October 16, 2018
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Sweet Soirée

Go ahead and eat dessert first. And second. And last.

At the 20th Annual Lampion Center’s A Chocolate Affair from 7 to 10 p.m. Feb. 4 at St. Mary’s Manor, 3700 Washington Ave., guests are treated to the finest chocolates served by 10 local businesses. The evening also includes live music featuring Team Skelton’s Montourauge and a silent auction that benefits Lampion Center’s work. Tickets are $75 for guests 21 and over.

Proceeds from A Chocolate Affair go toward the life-changing services provided by the Lampion Center, including counseling and community outreach.

For more information, call 812-471-1776, visit lampioncenter.com, or email jchildress@lampioncenter.com.

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Paws for a Cause

Take pause for this cause, as Another Chance for Animals hosts its third annual Paws for a Cause Big Show Extravaganza from 6 to 9 p.m. March 11 at Tropicana Evansville, 421 N.W. Riverside Drive.

This year, the event is set to showcase Haute Dogs and Kitty Couture Fashion Show, dinner, an auction, and live music provided by Allen Tate & Chuck Gee, Rapture, and Tony Henning. Proceeds from the casual evening benefit Another Chance for Animals, dedicated to the rescue, care, and placement of homeless animals in the area.

For more information, email acapawsforacause@gmail.com.

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Dance of Defiance

Shen Yun’s dramatic presentation of Chinese culture amazes crowds
Shen Yun dancers perform Elegance in the Rain, one of 20 segments of the troupe’s show to be performed in Evansville.

When Shen Yun dancers take the stage, their acrobatics defy more than just gravity. They also defy a Communist government that bans Shen Yun’s very performance.

Shen Yun returns Feb. 25 and 26 to Aiken Theater in the Old National Events Plaza, 715 Locust St., with an all-new, visually charged performance. Shen Yun last performed in Evansville in 2014.

While artists travel the world wowing audiences with music, dance, and colorful costumes, Shen Yun cannot be performed in China. According to a Shen Yun press release, China’s Communist Party has taken aim at destroying traditional cultures. In 2006, a group of ethnic Chinese artists came together in New York City to revive genuine traditional culture, and from it, Shen Yun Performing Arts was born. The music and dance company received praise and eventually began performing to sold-out shows.

More than 10 years later, Shen Yun now has five troupes of nearly 100 performers — including dancers, vocalists, and orchestral members — who perform more than 400 shows per year in cities across the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

“China has many talented dancers, but the choreographers aren’t allowed to choreograph any traditional pieces for them to perform,” says principal dancer and choreographer Yungchia Chen.

Hao Feng is a Shen Yun presenter who travels throughout the Midwest to educate host communities about the art and stories behind the dance production.

“Shen Yun has put 10 years of effort to revive Chinese traditional culture which had been destroyed by the Communist Party,” says Feng, who says he has hopes Shen Yun soon will be allowed in his native country. “China is changing.”

Shen Yun means “the beauty of divine beings dancing.” Segments of the show are five to eight minutes long, each offering a glimpse into 20 subsections of Chinese history, legend, or culture. Digital screens behind performers change with each scene; costumes also change to reflect each story and dynasty portrayed.

Feng says the performances bring people together in an age when current events and turmoil in the world tend to cause divides.

“It touches people’s hearts. It moves them to tears,” says Feng, whose son Steven Wang is a principal dancer in one of the Shen Yun dance troupes. “It’s very pure. It is more of what the world needs.”

He says Shen Yun shows offer something for all ages, making it a family-friendly show.

“Kids like this. It’s very entertaining, very educational,” says Feng, who adds the vivid colors and impressive acrobatics are unique to Shen Yun. “It’s like opening a door to a new world. That’s why people like it.”

For more information about Shen Yun, visit shenyunperformingarts.org or oldnationaleventsplaza.com.

▲ Performers portray the elegant imperial princesses and the daughters of the Manchurian aristocracy from the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
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Barre None

Children’s Center for Dance Education founder Deena Laska-Lewis believes all children should dance
Deena Laska-Lewis stands on pointe as her “queens” members of pre-company at Children’s Center for Dance Education.

Like most Mondays after class dismisses, Deena Laska-Lewis steps onto the dimly lit stage in the gymnasium of Caze Elementary School amid a gaggle of giggly girls to lead Pirouette Project, a program she started to give underprivileged girls the chance to dance.

Donning velvety pink leotards, pink tights, pink ballet slippers, and eager smiles, the girls prance around the stage and “Ms. Deena.” It is obvious she has danced her way into the girls’ hearts — and they into hers. As they spin and leap in front of their instructor, the girls look her way for a smile and affirmation of their beauty, grace, and worthiness. She gladly takes the invitation, showering the girls with praise, words of encouragement, and hugs.

“This is real life — not sitting in a theater and rehearsing for a week before opening night,” she says.

Although she has Midwestern roots — she was born in Champagne, Illinois, once lived in Terre Haute, Indiana, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana — her dance shoes have taken her many places. From age 7 until she was 17, she studied at North Carolina School of Arts in Winston-Salem. She also has danced at the Juilliard School in New York City, various companies throughout the country, and even the Israel Ballet Company in Tel Aviv.

