Where arts and diversity meet
Celebration of Cultures and Music
This event is 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Sept. 24 at Marketplace at Factoria Mall, 4055 Factoria Blvd SE, Bellevue, 425-641-8282.
Performances will include:
11:30 am, Bentzen School of Highland Dance
Noon, Salsa in Seattle
12:30 p.m., Traditional Japanese Dance by Naomi
1 p.m., The Aury Moore Band
1:30 p.m., Aloha Island Treasures
2 p.m., Ethiopian Community Center Youth Cultural Dance Group.
Celebrate Our Community Diversity
6 – 8:30 p.m., Sept. 30 at Jubilee Reach Center, 14200 Southeast 13th Place, Bellevue.
Enjoy music and dance, and browse the community resource information that will be available. Musical guests will include Bailadores de Bronce, traditional Mexican dance and the Hawaiian Hula Show, music and dance from Islands.
The International Gathering: Cultural Conversations
1 -3 p.m., Oct. 1, Crossroads Community Center, 16000 NE 10th St., Bellevue. Meet and hear people from several countries talk about their experiences in their homeland and in the United States. Enjoy a special musical performance by Master Teacher Mindy Li on the Gu Zheng, a traditional Chinese instrument.
Immigration Issues Forums: “Beyond Talking Points”
7 -9 p.m., Oct. 11 and 25, Bellevue City Hall, 450 110th Avenue NE, Bellevue WA.
These forums feature guest speakers, panel discussions, and group discussions about immigration system and how it affects business owners and immigrants to the United States.
For more information on all events, contact Kevin Henry, firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-452-7686.
Cute kids, good food, kimonos, a big crowd and gorgeous weather. That pretty much sums up the Aki Matsuri festival last weekend, Sept. 10-11, at Bellevue College. Festival organizer Tom Brooke tells me he estimates more than 20,500 attendees flooded in for the two-day celebration of Japanese culture and arts. Below, you’ll find pictures of the yukata (summer kimono) fashion show held on the second day. I went with my parents, and aside from my dad not being able to leave with a new koi fish (he fell in love during the 20th annual Koi show at the matsuri) and my mom not being able to find the Hello Kitty mascot (she and I were both hoping to get our picture taken with) – the three of us had a blast.
Jaymi Matsudaira, of Sammamish, was dressed in the bridal kimono. Jaymi and her sisters play in Kaze Daiko, a youth taiko troupe based out of Seattle. Jaymi was a key source and the cover girl for the August edition of Bellevue Scene magazine.
Andrea Nakano from King 5 TV emceed the event. Here is she presenting the bride and groom kimonos.
Mika Carnes from the eN Salon, owned by Mrs. Ichiro, helped out with hair for the fashion show.
I recognized this young woman from Issian restaraunt – one of my favorite Seattle spots for sushi and and Japanese food hot off the grill.
Mixing sneakers with more traditional wear.
Kimono Coordinator, Ugawa Yu (far left), came from Kobe, Japan for the event. Each year, Aki Matsuri organizers Tom and Katsuko Brooke go to Japan to recruit Japanese artists and crafts people such as Yu to be a part of the Aki Matsuri festval, and help bring a bit of Japan to Bellevue.
Jaymi’s sisters, Kellie and Kimberly Matsudaira, playing taiko while their sister goes through a costume change and takes off the bright-red outer kimono (this is what a bride wears when she walks in to the ceremony, they said) and reveals the white under-kimono worn during the ceremony.
The decorative obi (the sash tied around the middle) were very fancy for the yukata show.
By Gabrielle Nomura | Photo by Jay Koh
Don Quixote was black. Jesus Christ and Belle were both Asian.
While most roles are performed by white actors at Village Theatre, throughout the years, performers of color have created some memorable roles here, too.
Take Jennifer Paz for example. One may remember her vivid yellow princess dress and spirited portrayal of Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” her angelic vocals as Mary Magdalene in “Jesus Christ Superstar” or the dramatic portrayal and blonde hair as Eva Perón in “Evita.”
While her Filipina heritage gives Paz an edge for ethnic roles, it hasn’t limited her to Miss Saigon, either.
With a history of both authentic and non-traditional casting at Village Theatre, executive producer Robb Hunt says he looks for opportunities to bring in multicultural casts.
As Hunt says, it’s not about affirmative action for the stage. It’s about opening doors to the best talent – whatever skin color he or she may have.
Hunt points to the theater’s recent production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” as an example, where two actors alternated the roles of Jesus/Judas.
He said it didn’t make a difference that one actor was white and the other was Asian, they were each brilliant because of how they performed and the unique portrayal they brought to the roles, not because of physical appearance or features.
Sometimes though, race can’t be ignored when casting a production.
“In a show like ‘The King and I’ we try to create opportunities for Asian actors,” Hunt said.
