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A Weekend in Motion

Nadia Ibrahim's Middle Eastern dancers.

Spotlight on dance at the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts

This year the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts—two art-filled days of fun happening on Saturday, August 28, and Sunday August 29—is introducing a compelling dance lineup.

The Nadia Ibrahim Middle Eastern Dance Company rejoins the festival this year to showcase their authentic style of bellydance and folkloric dances.

“I am excited because it is the first time we will be on the main stage,” says Nadia Ibrahim. “I have a wonderful company number called ‘Dawn of Bellydance’ that is about nine minutes long, which will open the show. I am going to do the traditional solo bellydance and then my students will be doing some pop Arabic dances. This year I decided to choreograph dances that are more current, and to music that is popular in the Middle East rather than the traditional music.”

Ibrahim, who has been dancing for years, decided to start her own troupe four years ago with a few of her students. She is currently in residence at Terrie Georges Dance Theatrics, and some of the advanced students from that studio will perform a number that involves jazz, ballet, and even gymnastics. Another guest artist in the show will be the dance troupe from Ilya’s Bellydance and Henna Art Studio, whose group will be performing a Bollywood piece.

“It will be a very diverse hour and I am very excited about it,” says Ibrahim.

The Nadia Ibrahim Middle Eastern Dance Company is scheduled to perform on Sunday, August 29, noon-1pm, on the main stage at Elmwood and Lafayette.

Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts: Turning it Up to 11

After 11 years, the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts has established itself as one of the biggest events of the summer in Buffalo. The two-day event features work from more than 170 artists and craftspeople across 16 different media—all for sale from pop-up tents lining both sides of the street. In addition, more than 50 performances are spread over three stages (as well as strolling performers), a popular dance tent, and a Kidsfest area featuring hands-on art projects, face painting, and performances oriented toward, and given by, children.

True to the spirit of the neighborhood, there’s also Cultural Row, where you can pick up information from more than 30 local and regional organizations—to learn how they’re working to better the community and how you can become more involved. In addition, you can visit various booths promoting environmental causes, and this year, two of the stages will be solar-powered.

Also on the menu is the food. A wide variety of vendors will be clustered in the festival café, offering everything from veggies and pierogies to hot dogs, on top of the restaurants and markets permanently located there along that stretch of the street in the Elmwood Village, between Lafayette and West Ferry.

Starting at 10am Saturday (8/28), the Lafayette and Wilson Farms stages will host eight bands apiece, with new bands starting every hour, on the hour, until 6pm. Catch the Social Inferiors, Jamie Moses Band, Twang Gang, Outer Circle Orchestra, John and Mary & the Valkyries, M.C. Wizzalot & the Tip Top Hop Orchestra, the Steam Donkeys, and Scottilicious on the Lafayette stage. At Wilson Farms, it’s Les Amis Fencing Club, Grace Stumberg, Lance Drake, Noa Bursie, the Canal Street Band, Gretchen Schulz & Doug Morgano, Delaney & Rob, and the Corrections. Then, from 6:15-8:30pm, Left on Red and the Skiffle Minstrels will host an after party performance on the Lafayette stage.

Meanwhile, in the dance tent located near the other end of fest, between the M&T Bank branch and the Unitarian Universalist Church, you can start your Saturday morning at 10am with some Argentine tango lessons, followed by Shady Grove, Leroy Townes, Alan Whitney and the Healing Committee, Peanut Brittle Satellite, the Insiders, and Macy Favor.

Sunday morning (8/29) the whole thing starts coming down again at 10:30am on the Lafayette stage with lots of dancing: Fleuron Rouge & Zuut, Festival Ballet Ensemble, Nadia Ibrahim Middle Eastern Dance Company, LehrerDance, Jama Jama African Drum and Dance Ensemble, Configuration Dance, followed at 4pm by the popular Kidsfest parade. Starting at 10am at Wilson Farms, it’s Jennifer May’s Ladies First, Gaia Miranda, John Lombardo & Joe Rozler, Mary Ramsey & the Healers, the Lake Effect, David Kane’s Hearsay, and Outofar Trio Jug Band.

Sunday in the dance tent you can ease into the day with community yoga at 10am, followed by a crash course in Cajun/zydeco dance, then performances by Lee Ron Zydeco, Dee Adams Band, Ringo Brill, Down to the Roots, After Hours, and Latin Jazz Project.

For more info on all the vendors, activities, and festivities, visit

—buck quigley

Another dance company that’s returning for its third year is LehrerDance, led by Jon Lehrer. This collective of individually talented dancers, each one trained in different styles of dance, came together in July 2007. They call themselves “organically athletic” and they employ any genre of dance they feel is necessary to tell their story through movement.

This year the company plans to perform “Organic Dynamic” and “Instinct,” two of their more popular pieces. They will also preview some upcoming works to be featured at University of Buffalo’s Center for the Arts this fall.

“We thought the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts would be a great place to actually give the audience a taste of the stuff they’ll see in October,” says Lehrer.

Lehrer loves the atmosphere at the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. He says it’s much more intimate than a show in a theater.

“I like being able to directly be in contact with all the people,” Lehrer says. “Whether it’s at our booth, which we have again this year, or at the performance, it’s right there. You perform and you can see the people’s faces, you hear them, and you get to talk to them right away.”

LehrerDance performs on the main stage at Elmwood and Lafayette on Sunday, August 29, 1-2pm. They are also featured at the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts, October 8-10.

Returning for its fifth year is Joe Cipolla’s Configuration Dance Theatre. This professional dance company, established in 2000, moved to the Buffalo area in 2007.

“We’re going to be performing two excerpts from pieces I choreographed and also three solos,” Cipolla says. “Our company is a contemporary ballet company, which basically means that we are all classically trained in ballet, but we do contemporary work.”

Cipolla recalls past festivals and the response he gets from the crowd. He says he’s always glad to perform and to be asked back each year.

“I think it’s a wonderful festival,” he says. “It’s a great setting outside on Elmwood Avenue. So many people walk by and are interested in what we’re doing, and the audience has always been very kind to us there.”

Configuration Dance Theatre performs on the main stage at Elmwood and Lafayette on Sunday, August 29, 3-4pm.

Another special dance event happening at the festival will be free yoga lessons presented by Shakti Yoga.

Michelle Gigante, the director of Shakti Yoga, opened her small storefront on Lexington Avenue two and a half years ago. When business started booming, she decided to search for a bigger space and eventually relocated to 133 Grant Street, a former bank that was built in 1920, giving her 3,000 square feet in which to work.

Gigante has been teaching yoga for about 10 years and teaches a specific kind of yoga called vinyasa, which focuses on the flow between poses and the breathing that accompanies each movement.

Shakti is an ancient Indian word that means energetic force towards consciousness,” Gigante says, “so the kind of style of yoga that we do involves moving our energy.”

Most of Gigante’s classes feature some form of live music. The free session at the festival’s dance tent—Sunday, August 29, 10am—will be accompanied by percussionist Tiffany Nicely.

“My hope is just to join the energy of the community,” Gigante says. “The art festival is such a great testament to local energy coming together in support of culture and the arts. What we do on the mat at Shakti has very much to do with this festival, in that we’re basically joining talents, energies, and forces to create a deeper sense of community.”

—vanessa oswald

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