; four were chosen to perform.The Astoria-based Aisling Arts theater company will kick off the event with "Wanderlust," a play about chance encounters and the first in a trilogy of plays called "Force." Members of the Anakowona Association, girls age 8 to 18, will then perform traditional Haitian and African Diaspora dances to flute and drum music. The first dance, "Thanks to the Sun" simulates the movements of waves as they rise and fall. During the second, performers in shiny silk costumes will weave and braid ribbons around a pole as they dance across the stage.A television and stage actress turned poet, Torrence-Thompson will then take the stage for the first public reading of her poem "Life in Queens," and nine other poems on places. "I always say I write from life," she said. "I'm fascinated by life and what goes on around me, and we have such a plethora of wonderful things in this borough that people may not know about."Torrence-Thompson has studied with Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa and reads her mainly free-verse poems at colleges and universities across the world. She has performed at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, Yale University and New York University, has published three books of poetry and is currently working on a fourth. Trumpet-touting Jacob Varmus from Long Island City and his jazz ensemble will close the show with numbers played on trumpet, guitar, piano, bass and drums. Varmus compares his major piece, "Queensboro Plaza," to programmatic music, or music written to convey a sense of drama."It's inspired by people converging at this very public place, and the relationships that occur," he said. "[In the music] people should be able to perceive a certain event in time - a train rolling down the tracks, or two people arguing or getting in each other's way."In past years, organizers held "Stepping Out Queens" at Flushing Library. But this year, through a new collaboration, performers will take the stage in the more spacious Queens Theatre in the Park. Organizers attribute the location change to the event's growing popularity and heightened interest in the arts in Queens."The council really has [its] finger on the pulse of Queens' artists and emerging artists that might benefit from performing at a larger venue," said Jeff Rosenstock, executive director of Queens Theatre in the Park. "A showcase really arouses curiosity and it's a good celebration of artists throughout the borough."Davies expects more attendees this year and said she is excited to introduce the community to local artists. "The arts and cultural community in Queens is definitely increasing, and there's a higher demand for performances like these," she said. "People are realizing they don't have to travel into Manhattan - there are events going on right here.""Stepping Out Queens" will take place Sunday, Feb. 27 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Queens Theatre in the Park, off the Grand Central Parkway in Flushing Meadows, Corona Park and adjacent to the Queens Museum of Art.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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