“When you have dance, you can go anywhere with it,” she says.

In 1991, she was recruited as artistic director of the now-closed Evansville Dance Theatre, which she left in 1995 to found what is now known as Children’s Center for Dance Education (CCDE). She could have gone anywhere in the world to dance and teach — and at one time considered an offer to teach at the Boston Ballet School — but her calling is in Evansville.

Why did you choose to work in Evansville?
While at Evansville Dance Theatre, I realized this city wouldn’t have a successful dance organization unless the school came first. That is my focal point — creating a school where every child can dance, and that’s what I’ve done. At Boston Ballet School, that would have been a really cool job, but there are a lot of “me’s” in Boston. There’s no one who does this outreach and arts development here. It’s pretty good to be one of a kind, but then to teach others to do that, too.

What prompted you to bring dance into the schools?
In the Tri-State, working parents are the reality. Very often they’re not two-parent households. When you have a mom who works until 5 p.m., what do you do for her kid? She can’t get her children here, so we go to them. You can’t, if you’re a real teacher, just teach dance steps. You’ve got to teach a whole child, and you’ve got to teach them what they need. That’s what makes a true artist.

What challenges do you face?
Economics. No one sees the need for the arts. So arts are suddenly going back to what they used to be, only for the elite. Everybody deserves the arts. Who am I to say that a man not as financially stable has less of a right to see something of beauty? So that’s what I do, I make things of beauty. I can make small pieces of beauty.

What would your students say about you?
I’ve taught my students that if you do not hear your name yelled out at least once per class, then you’re being ignored. I hear them say, “She yelled at me twice.” They know I care. They speak more of what I do than anything I can of myself. They are the representation of me. It doesn’t matter if they’re not the greatest dancers; they know how to take a class, they know how to say “thank you.” They are respectful, and in the end, that’s what you want your kid to be. Ballet class is learning how to dot i’s and cross t’s, tuck in your toe shoe ribbons. They also learn to work with each other even if they don’t like each other. Not everything is going to be perfect, but you need to work together to make something magnificent. You do not have to like the girl standing in line in front of you, but you need to be in line with her.

How is CCDE different from other studios?
We are like studios of larger cities — a nice strong core, with an outreach so everyone can dance. With music, you learn your alphabet, you learn your right and left, you learn oppositional motor skills; it’s called skipping. These are the things children have to go into kindergarten with. I can teach it. Let me have these children at an early developmental stage. It should be part of their curriculum. That’s what I do and that’s what I will continue to advocate for — children in the arts.

What made you decide to use dance to advocate for the community?
Because the only thing you need for dance is a room, a CD, a boom box, and a teacher willing to share. It takes almost nothing. Every culture in the world has their form of dance, so we need to dance. And skipping with friends makes everybody giggle. So that’s the good part.

For more information about Deena Laska-Lewis and the Children’s Center for Dance Education, visit childdance.org or call 812-421-8066.

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Wine, Dine, and Save Lives

The March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction offers guests exquisite food, a chance to win quality items at a live and silent auction, and best of all, the opportunity to help families in the Evansville community.

The March of Dimes is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help prevent premature birth and other issues
related to childbirth. For this event’s 19th year, Dr. Aaron Dewees will be honored with help from the March of Dimes Ambassador family, Brandon and Jill Scott.

This event takes place at 5:30 p.m., Nov. 3, at the National Guard Armory, 3000 E. Division St.

For more information about the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction, contact Ashley Murray (812) 266-6005 or visit marchofdimes.org/indiana

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Fall Into Gardening

Everyone has the opportunity to learn about gardening from the masters on Oct. 15 at the Southwestern Indiana Master Gardner Association’s semiannual Ohio Valley Garden Conference, held in the Tropicana Evansville Conference Center, 421 N.W. Riverside Drive.

“Laboring in a garden soothes the soul, strengthens the limbs, and provides nourishment for the body,” says keynote speaker Peter Hatch. “Caring for a garden — whether pet trees, favorite flowers, or juicy tomatoes — instills life values: humility, perseverance, experimentation, pride.”

Hatch served as director of gardens and grounds at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for 35 years and plans to speak about how Jefferson’s legacy has carried into today’s farm-to-table movement.

“I hope my audience will understand how few topics tell us more about Thomas Jefferson than gardening,” says Hatch.

Five other speakers also will cover topics from horticulture to bees.

More than 20 vendor booths, including Bee Tree Pottery, Soapstone Soap Company, and Wild Birds Unlimited, will be open for shopping.

Tickets cost $49, including breakfast, lunch, covered parking, and the chance to win prizes. The deadline to purchase tickets is Oct. 1.

For more information about the Southwestern Indiana Master Gardener Association, visit swimga.org.

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A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Who says motorcyclists can’t be classy? The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride starts with a bike show at Deaconess Gateway Hospital at 11 a.m., Oct. 2, and showcases classic and custom bikes.

