‘Antigone’ Review: Modern, Timely and Necessary

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Alexandria King as Antigone, Photo: Richard Termine

Summer in New York City is replete with outdoor activities to fulfill the public’s yearning for quality music, film, fitness and cultural events. How do you choose from so many worthwhile attractions? If you were a theatre and cultural arts aficionado you’d be remiss not to take advantage of The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s free production of “Antigone.” This modern revival of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy is inspired by the Paul Roche adaption and infuses African-American traditions while adhering to the Greek tragedy format. Presented at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater at Marcus Garvey Park and referred as the ‘Uptown’ Shakespeare in the Park by Ty Jones, Producing Artistic Director of The Classical Theatre of Harlem, lead actor in “Antigone”, and fellow theatre creatives – the space is conducive and complements “Antigone’s” production and set design with the names of those killed by police brutality.

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Alexandria King and Ty Jones as Antigone and King Creon, Photo: Richard Termine

Although the cornerstone of Greek plays emphasize tragedy, what stands out in this particular rendition and lauded by Carl Cofield, Director of “Antigone,” is the valor of conviction. The story of “Antigone” opens at the end of a battle between Antigone’s brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, both were vying for control of Thebes and died in combat. Ultimately, King Creon claims the throne as the new leader and proclaims one brother a hero (Eteocles) while the other a usurper. Antigone demands her slain brother (Polynices) receive a proper burial against the king’s wishes. The timeliness of “Antigone” couldn’t be more appropriate as we face an administration attempting to impose their unjust system on its citizens – and most of these citizens are challenging their ideology and taking to the streets to protests their policies – to salvage our Democracy. Alexandria King plays the main character of Antigone. Don’t be fooled by her small stature opposite King Creon, Ty Jones’s 6 ft. build. King’s powerful voice commands the stage and she does a superb job of portraying the defiant and valiant Antigone. Jones, known for his portrayal of Agent Donovan in the POWER series on the Starz Network is a natural as enforcer and upholder of law and order. But, Creon’s family and citizens of Thebes are reluctant in sharing his views.

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Ensemble from Elisa Monte Dance Company, Photo: Richard Termine

The choreography by Tiffany Rea-Fisher is stellar and the talented singers in the chorus are sensational. “Antigone” offers hope reflected in the selfless acts of sacrifice in the name of justice and even though the play, originally written by Sophocles in 442 B.C. – 2,500 years later, stands the test of time. Check out the free production of “Antigone” produced by The Classical Theater of Harlem at the Richard Richards Amphitheater at Marcus Garvey Park through July 29th, for more information, click here.

CREDITS:

The company of “Antigone” includes: Obie Award winner Ty Jones (as Creon; POWER, Julius Caesar), Alexandria King (as Antigone), Kahlil X. Daniel (as Teiresias), Avon Haughton (as Haemon), Ava McCoy (as Ismene), and Adaku Okpi (as Eurydice). The ensemble features dancers from Elisa Monte Dance.

Inspired by Paul Roche’s Adaptation of “Antigone” by Sophocles
Director: Carl Cofield
Choreographer: Tiffany Rea-Fisher
Costume Designer: Lex Liang
Lighting Designer: Alan C. Edwards
Scenic Designer: Christopher & Justin Swader
Sound Designer: Curtis Craig
Production Stage Manager: Megan Sprowls
Projections Designer: Katherine Freer
Props: Samantha Shoffner

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Brooklyn Film Festival’s 21st Season Delivered Its Finest Cinema To Date!