Similarly, race and ethnicity play an important role in Village Theatre’s next show: an original musical developed in the Village Originals program called “Take Me America,” Sept. 14 – Nov. 20. Audiences will see a gritty, rock n’ roll tale of seven desperate refugees seeking political asylum in the United States – all of whom, are played by actors of color.
The characters in the musical are people from China, Sudan, Algeria, Haiti and El Salvador.
“One thing I’m really pleased about is writing a piece that, in diversity terms, covers the rainbow. Because that’s what you see when you look at the cast,” said Bill Nabel, a former Broadway performer and the writer and lyricist behind “Take Me America.”
Inspired by true stories and based on the documentary “Well Founded Fear,” the musical depicts the hardships the refugees go through and decisions made by the U.S. officials who determine their fate.
The distinction between asylum and regular immigration is that people seeking asylum must prove they have a well-founded fear of persecution
“It’s not a political story,” said Nabel of this, the first musical he wrote to be developed into a full-scale production. “It’s about the heart of the people coming here. How do you live with the decisions you make? What do you leave behind in your home country? It shows a great deal of humanity and makes you re-define what it means to be American.”
Ben Gonio, who plays Chinese refugee, Wu Xiao, gave Nabel some feedback on being cast in a production with diversity.
“He told me how happy he was to be in a show where he finally doesn’t have to play against his ethnicity,” Nabel said.
For tickets and more information, go to http://villagetheatre.org/ or call (425) 392-2202. Village Theatre is located at 303 Front St. N., Issaquah.
Most dancers only need to practice their sequence of steps and movements. But if you’re a classical Indian dancer, it’s not just about how movement looks, but how it feels.
It takes many hours of practice to perfect the “abhinaya,” or expressions, and to understand and feel the dance form from within. This ability to truly feel the movement shows. And it can mean the difference of stealing the spotlight, or disappearing becoming in an ensemble.
“The competition is tough and it is becoming increasingly important to be able differentiate yourself from everyone else,” said Supriya Unnikrishnan, a performer with Abhinay Fine Arts, a nonprofit on the Eastside that presents classical Indian dance.
Diverse|City checked in with Unnikrishnan, who will be performing at 3:30 p.m., Sept. 25 at the Theatre at Meydenbauer.
Go to abhinayfinearts.org for more information.
Hapa girl: What does classical Indian dance look like?
SU: There are different forms of classical Indian dance, based on region. The music, costume, jewelry, and movements vary. Our production focuses on the three main dance forms from the south of India: Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Mohiniattam.
Classical dance is differentiated from folk dance by the fact that it is more structured and it gets its basics from ancient scriptures, like the Natya Shastra (natya = dance, shastra = book). A classical repertoire will usually include items with pure nritta (dance steps), and abinaya (expression). The dancers perform various items that showcase their dance form and depth of expression. A lot of the stories that are explained are based on Hindu mythology.
Hapa girl: How are classical dancers regarded in India?
SU: Professional classical dancers are held in high esteem, and are recognized for their contribution to the art. Many dancers opt to start schools and continue the tradition of dance.
Hapa girl: What kind of commitment does it take to become a classical Indian dancer?
SU: The desire to dance sometimes starts early or sometimes later in life, but once it hits it takes a whole lot of commitment for the performer to take her dancing to the next level. A lot of children start young, and may complete what is called an “arangetram” or initiation to the stage. This is the first step on the path to becoming a professional dancer.
Hapa girl: Anything else?
SU: Our production is unique for this area in that, we have combined different dance forms to weave a story together. We have been fortunate enough to work with some very accomplished musicians in India. Our music director created a lot of the music specifically for this production and re-tuned some existing songs for our purpose. This is also the first time that local dancers, some not associated with dance schools, have come together and worked towards creating a single production under a single banner.
Three months until the wedding, and Samantha’s Taiwanese parents still disapprove of her hopelessly white fiancé. Meanwhile, Sam’s food-obsessed sister, Daisy, goes on the hunt for a mysterious take-out truck whose teriyaki is to die for (literally). While Sam tries to bring her family together and Daisy incurs the wrath of a fearsome Nordic wedding planner, events take an even stranger turn and the sisters must unite to save more than just a wedding day.
This is the plot of a novel, “Terroryaki” written by Jennifer K. Chung, a Bellevue software engineer I interviewed in February after she won the 33rd Annual International 3-Day Novel Contest.
Chung’s book launch and party is coming up: 2 – 4 p.m. Aug. 28 at The The Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th. Ave., Seattle (free tasty chicken teriyaki while quantities last!).
Good writers often write about what they know. And Chung, (whose roommate at the time of our interview was her sis), wrote a novel complete with inspiration from her own life: sisters, the Asian American experience, inter-racial love, as well as teriyaki – which pervades the food landscape in her home, the Pacific Northwest.
