Thousands Dancing For Peace on Broadway

21 May
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Dancing Rubies Having Fun

The mid-Spring heatwave broke just in time for a cool weather day to help the thousands of dancers participating in the 11th annual Dance Parade. Each year the young parade has been gaining more popularity with dancers coming from all over the country and as far as China to celebrate the most ancient of art forms right here in the dance capital of the world, NYC. All kinds of dance forms were on display which makes this parade one of the best in the city. It’s all about dance and the diversity in which it brings. Lots of people on the parade route starting on Broadway and 21st St. stopped to marvel at the costumes and unique moves…whether it’s from the Bolivians colorful costumes or the Caribbean cultures bringing the heat or the house music coalition or Indian Bhangra or the sultry belly dancers… everyone was having fun dancing. The parade helps to raise awareness of some of the most archaic cabaret laws in the city that prohibit three or more people from dancing at a club or bar with a cabaret license, which is almost impossible to obtain. There has been a more enthusiastic push to change the cabaret laws especially with a more receptive mayor in office. With more pressure and common sense, the city can loosen the Prohibition era law and allow people to dance when and where they choose to.

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Capoeira Dancers Going At It

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Bolivian Tinkus Giving It Their All

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Enough Said

 

This years Dance Parade theme is Dance for Peace and there were plenty of good willed dancers out having a good time starting with Dancers of Universal Peace kicking things off.  Parade revelers were treated to a special guest as Grand Marshall Mestre Joao Grande of Capoeira fame was on the first float.  The 500 year old Afro-Brazilian art form was displayed by two groups that amazed the judges by the Astor Place reviewing stands. The thunderous drum band heard a block away was gaining momentum as Fogo Azul got the crowd worked up for what would be an amazing day of music and dance. Of all the ethnic groups that participate in the parade, the Bolivians bring their best. Their groups are broken up into the high energy indigenous Tinkus, the sequined cowboy/cowgirl costumed Caporales dedicated to San Simon (St. Paul), and the methodical Morenales. They come from all over the country to represent Bolivian dance and culture. As a prelude to the West Indian Parade, two Caribbean groups really got the crowd worked up. If you weren’t dancing by then, you literally have no pulse. Slowing things down somewhat were a sultry group of dancers named Dancing Rubies. They put on a really good show. The international groups were really up to the task of showing off their moves. Groups with ties to Mexico, China, India, Brazil, Spain, and Korea were seen having lots of fun dancing it up. Probably the best thing is how many young kids were at the parade in costume learning their traditional dances. Bravo.

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Dance Royalty Maurice Hines

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Belly Dancers to the Rescue

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Swinging Into Action

 

Parade revelers were treated to Dance Royalty when Grand Marshall Maurice Hines and his float of young tap dancers arrived to everyone’s delight. At 72, he can out dance most people half his age. A group named Flowers of Hope got the crowd worked up with their belly dancing. They were soon followed by the all female drum band and parade favorite Batala. Another NYC favorite, the Cobras stepped up their game with moves imitating their charismatic band leader. Closing out the parade were the young dance group, XDance showing off their Salsa dance moves. They were real good and their membership keeps growing each year. The after parade festival continued into Tompkins Square Park where stages were set up to instruct students from 5 to 95 on dancing and keep the party going.

 

 

Mexicans Celebrate Cinco on 5th Ave. in Brooklyn

7 May
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Folkloric Dancers

The overcast day made Cinco de Mayo feel more like Cinco de Marzo. The chilly weather didn’t stop the first Cinco de Mayo parade on 5th Ave. in Sunset Park, Brooklyn from marching on. Local neighborhood parades can be just as much fun as the bigger parades in the city. Kicking off the parade were sponsors and local politicians including NYC Council Member Carlos Menchaca, who was vital in organizing the event. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the famous battle in the town of Pueblo where General Ignacio Zaragoza led a small army to repel the invading French troops. Even though it was not a major part of the war, it did gain support and confidence among Mexicans to defend their land.

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Danza de Tecuanes costumer

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Happy Cinco

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Chinelos Dancing It up

 

Lead groups included parade queens and traditional folkloric dancing with colorful dresses. The first of several costumed groups made their way up the parade route from 60th St. to Sunset Park.  Danza de Tecuanes from San Rafael made their appearance with the traditional costumed jaguar being tricked by farmers. They were pretty good and brought back Mexican agricultural tradition to Sunset Park.  Closing out the parade were the crowd favorite and energetic chinelos.  The crowd gathered for more fun and celebration in Sunset Park.  One of the best things about neighborhood parades is the variety of restaurants available. I had to stop by Tacos Los Poblanos for a quick spicy chicken taco. Well worth it.

Nowruz Brings Many Happy Persians to Madison Ave.