The 10-day Brooklyn Film Festival Wrapped up its 21st Season. And its festival slogan: “Bad times make great art” undoubtedly established a theme for an array of sentimental, political, satirical, activist, and unflinchingly honest films projected on screens all throughout Brooklyn. What was glaringly different from last year’s festival? Filmmakers commanded the audiences’ attention with their eye-opening subject matter: global female exploitation and oppression, political strife – domestically and internationally, mental illness, prison reform, terrorism and racism. Yes, there was some comedic relief in the mix – worthy of artistic recognition, but 2018’s films I mention below will grab hold of your sensibilities and perceptions of the world with a winding rollercoaster ride of emotions.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Film Festival

Winner of Best Documentary, “Afghan Cycles” takes you on a journey with the first National Cycling Team for girls in Afghanistan. It’s heart-wrenching to learn, watch and try to fathom the obstacles these girls, featured in the film, endure to be free – to enjoy their favorite hobby: cycling, all while succumbing to oppressive conditions placed on them by their country. It’s often said, that you don’t know what you have until it is gone, is fitting to describe the sacrifices the subjects make to live out their life’s dreams. Director, Sara Menzies seamlessly captures this poignant narrative and makes the audience sympathize and root for these girls.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Film Festival

Two films about prison life, albeit with starkly opposite narratives are “Hidden BluePrints: The Story of Mikey” and “Prison Logic.” “Hidden Blueprints,” a documentary short by prisoner turned filmmaker, Jeremy Lee Mackenzie is auto-biographical and describes his time in a Kentucky prison as a teenager, after a bank robbery and drug-trafficking charges put him there. The jail that housed Mackenzie burned to the ground after a riot. The director illustrates his time in prison through intricate art and a praying mantis named Mikey – both cathartic outlets to get him through the trials and monotony of life in jail– which later fate manifests into creative professional endeavors. It’s a refreshing perspective on prison life, emphasizing a willingness and fortitude a person can muster to turn their life around. With hope and creativity – anything is possible. The narrative feature “Prison Logic” by multi-talented actor, writer, and first-time director, Romany Malco Jr. gives us the story of Tijuana Jackson, a character he’s been playing on-and-off on the web since 2007, now immortalized on screen. Tijuana Jackson has a dream of becoming a motivational speaker, but his penchant for not following the rules, coupled with his ball-busting, by-the-book parole officer, played by the supremely talented and ageless actress, Regina Hall, present many obstacles in his quest for stardom. We see many stereotypical nuances and gags in this film genre, but Romany Malco Jr. does a great job to inflect humor, evoke laughter from the audience at the right time, and make these scenes memorable. “Prison Logic” won the Best Actor, Male and Best Editing Awards.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Film Festival

Three female directed films about female oppression that made a huge impact at this year’s festival are: experimental short, “That Part,” narrative features “Are You Glad I’m Here?” and “Can Hitler Happen Here?” Directors Mia Sorenson and Catherine Delaloye’s experimental short “That Part” is a 4-minute spoken word film exploring adversity, inequality, and the ongoing challenges women face in everyday life; voiced by women from different backgrounds and captured visually by dancers expressing the words’ intensity through choreographed dance. This film’s powerful message to women to champion and persevere for their rights – to live freely and happily – on their own terms, is necessary.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Film Festival

When a curious-yet-naive 20-something American (Kristin) teaching English in Beirut crosses paths with a resilient, yet unhappy 30-something Lebanese housewife (Nadine) – an unusual friendship forms that will compromise each woman’s moral beliefs, we have the film: “Are You Glad I’m Here?” Director, Noor Fay Gaharzeddine does a wonderful job of developing these two characters’ friendship organically, as each woman attempts to learn more about the other’s culture. Tensions rise and each must face a shocking truth about Nadine’s abusive husband that will determine their future. Awarded the Audience Award for Best Original Score, this film addresses complex female relationships we need to see more of in cinema.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Film Festival

The third female-directed film by Saskia Rifkin awarded the Best Female Actor award is “Can Hitler Happen Here?” Rifkin shoots the film in black and white and her female lead is 74 years old – a reclusive artist played by Laura Esterman (Miriam Kohen) with candor and conviction. Rifkin allows us to enter Miriam’s mind while she endures endless harassment by her neighbors who insist she conform to societal norms and presentation, when Miriam refuses and holds her ground, we enter her shifting psyche’s interpretation of her neighbors’ motives, her sexuality, and creative persona – all clashing to make sense of her current situation. “Can Hitler Happen Here?” explores taboo subject matter through the eyes of a septuagenarian – that is captivatingly eccentric – and we are here for it!