After the show, the highly distinguished, finely dressed, and dapper gentlemen and women hit the road to raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer.

The first bike leaves at 1 p.m. with the ride wrapping up at Lamasco Bar & Grill, 1331 W. Franklin St., at 3:30 p.m.

For more information about the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, visit deaconess.com/ride.

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Wonders of the World

New Harmony festival brings cultures together
The 10-member, music group Funkadesi headlines the Global Crossroads Culture and Music Festival in New Harmony, Indiana.

Music that spans the cultures of India and the Caribbean, food that transports you to a Central American marketplace, and art that teaches you the traditions of a continent half way across the world. All of these elements are brought together in historic New Harmony, Indiana, with the third annual Global Crossroads Culture and Music Festival.

Set for Oct. 22, the festival incorporates multiple venues in the community to showcase global cultures, focusing this year on Indian culture, as well as Afro-Caribbean, Latino, and Hispanic traditions. The theme is centered on the festival’s main act, the 10-member, multi-cultural group Funkadesi, which incorporates Bollywood, Bhangra, reggae, funk, and Afro-Caribbean styles and dance into their music.

“We made a conscious decision to look for a band that would bring different cultures together within the group,” says Connie Weinzapfel, director of University of Southern Indiana’s Historic New Harmony program. “And that’s what Funkadesi ended up being.”

“The day is a global focus celebrating international music and culture,” adds community engagement manager Erin McCracken Merris.

The festival features food and art vendors, fair trade products, a film fest featuring Bollywood movies, and dancing from local traditional Indian dance troupes. McCracken Merris says the festival teamed up with the Cultural Society of India, different local Hindu temples, and several other cultural organizations to bring this educational festival tolife.

“We all have different stories, and we’re all from different areas of the world,” she adds. “That makes up our community here in Southern Indiana. It’s actually a lot more diverse than people know and give credit to.”

Global Crossroads began three years ago as a partnership between USI’s Historic New Harmony program and Under the Beams concert series.

“As part of USI’s mission for diversity, we decided we would build on what Under the Beams has done so well with the concert series for 16 years and begin a global culture and music festival,” says Weinzapfel.

Why host the festival in New Harmony? Weinzapfel says with the history of the town, it just made sense.

“We have accounts of people visiting New Harmony from 175 years ago. New Harmony always has been a place that has attracted people for lots of different reasons,” she says. “I think that spirit still lives here.”

This year’s festival, which is free and open to the public, begins at 1 p.m. and lasts until 7 p.m. The event is family-friendly and includes games and activities along with the vendors and entertainment. Pop-up concerts with Funkadesi will occur throughout the day as well, leading up to the 7 p.m. concert at Murphy Auditorium. Tickets are required for the show.

For more information, call 812-682-4488 or visit usi.edu/gcfest.

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Community Outreach

Every third Saturday in September, the Kenny Kent Lexus Jazz and Wine Festival is held in the heart of Evansville’s Downtown on Main Street. Now, in its ninth year, the festival brings in local musicians, wineries, and restaurants for the community to enjoy. The festival, held Sept. 17 this year, showcases non-stop entertainment on three stages featuring 13 jazz bands and several street musicians performing in between sets. In addition to the live entertainment, 15 wineries and 16 restaurants will be in attendance. 

“Holding an annual event like this Downtown for nine years speaks to the energy, creativity, and spirit of Evansville,” says Ann Almquist, committee chair on the Evansville Philharmonic Guild. The festival is produced by the Evansville Philharmonic Guild each year and proceeds go toward promoting education of the local youth in live orchestral music.

“When children experience the live orchestra for the first time, they are enthralled by the experience,” says Almquist. “The Guild appreciates the opportunity to bring that type of enjoyment to our local youth.

“Our festival has the total package and we enjoy bringing the whole community together to help us celebrate our mission,” she says.

For more information about the Kenny Kent Jazz and Wine Festival, call 812-425-5050 or visit evansvillejazzfest.com.

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What a Classic

This year, the 21st Annual British Motor Car Day on the River will do more than promote British-made vehicles; it will auction off a restored classic car for charity for the first time.

The Southern Indiana Region British (S.I.R. BRIT) Car Club has around 50 local members; members who live in Kentucky are called S.I.R. BRIT South. The club began 20 years ago, after holding their first car show in Downtown Evansville. Every year since, the car show has been in Newburgh, Indiana.

The car auction will feature a newly restored 1970 MGB. Proceeds from the auction will be donated to the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center. Funds raised from the car show go to the Dream Center of Evansville. This year the event also is held in memory of Jim Barrow, a founding member of the club and an active member in the British car scene. Barrow owned an MG dealership, located where the Pet Food Center in Newburgh, Indiana, now sits. “Jim had a love for British-made vehicles and was always willing to help people fix their cars,” says Dave Mullins, chair of the event.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Old Lock and Dam Park in Newburgh.

For more information about the 21st Annual British Motor Car Day on the River, visit sirbrit.com, sirbrit.blogspot.com, or their Facebook page.