This isn’t the first time we Northwesterners have been called out for our teriyaki lovin.’ From the teriyaki chicken we eat at Mariner’s games to Tom Douglas’ triple garlic teriyaki sauce sold at specialty food retailers – we are hopelessly in love. I’m not even sure we’re aware that the rest of the country may not have also adopted this hot, tasty, Americanized Japanese-ish food as a staple.
“In Seattle, teriyaki is omnipresent, the closest this city comes to a Chicago dog,” wrote John T. Edge in a 2010 New York Times article, adding that “teriyaki” is a short-hand for everything from a type of burger to platters of chicken with pineapple, and that we expect it be offered everywhere: alongside sushi on a menu, or even at a Thai, pho or Hawaiian restaurant.
Eighty-three Seattle restaurants have “teriyaki” in their name, including I Love Teriyaki and I Luv Teriyaki, according to The Washington State Restaurant Association (A concurrent search yielded about 40 restaurants named Burger King, McDonald’s or Wendy’s, according to Edge’s research.)
Whenever I’ve tried tried to discuss this phenomenon, a food addiction that characterizes our region, with one of my friends, his or her reaction is usually a puzzled look. To them, living in one of the nation’s teriyaki hotspots is just the norm. They, like me, like many Pacific Northwest folks, can’t imagine life without scores of restaurants dedicated to our go-to comfort food.
Celebrate Community Diversity, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Sept. 30, Jubilee Center, Bellevue
Music, dance, community resource information available
Multicultural Networking, 1 – 3 p.m., Oct. 1, Crossroads Community Center.
Meet and hear from people from several countries talk about their experiences in their homeland and in the United States
Immigration Issues Forums, 7- 9 p.m. Oct. 11, Oct. 25, Bellevue City Hall
Guest speakers, panel discussion, group discussions about immigration system and how it affects business owners and immigrants to the U.S.
Anti-Hate/Community Unity Forum, Oct. 12, 6 pm – 8:30 pm, Bellevue City Hall
Discussion and presentations on how community members can fight hate messaging in their community, understand discrimination and build community unity.
As mentioned earlier, we’re featuring Oma Bap Korean restaurant for our upcoming issue of the Bellevue Scene. Feel free to read the entire story by Erik Skopil. But I thought I’d give you the 411 on their signature dish: Bibimbap (bee-beem-bop), which seems to be the pad thai of Korean cuisine in its appeal-ability.
It comes with almost an entire day’s worth of vegetables, a sunny-side-up egg and your choice of protein, covered in a hot-pepper Gochujang sauce. Plus, as you can see from our photographer Chad Coleman‘s photo above, it’s just downright pretty and colorful to look at.
Apparently, it’s also high-school kid tested and approved. Bellevue High Schoolers gave the dish rave reviews in their school newspaper.
Boasting almost an entire day’s helpings of veggies, Bibimbap is a healthy alternative to other quick and inexpensive fare.
From Erik’s article:
“You probably wouldn’t eat all of these vegetables if they were seperated on a plate.” Pak says. “Even though they’re all in there you don’t taste the individual flavors.”
He’s probably right. The conglomeration of greens, as well as oranges, whites, browns and purples, mixed with the marinated meats and Gochujang sauce, blend together harmoniously.
This taste is also the result of the diner’s turning and mixing of ingriedents with chopsticks (or, if you must, a fork), to create a dish tailor-made to a specific palate. In fact, the restaurant’s website features instructional videos to teach the novice bibimbap connoisseur the perfect stir.
While International Women’s Day is in March, today let’s reflect on National Women’s Day in South Africa. This public holiday commemorates a national women’s march on Aug. 9, 1956, Twenty-thousand women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest legislation aimed at tightening the apartheid government’s control over the movement of black women in urban areas.
In an allAfrica.com article, Godfrey Mulaudzi, minister counselor/deputy high commissioner, South African High Commission in Nigeria wrote:
The women left petitions containing more than 100,000 signatures expressing their anger and frustration regarding their freedom of movement; they stood silently for 30 minutes, many with their children on their backs. The women sang a protest song that was composed in honour of the occasion: “Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (you strike a woman, you strike a rock).”
In the 55 years since, the phrase: “You strike a woman, you strike a rock” has become a symbol of the resilience of South African women and their sacrifices in the struggle for non-racial and non-sexist South Africa, it has come to represent women’s courage and strength not only in South Africa, but even beyond her borders.
Let’s reflect on our gratitude for the suffragettes and activists throughout time and around the world, who have fought for our daughters, granddaughters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, cousins and friends; people who have laid down their safety, or even lives, for women’s equality and dignity.
By Gabrielle Nomura (hapa girl) | email@example.com
Production photos by Elise Bakketun, courtesy of Seattle Opera
This Friday may call for a rare manicure, and certainly, getting dressed to the nines. After all, I’m going to see my first-ever opera, “Porgy and Bess” at Seattle Opera.