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Film Festival

Lastly, a film that explores the universal themes of family and loss are present in “My Country.” The film about two brothers, one American, one Italian – who’ve never met – take a road trip together to spread their late father’s ashes in the small town (Molise, Italy) where he was born. As the brothers get to know one another, cultures collide, and each find faults in the other, they contemplate their situation and wonder whether they should continue their journey together. The beautiful Italian countryside, its warm and inviting residents, the bittersweet interactions between actor/director, Giancarlo Iannotta and his on-screen brother (Antonio Palumbo) will make you hug your sibling and forget your rivalries – for good!

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Film Festival

Brooklyn Film Festival’s 21st season has come to end, but the extraordinary films they showcased and hosted will not. To learn more about the Brooklyn Film Festival’s line-up and the films featured in this article, click here.

NYC Dance Week is Here! Come Celebrate with Ailey’s Extension Program: June 14 – 23

Ballet, Zumba, yoga, modern dance and hip-hop – just a few class options in the Ailey Extension arsenal – to get you moving! Ailey Extension kick-offs their 6th season of NYC Dance Week beginning June 14th thru June 23rd. NYC Dance Week is a citywide celebration during which Ailey Extension offers three free dance and fitness classes each day for new students – and two free classes for new and returning students – for a total of 30 classes! I was fortunate to try three distinctive class offerings: Afro-Cuban Folkloric, DanceFit, and Absolute Beginner Horton (the modern dance technique created and made famous by Alvin Ailey).

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Afro-Cuban Folkloric Dance Class, Photo by: Christian Miles

When I first entered Studio C at the Joan Weill Center for Dance in Manhattan, I was a little nervous about what to expect. The mounted ballet bars alongside the white walls, mirrors, a piano, and sprung floors seen in a traditional dance studio didn’t ease my trepidation. Plus, the fact that two percussionists with drums would be an integral part of the class repertoire was both nerve-wracking and exciting. Instructor Noibis Licea guided students through various forms of Afro-Cuban dance tradition while representing the Orishas (dieties from the African Traditions brought to Cuba that explores movement within cultural context. This 90-minute class allowed for very little moments of rest, and challenged my coordination and ability to dance along with my fellow classmates. My body responded to the beats of the drums and transported me to the island I was born in. Noibis Licea, the Afro-Cuban Folkoric dance instructor has been with the Extension program for 5 years, also teaches Afro-Cuban Modern Dance. “My music inspiration comes from all types of music primarily percussion, strings, and wind instruments.” Noibis will be participating during NYC Dance Week and you can catch his class on Friday, June 22nd from 7 – 8:30pm.

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Noibis Licea, Photo by: Joe Epstein

Next up – DanceFit: A high-intensity training with R&B, pop, and hip-hop blasting in the background meant to give you a full-body workout without you realizing it, until the next day. This 60-minute class will test your endurance. I stumbled upon the class’s one-year anniversary, created and taught – by the charismatic Karen Arceneaux. Sure, you may think every instructor is full of energy and ultimately their job is to motivate students, but Karen has a synergy you instantly feel upon meeting her. There was a mix of students – young and old – in the class. A delightful couple in their sixties couldn’t stop praising Karen’s class and so were a number of her current students. Her enthusiasm for each student to have fun is contagious. I chatted with Karen Arceneaux about her career in dance and motivation to teach.

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Karen Arceneaux, Photo by: Rachel Neville

DSMC: How long have you been with The Ailey Extension? 

Karen Arceneaux: Wow! I think I’ve been teaching for The Ailey Extension since 2005.

DSMC: You move effortlessly when you teach DanceFit. What inspired you to take up dance?