1 May
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Traditional Persian dancers

Every April, thousands of people from Persian nations and cultures gather on Madison Ave. to celebrate the ancient tradition of Nowruz. The festival is celebrated on the vernal equinox when the Sun crosses the equator into the Northern Hemisphere. This tradition predates Islam and unites all cultures from that world region regardless of country or religion. It is one of the most important holidays and is celebrated with bountiful color, traditional meals and cleansing of the home. It’s very likely where the Spring cleaning tradition comes from. This parade has the most colorful and lively floats of the many parades in NYC. The popping colors represent hope, renewal and rebirth. Aside from the colorful floats, there were also depictions of the Prophet Zoroaster  where the tradition of Nowruz may have been started. At one time Zoroastrianism was one of the powerful world religions. The tradition also coincides with the time of Cyrus the Great, the original creator of the Charter of Human Rights.

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Start of the Parade

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Central Asians in Traditional Attire

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There’s A Party Over Here

 

As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade. They were soon followed by parade VIPs and energetic dancers getting the crowd worked up for a fun celebration. Usually the traditional characters of Amoo and his sidekick Haji Firuz kick off the parade with presents and revelry but looks like they missed the bus ride in. There was a group of traditional dancers that really got into the spirit of the holiday. It was great to see representatives from Central Asia come and blow their horns. This was the first year a group from Washington DC made their way North to join in the celebration. They did a great job and represented well. But probably having the most fun this  year were the masquerade dancers dressed in black. They really put on a good show for everyone. The parade always closes out with a crowd of students chanting out a happy chorus in unison “Iran”.  One of the best things about the parade is the after party. First, most people get some delicious food from kiosks a block away from the end of the parade route on 24th St. I opted for the traditional soup, Ash Reshteh from the Taste of Persia spot. The party kept on going at Madison Square Park where the spirit of Nowruz was alive and well.

                                                           Wind and rain have gone.
                                                           Lord Nowurz has come.
                                                          Friends, convey this message.
                                                         The New Year has come again
                                                         This spring be your good luck
                                                        The tulip fields be your joy.
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                                  Happy Nowruz……see you next year.

 

Blooming Bright Bonnets Abound at the Easter Parade on 5th Ave.

17 Apr

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The unusually warm weather brought out a huge crowd this year for an original New York City tradition, the Easter parade. Since the Gilded Age of the 1880s, New Yorkers have dressed up to the nines and casually walked up 5th Ave. with the latest fashions. Today, the tradition has evolved into a combination of well dressed celebrants and creative expressions of bonnets and top hats. The blocks from 49th St. to 55th St. are blocked off where street entertainers and music fill the air on a day of celebration. New Yorkers from 3 to 93 or more continue to show some of the best creativity in the country. Some pets enjoy bringing their owners to the parade so they can show off how cute they can look. If you have never been to this parade, it is one of the most colorful and creative you will experience. Hope you enjoy the photos as much as I had taking them.

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Scots Turn 6th Ave Into a Tartan Panorama

9 Apr

 

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Colorful Tartans on Display

The culmination of a week long celebration of Scottish contribution to American culture and the passing on of tradition ends with the Tartan Parade up 6th Ave. In a glorious display of Scottish pride and colorful tartans, this young parade is gaining more popularity. In it’s 19th year, the Tartan Parade is well known for having one the largest displays of bagpipe bands from the Tri-State region, Scotland and Canada. The sun soaked day gave the marchers and viewers a hint of the nice spring weather soon arriving. As usual, the mounted police gave the signal for the parade to start.  The honorary opening pipe and drum marching band were the US Cadets from West Point, NY.  They were pretty good and warmed up the crowd for what would be an amazing show of Scottish culture and tradition.  This years Grand Marshall, Tommy Flanagan, of Sons of Anarchy fame, greeted the crowd and took his place to review the festivities on a large tour bus on 56th St.

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Grand Marshall Tommy Flanagan

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Start of the Tartan Parade

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Shamrock & Thistle make their mark 

One of the pipe bands to kick off the day of celebration were the NY Caledonian Club Pipe Band. They were impressive. Soon after them were the NY Metro Pipe Band straight out of Brooklyn. A perennial favorite is the Shamrock & Thistle Pipe and Drums Band from Ocean County NJ. Their colorful yellow and black tartans always sets them apart from the crowd. Besides they can really play. One of the best things about this parade is the invited bands that come in from Scotland. This year Oban HS Scotland band made their country proud. A crowd favorite has always been the display of Scottish and West Highland Terriers. The dogs always bring their owners to the parade so they can show off their Scottish pride. A pleasant surprise was the Middlesex County, NJ Police Pipes and Drum Band. As usual, the lamest interpretation of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, made an appearance. Really, they should give it a rest. This year, the parade organizers saved the best for last with special guests from Scotland. St. Columba’s School Kilmalcolm made quite an impression both during and after the parade. In keeping with tradition, pipe and drum bands get together for a spontaneous jam right on 56th St. They play until the police kick them out. This year, there was a fun drum battle and a version of Amazing Grace that was a joy to capture. The Tartan parade was truly a fun parade and the Scottish hearts had plenty to be happy about.