The show received rave reviews from esteemed critics and news outlets, including my grandma, who enthusiastically reported back that the three-hour, $15 stand (Seattle Opera’s equivalent of the cheap seats … the cheap stand?) was worth it.
Just watching the little video clip, trailer-thing on Seattle Opera’s website gave me shivers – the dramatic dancing, emotional singing and period costumes – like an epic musical with more bravado.
You may recognize tunes from this production, Gershwin’s portrait of life and love on Catfish Row, the home of a black community in the 1920s Deep South: “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy/Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high…”
How many times, and on how many voices, have we heard this beloved “Porgy and Bess” original? Everyone from Billie Holiday to Morcheeba has done a cover. Other well-known songs include “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin,’” “I Loves You, Porgy,” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”
Mister P. and Miss B. have affected the musical world in other ways too, like opening a stage door for black opera singers. Seattle Opera performer, Michael Redding, who plays the bad guy, Crown, is one of them.
I couldn’t resist the opportunity to chat with Redding for Bellevue Reporter’s “Diverse|City” blog. Who knew that it was easier for black artists to find work in Europe, where Don Giovanni needs to have a specific sound and a physique, but not a specific skin color?
But, what I really learned, is that despite it’s links to jazz music, a cast almost exclusively made up of people of color, and a setting in the Deep South, Porgy and Bess actually has little to do with the African-American experience.
“Two souls unfold that could be of any color,” Redding told me over the phone. “It’s not about diversity or prejudice. It’s a love story.”
I can’t wait for Friday night.
Hapa girl: Tell me a little bit about your character in Seattle Opera’s “Porgy and Bess?”
MR: Crown works on loading docks on ships. He’s the town villain, the bully and a low-life. His woman is Bess, and is known for drinking, drugging and prostituting, so you can imagine what kind of character Crown is.
Hapa girl: Is it difficult to be the bad guy – to convey a character that’s such a stretch for you?
MR: It is difficult (laughing). Obviously, I’m not that kind of guy. But it’s a chance to let out some of those aggressions that we all have. Not that I want to do any of those things, but I think there’s a little bit of that in everybody. It’s just extreme in Crown.
Hapa girl: You’ve also performed the role of Porgy and Jake in this opera for other companies. What do you enjoy about those roles?
MR: Porgy is such a fulfilling character. He gets in your blood. His songs are beautiful. I also love Jake, because you get lots of relaxation time in that role.
Hapa girl: Since this opera was first performed in the ’30s, what kind of impact has “Porgy and Bess” made on music outside of opera?
MR: There are so many renditions of the music today. In fact, I just heard a hip-hop artist inset some of the lyrics in a song the other day. This music survived through Billie Holiday, like the song “Summertime.” In fact, when people talk about ‘Porgy and Bess,’ they often refer to it as an opera that a jazz person could sing. Plus, it’s had cross-over with Broadway and the theater world.
Hapa girl: What else sets this production apart?
MR: Apart from the lush score, the story is timeless. It’s an opera you walk away from humming the tunes.
Hapa girl: How has this opera opened opportunities for black performers?
MR: It used to be one of the only operas black singers were allowed to sing. Today, there are some African American singers who are content to only be singing it. While this opera has given me a great opportunity, I don’t just want to be known as Crown. I want to hear good singing and have it move me. It’s not just about hiring black singers. For “Porgy and Bess,” it’s about hiring the best singers – who simply happen to be people of color.
Hapa girl: What are some challenges for singers of color?
MR: Of course, today, black singers can play any role. But unfortunately, they are often not hired as much in the states. While some companies simply hear a voice, other times, if a white tenor and a black tenor are going for the same role, in my experience, the white performer is often the one who gets hired.
Hapa girl: How is opera changing and becoming more multicultural?
MR: In a sense, operas are becoming more film-oriented, what with live (Metropolitan Opera) performances being shown in movie theaters. With that, you see more Asian sopranos for example singing in “Madama Butterfly.”
Hapa girl: How are opportunities in Europe different than the U.S.?
MR: In Europe, they don’t see color. They’re hiring a sound – and a look, too – but more of a physique than a skin color. They have an appreciation for the art form, and they’re more into taking risks.
Hapa girl: What is your dream role?
MR: I actually kind of think it’s Porgy, which I will probably play for the rest of my life. I hope to always sing it. Also, I’d love to do Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.” I love Russian music.
Hapa girl: What does the “Porgy and Bess” audience learn about this part in American history?
MR: On the surface, we learn where we all come from, not just blacks, but our whole country. There are only a couple times when we see racial barriers, like the white police officers. But other than that, you’re just watching two people. Two souls unfold that could be of any color. It’s not about diversity or prejudice. It’s a love story.