Karen Arceneaux: Thanks a bunch. Dance was not something I had access to as a child growing up in Louisiana. However, I remember, as clear as if it happened five minutes ago, the librarian giving away old books. I was in 2nd grade and quite shy. I had my eye on a totally worn out, tattered book (cover threading seriously unraveling). It was a book with a pink pointe shoe on the cover. I watched other kids pick the book they wanted and run to the librarian with their choice. I waited on the side, hoping no one would pick up the book I wanted. After the other kids left the library, happy with their book in hand, I walked over to and picked up the book I wanted and approached the librarian. In 2nd grade, I don’t remember being introduced to any form of dance prior, except for my own happy dancing around the house or at family outings. This (the book) was the first time I saw a pointe shoe. I was immediately drawn to it. This was the first inspiration that led me to dance. We would have to sit over coffee or tea so that I could provide greater detail as to what happened after that has led me to here and now. 🙂

DSMC: What made you create the DanceFit class?

Karen Arceneaux: Movement is my life. I’m a dancer. I teach Horton technique. I train private clients and teach group fitness classes. I also create movement for my dance students in classroom and theater settings. I thoroughly enjoy wearing each hat and want my students to have fun while learning. Through dance and fitness, my mission is to inspire, uplift, and transform lives with outrageous passion and energy. As a dancer, a choreographer, and personal trainer, I wanted to create a super fun class experience that would combine my areas of dance and fitness expertise with the goal of fulfilling my mission. With all of that, I created DanceFit.

DSMC: Who are some of your favorite dancers?

Karen Arceneaux: Debbie Allen was the only dancer I saw on television when I was about 12. She was an inspiration then and has remained for the past 36 years. She is my favorite dancer! I just love her.

DSMC: How did you get your start in dance?

Karen Arceneaux: Well after much back and forth with my mom (she was a no) and dad (he was a yes), my mom listened to my dad and allowed me to audition for my high school dance team. Mind you, I had no training in dance. I just loved moving and picked up movement quickly. I didn’t receive formal training until my sophomore year of college.

DSMC: Will you be participating in NYC Dance Week? If so, which classes? 

Karen Arceneaux: Yes, Yes, Yes! I will be participating! I think my Ailey Extension Absolute Beginner Horton on June 16th from 3:30 – 5pm, and DanceFit on June 22nd, which is open to the general public.

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DanceFit Photo by: Christian Miles

DSMC: What tips can you provide to those that are new to dance?

Karen Arceneaux:

My Tips:

  1. Prior to class, let the teacher know that you’re either new to the particular class or new to dance period
  2. Breathe
  3. Come in with an open mind, ready to learn something new
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes (that’s how we learn)
  5. Relax. Don’t stress (It hinders learning)
  6. Have FUN
  7. Continue to do Tip#2 throughout class

The third and final class I experienced at the Ailey Extension was Absolute Beginner Horton with instructor, Fernando Carrillo. Right before I walked into the studio, panic set in, after all this class implements the dance techniques used in Alvin Ailey’s signature Revelations performance, which I had previously reviewed . To me, this class embodies ballet and modern dance at its core. It allows students to challenge their flexibility and coordination in ways they hadn’t before. Fernando’s graceful instruction towards new and existing students is a testament to his teaching skills. I came to class with a misguided perception and left thinking about the limitless dance potential my body has – bad knees and all. I asked Fernando about his dance background and what led him to the Ailey Extension:

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Fernando Carrillo, Photo by: Leon Lee

DSMC: What was your first experience with dance? How did you know it was your calling?

Fernando Carrillo: I knew dance was my calling when I was around 10 years old. I became very interested in dance when I would watch my family dance and I loved the rhythmic steps they did to the music. I never danced back then, so it was this unspoken thought that remained in my mind until I went to college and took my first dance classes.

DSMC: How long have you been with the Ailey Extension group?

Fernando Carrillo: I have been teaching for the Ailey Extension for over 10 years.

DSMC: Who are some your dance inspirations?

Fernando Carrillo: My dance inspiration comes from two mentors I had the pleasure to learn from. Milton Myers is a master teacher who has always been very supportive. He helped me hone my skills as a dance teacher. He gave me many opportunities. I was able to teach at The Juilliard School, The Ailey School, Steps on Broadway and Peridance Capezio Dance Center as his substitute. My other great mentor is Mrs. Carmen De Lavallade. I am so grateful for her generosity. She has shared invaluable information with me. Mrs. De Lavallade helped me uncover a sense of home within me whenever I am teaching the Horton Technique. It is an extraordinary feeling of sharing and cultivating a true human relationship with people without bias or judgment.

