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‘Immigrant Voices’ offers multicultural talent

  • Dancers perform a traditional dance from the Mexican state of Jalisco during Immigrant Voices: A Celebration of Arts, at the Shea Theater on Sunday in Turners Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Sonam Gyaltsen performs a Tibetan song during Immigrant Voices: A Celebration of Arts on Sunday, April 8, 2018 at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • A children’s dance troupe performs a traditional Mexican dance, the Xochipitzahuatl, during Immigrant Voices: A Celebration of Arts on Sunday at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Rose Coquillon and Johanne Juste perform the Haitian National Anthem during Immigrant Voices: A Celebration of Arts on Sunday, April 8, 2018 at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Performers Gaby and Efren dance to a typical dance from Tamaulipas in Mexico during Immigrant Voices: A Celebration of Arts on Sunday, April 8, 2018 at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Performers dance to "Despacito" during Immigrant Voices: A Celebration of Arts on Sunday, April 8, 2018 at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Viva Quetzal performs during Immigrant Voices: A Celebration of Arts on Sunday, April 8, 2018 at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Dancers perform a traditional Colombian dance to the song "Goza Plinio Sierra" during Immigrant Voices: A Celebration of Arts on Sunday, April 8, 2018 at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Audi Gonzalez performs during Immigrant Voices: A Celebration of Arts on Sunday, April 8, 2018 at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little



Recorder Staff
Thursday, April 12, 2018

TURNERS FALLS — The Shea Theater came alive on a chilly Sunday afternoon as the Center for New Americans put on a performance where the audience couldn’t stop clapping along to the beat.

Seating at the theater was filled almost to capacity as the community gathered to watch a multitude of cultural performances: singing, dancing, music and more. The event, “Immigrant Voices: A Celebration of Arts,” was meant to showcase and support the artistic contributions of immigrants. Many of the performers, including the hosts, have taken classes at the Center for New Americans.

“Immigrant Voices” was started by the Center for New Americans, a community education and resource center for local immigrants and refugees. The center has served Western Massachusetts for almost 25 years by offering free education and resources at its program sites in Greenfield, Turners Falls, Amherst and Northampton.

The center offers numerous classes to immigrants, including English classes.

Hosts Samba Kane from Senegal and Biani Salas from Venezuela introduced each of the acts, while Shea Theater President Chris “Monte” Belmonte spoke his enthusiasm about the performances.

Belmonte also expressed pride that this is the third time the theater has hosted the multicultural event.

“It was a dream of mine that this (theater) would be open to everyone,” he said.

He spoke of how anti-immigrant sentiments have become more common in the past few years, and events like this are important for the community.

Performances

The first performance hailed from Mexico, bringing bright, colorful traditional dresses to the stage. Performers danced an upbeat traditional dance from the state of Jalisco, “La Bikina.”

Later, eight Brazilian performers played lively drums, saxophone, tambourine and a cavaquinho — a South American instrument similar to the ukulele — to two songs that encouraged audience participation.

“Marinheiro ê, marinheiro ah,” repeated the crowd as the musicians played “Acalanto,” a song about a lost sailor. “Marinheiro” is Portuguese for sailor.

In a soulful duet, Rose Coquillon and Johanne Juste, from Haiti, performed “La Dessalinienne,” the Haitian National Anthem.

A Mexican children’s dance troupe performed “The Xochipitzahuatl” with multicolored ribbons. The eight children, donning flower crowns and floral ankle bracelets, danced to intertwine their colorful ribbons into geometric patterns. “Xochipitzahuatl” means “little flowers.”

A well-known Senegalese hip-hop and world fusion group performed two fast-paced songs, “Khadi” and “Simobe,” as the entire audience clapped along to a booming drum beat.

Grupo Folklorico Tradiciones, a troupe consisting of teachers and staff from Amherst public schools, performed twice in the evening. Both dances were to the beat of traditional Colombian rhythm songs.

Not just song and dance

Not all of the performances related to song or dance. Tugba Yazici, from Turkey, recited her original poem “Pandora’s Box.” Alex de Melo, from Brazil, got a standing ovation at the end of his monologue from Charlie Chaplin’s famous movie, “The Great Dictator.”

“You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men!” de Melo recited emotionally as a spotlight shined on him. “You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!”

Throughout the monologue, appreciative audience members snapped their fingers for support instead of clapping as not to distract from the moment.

During poetry readings or monologues, finger-snapping is a popular way to express enjoyment for a line that particularly resonates with audience members. The applause for de Melo was saved for his standing ovation.

“Immigrant Voices” wrapped up with Viva Quetzal, a seven-piece musical group with both ancient and modern instruments like pan pipes, charango, saxophone, drums, electric guitars and flutes. Toward the end of the performance, much of the audience rose to sway along to the lively beats. Viva Quetzal also received a standing ovation.

After Viva Quetzal finished, all of the musicians and dancers from the event gathered onstage for a jam session.

Audience members young and old streamed down to the lower part of the theater to dance freely, or stood to sway along to the music at their seats. Even those who didn’t get up to dance could be seen clapping or tapping along to the energetic beat.