 

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See Ya Next Year

Greek Independence Turns 5th Ave. Blue

27 Mar
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Greek Presidential Guard, Evzones

The threat of rain didn’t put a damper on the spirits of thousands of Greeks lining the parade route on 5th Avenue and waving their blue and white flags in celebration of their 196th year of Independence.  This parade claims to be the largest celebration outside of Greece and is televised both locally and internationally to millions of viewers back in the homeland of Greece.  A stage and grandstand on 68th St. were set for parade VIPs, Grand Marshalls and Archbishop Demetrios, leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.  Parade founders, The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, have been doing a great job for the last 79 years in organizing the many groups and churches in putting on a joyful event.  As always, the mounted police signal the start of the parade soon followed by parade VIPs, Mayor DiBlasio, NY Senator Schumer and Grand Marshall Ivan Savvidis and Dr. George Yancopoulos.  One of the perennial favorites is the Greek Presidential Guard, Evzones, marching with their distinctive uniforms and high step march.

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Senator Schumer, Archbishop Demetrios and Mayor DiBlasio

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Traditional Costumers

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Celebrating Tradition

Traditional costumes was displayed by the Greek American Folklore Society. Greeks are a very religious people and many Greek Orthodox Churches in the Tri-State area send their representatives to the parade. Many Greek regional groups including Cyprians and Cretians had a large presence and were very boastful. Of course, it’s not a parade unless there’s a marching band. The All-City marching Band was one of the first bands to make their way on to the parade route. It’s always great to see members of St. Nicholas Church, a small church directly on Ground Zero that remained intact.  A new group that made a nice impression was Eponoah with traditional costumes and music. They were soon followed by another perennial favorite, the Plato School Marching Band from Brooklyn. They’re always fun to watch. Back on the main stage, a young group of traditional dancers showed off their moves to the delight of the viewers.  This was a fun parade to watch and had to make my way to Uncle Nick’s Greek Cuisine on 29th and 8th Ave for some delicious Greek food.

Warm Irish Brew Melts the Ice at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade

18 Mar

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Just a few days after a messy mid-March Noreaster dumped ice and snow on the streets of New York City, 5th Avenue was changed into a sea of green. Over a million people came out to celebrate the 255th version of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  There’s always been a strong bond between Ireland and New York City. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and also the patron saint of the archdiocese of New York City where millions of Catholics call home. The parade helps bring unity between the people of Ireland and New York. Each county in Ireland is represented with their proud tribute to St. Patrick by raising their banners high. As usual in these large parades, the NYPD Mounted Guard signaled the start of the parade. The crowd was getting worked up on a chilly morning in anticipation for a fun-filled day.  They were not let down as the traditional show of force kicked off the parade with the true Fighting Irish, the Army 69th Regiment,  marching up 5th Ave.  Soon after, parade Grand Marshall Michael J Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, made his appearance. This marks the first time a hospital head served as the Grand Marshall of this historic parade. Glad to see he is in good health because in this parade everyone marches. There are no floats or cars. Just plenty of pipe and drum bands and marching bands celebrating an important event in NYC. As a display of unity, the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drum Band got things started. They were great. That section had both NYPD and Garda Siochana (Guardians of the Peace of Ireland) marching together.

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Each county in Ireland sends their representatives to march in the parade. This year Donegal started things off. A family that always goes to the parade, the half-mad McLaughlin’s from Brooklyn always whoop it up when they see their county march up 5th Ave. They are a blast to hang with even if it’s for a few minutes. Next to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has some of the best marching bands from all over the country on display. The first to make their way were the Vikings from Vernon NJ. They were really good. Right behind them came the Air Force Junior ROTC from Randolph-Macon in Virginia. They displayed all 50 state flags. The hits kept coming when the Stratford CT HS Marching Band showed their drum line skills. Impressive.

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The parade has always had an international appeal to it and this year the Badad de Lorient from Brittany France really got the crowd worked up. They were mixed in with the Spanish section. This is the 6th year the Asturia section sends their Spanish bagpipe band. They were excellent. Not to be outdone were the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drum Band. They always put on a great show and warm the hearts of many Irish. One part of the parade that always hits home is when the 343 group march. These are firefighters that carry 343 US flags representing the number of firefighters that made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11. It really is an amazing and patriotic sight to see. They were followed by family members of lost ones carrying photos of their loved ones.

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Two of the better marching bands are perennial favorites. They have the best uniforms and can really play well. The first was the Highlander Band from West Milford NJ with a mashup of both traditional marching band music and bagpipes. Great job. A yearly favorite came down from Londonderry New Hampshire. They were fired up for the parade. Pipe and drum bands from both Suffolk and Nassau Counties in Long Island did a great job.  The Golden Eagles Marching Band from Ohio and Desoto Central HS Marching Band from Mississippi were having lots of fun at the parade. They made their schools proud. If this is any indication of how the 2017 parade season will be, it will surely be a memorable year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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