DSMC: Have you performed in Alvin Ailey’s dance productions? If not, will you be in the near future?

Fernando Carrillo: I performed with Ailey II where I was fortunate to perform many of Mr. Alvin Ailey’s choreographies.

DSMC: Will you be participating in NYC Dance Week? If so, which classes?

Fernando Carrillo: I will be participating in NYC Dance Week. I will be teaching at Ailey Extension the following class:

Absolute Beginner Horton: June 14th from 7-8:30 pm

DSMC: What tips can you give those new to dance classes?

Fernando Carrillo: I recommend they show up to class with an open mind and ready to experience something new they have never tried before. I like to see people walk into the studio with a feeling of belonging to the arts and taking part in the world of dance. People will clearly see that with our passion and power; we have the ability to change people’s perspectives through our art.

I was truly impressed by the Ailey Extension and am considering becoming a permanent member. I encountered talented instructors with a passion for dance and wanted to know more about this extraordinary program and its formation from the woman who oversees it, Executive Director, Lisa Johnson-Willingham. Check out our conversation below:

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Lisa Johnson-Willingham, Photo by: Andrew Eccles

DSMC: What are some of your earliest recollections of wanting to become a dancer?

 Lisa Johnson-Willingham: I was always very active as a child. We played a lot of music in my house. My entire family loved dancing. For my 6th grade graduation, we created choreography to the one of the Funkadelics’ songs. My counselor saw me and introduced me to a National Youth Sports Program – a summer camp with dance program. Ms. Reed was my first dance instructor. When I saw her – so graceful and beautiful – long and lean, I was 10 and said: I want to be her! That was the moment I wanted to be a dancer. I was there for 10 years. When I started, I was the youngest in the program. Everyone else was older. I loved the challenge. It was so much fun. Ms. Reed had just graduated from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in D.C. and I decided that’s where I wanted to go for high school.

DSMC: You had joined the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in 1994 as a dancer and remained with the company for 5 years. Was becoming a dance instructor a natural progression for you?

Lisa Johnson-Willingham: Definitely, yes it was. After I left the company I was AileyCamp Director in Chicago for 10 years. After that, I became the Director for the Ailey Extension and that was an easy transition for me. AileyCamp consists of 6 weeks in the summer, but you work all year round with 100 kids, bringing dance to the people. Which is the Ailey Extension’s mission: real classes for real people. It was the same, but with children. Dance changes lives. It has a real effect on people’s health, it uplifts the mind, body, and spirit. When you come into this community you get a whole body experience – a spiritual experience. We have classes, workshops, and performance workshops. Last week Robert Battle (Alvin Ailey Artist Director) taught a repertory workshop at the Extension. It was amazing. That connection goes deeper than taking a dance class.

DSMC: What’s your vetting process for selecting the instructors at Alvin Ailey?

 Lisa Johnson-Willingham: We want prominent instructors. We have instructors from around the world. I participate in one of their classes, look at their resume. Teaching at the Extension is different than teaching at the Ailey School. They are professionals. They need to be skilled instructors that can deal with the general public. They need to be skilled at all levels of dance and have experience in teaching. In this room you’re going to have all levels of people who are beginner or advanced. It’s a beautiful thing to have so many people at all levels – and being able to handle that well – is a skill in itself

DSMC: NYC Dance Week is in its 6th season, how involved were you in creating the classes?

 Lisa Johnson-Willingham: My team and I got together and chose classes we thought the public would be interested in. We didn’t want people coming through the doors feeling intimidated. So of course, a lot of the classes are our beginner-level and fitness classes. Horton is on the list. We want to welcome people and allow them to have the Alvin Ailey dance experience.

DSMC: Are there any disclaimers or waivers the public has to fill out before taking  classes during NYC Dance Week?

 Lisa Johnson-Willingham: Everyone can go through NYC Dance Week’s website, fill out a form and retrieve a voucher, and bring it with them before participating in the class.

DSMC: What’s the adequate mindset people need to have before participating in NYC Dance Week?

Lisa Johnson-Willingham: If you’re new to dance, it takes time to perfect the steps. It’s a welcoming environment. You are there to have a good time. There’s no pressure. You can zone out at the gym or any other fitness facility, but with dance, you use your mind, body and spirit – you’re telling a story, expression through movement. And, life is constant movement.

Since its inception in 2005, the Ailey Extension program has welcomed over 83,000 new students with the help of Lisa Johnson-Willingham, creating annual workshops: The Ailey Exeperience, Voices and Visions, and World Dance Celebration. The Ailey Extension shows no signs of slowing down; instead it plans on bringing new and exciting challenging dance classes – to existing and new students. To check out NYC Dance Week’s schedule, click here.

 

 

 

The Brooklyn Film Festival’s 21st Season is Upon Us: Get Ready for Love, Loss, Triumph and Controversy

The Brooklyn Film Festival is back with a vengeance – an artistic, thought-provoking reprisal – in the form of documentaries, features, narrative and animated shorts meant to strike a nerve, inform and leave audiences with a welcomed or unwelcomed – shock to the system. The film festival kicked off its 21st season at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn with a treasure trove of documentaries produced by The New York Times and a mix of animated and experimental films from the Brooklyn Film Festival. The 10-day festival is comprised of approximately 125 features and shorts from 30 countries spread over all continents, except Antarctica. The lineup includes 19 world premieres, 21 from the USA – 37 east coast debuts and 30 first-time screenings in New York City. The festival will present in total 36 short narrative films, 16 short documentary films, 25 animated films and 20 experimental films. There is bound to be a film for all tastes in this roster of diverse presentations from around the globe.

I’m a film buff and constantly seek out new and exciting films – especially independent films that will stake a claim on my brain and will leave me deep in thought for days. Two films that have ambushed my psyche so far: “Lieutenant of the Alt-Right” and “The Story of Esraa.” As the title suggests, “Lieutenant of the Alt-Right” is about one of the members of an extremist, white nationalist group. At first, I scoffed at this documentary, but as I was watched the film’s subject, Eli Mosley, a rising white supremacist leader, whose deep-rooted white male inadequacies was becoming the focus of his drive to spew hate and present himself as an American hero – was quickly challenged in the film. Bravo! To filmmakers, Emma Cott and Andrew Michael Ellis for letting the narrative take shape and expose Eli Mosley and his group’s false, albeit dangerous beliefs, and shed light on to an unfortunate rising movement.

Lieutenant of the Alt-Right, Credit THE NEW YORK TIMES

Photo: Courtesy of Times Documentaries

The second film that left a lasting impression on me is: “The Story of Esraa” – a young 20-something woman who challenges Egypt’s system by attempting to live her life free of her country’s constraints on family, religion, and personal freedoms as she embarks to rent an apartment with her like-minded friends, only to find obstacles and disappointment. This film will resonate with everyone who’s struggled to find their identity and establish themselves on own their own terms. I felt sorrow and hope for this woman, and as I chatted with one of the filmmakers, Mona El-Naggar, Mark Meatto, and Yousur Al-Hlou, I learned about Esraa’s story further. It made me question the freedoms and choices I currently have in the U.S., but for how long? With this administration at the helm chipping away at our Democratic freedoms daily, who’s to say, we can’t find ourselves like Esraa one day?

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Photo: Courtesy of Times Documentaries

The accompanying films on opening night were fantastic as well. The animated short from Italian director Fausto Montanari, “Weird” about girls being different and perceived as odd is a painstaking glimpse of society’s judgmental lens on how we see each other and ourselves. “Deportation Deadline’s” subject matter, by directors Brent McDonald, John Woo, and Jonah M. Kessel is straight from our current news cycle, as many families are continuously torn apart by ICE agents with deportation orders enforced by the Trump administration. The relevancy is strikingly accurate and telling of the injustices currently happening to undocumented immigrants in our country.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Film Festival

The Brooklyn Film Festival’s (BFF) theme this year is: “Bad times make great art.” And I for one can’t wait to see what’s in store for the duration of this provocative festival that has been staging international and competitive films and independent production of films and drawing worldwide attention to Brooklyn as a center for cinema. BFF promotes artistic excellence and creative freedom without censure, and has done so since 1998. To see an encore of The New York Times produced documentaries and the Brooklyn Film Festival’s stellar films, click here for ticket info, venues, dates and times. Viva la Cinema!

 

Coffee Deprivation And Fitness & Nutrition Insights At The LACTAID® x Flywheel Event In NYC

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I’m of the sweeter is better mentality when it comes to coffee. I recently attempted to forego coffee for a week to determine why my beverage of choice doesn’t always agree with me. I made it through 4 days – hey, I’m not patting myself on the back, but it’s a start for someone who worships coffee and creamer. After a few days of skipping my regular coffee and sweet additive (in its defense – it’s gluten and preservative-free), I noticed that I felt less tired and my stomach didn’t bloat. What prompted me to make this change? I recently attended the LACTAID® x Flywheel event in New York City. Before I challenged myself to this new indoor cycling experience and went sans coffee, I had a chance to chat with Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, MS, RD., a registered dietician and fertility specialist at TLB Nutrition http://www.tracylockwoodnutrition.com. Tracy was on hand on behalf of LACTAID® to provide facts and dispel myths about lactose sugar and food sensitivities vs. allergies.

Tracy Lockwood

Photo: Courtesy of Tracy Lockwood Beckerman

DSMC: Can exercise help individuals with dairy and other food sensitivities? Is there any existing data?

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman  There is no evidence that exercising can combat dairy and food sensitivities.

 

DSMC: What are some common misconceptions about food sensitivities you encounter?

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman:  People often overlook food sensitivities because they think it’s normal to have symptoms of bloating, indigestion or headaches after eating certain foods. However, it’s abnormal to experience these crippling symptoms. I advise clients to consider removing it for a period of time to assess if the symptoms do resolve themselves. If you observe that lactose is the issue, I recommend that people who have an intolerance to dairy introduce LACTAID® products so they are gaining the benefits of real dairy, without suffering the consequences.

DSMC: What’s are the most common experiences your clients or individuals that have incorporated LACTAID® products into their diets have?

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman: Since LACTAID® is 100% real dairy minus the lactose, people don’t worry about experiencing gas, bloating or diarrhea after eating dairy because they aren’t exposing their bodies to lactose. Therefore, they are able to carry on their day without stomach issues and enjoy the moments that follow.

DSMC: What are some basic facts people should know about food sensitivities and allergies?

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman: There is a big difference between food sensitivity and intolerances versus a food allergy. A food allergy is an often severe physical reaction in the body upon exposure to that food source and may require need immediate medical assistance or medication in order to treat. A food sensitivity and intolerance are a more mild physical reaction that is often resolved within a few hours without any medical intervention. You can feel the symptoms of food sensitivities and intolerances in the forms of headaches, acne, brain fog, bloat, or acid reflux. If you want to learn more about your food sensitivities or intolerances, you can do an IGG test which tests 98 foods and can give you a road map for what’s going on internally. If you are curious about learning more about food sensitivities, talk to a registered dietitian-nutritionist who can educate and teach you how to handle certain foods.

DSMC: Does age or having a sedentary lifestyle contribute to food sensitivities? Particularly becoming lactose intolerant?

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman  Having a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t correlate to becoming lactose intolerant. However, as we age, our ability to digest lactose diminishes due to declining amount and ability of the enzyme, lactase, to properly break down lactose. So it is quite common to become lactose sensitive, as we get older. Older women still need vitamin D and calcium to maintain their bone health – which is why I often recommend LACTAID® to older women to reap the nutritional benefits of real dairy without suffering the consequences.

 

I was happy to undergo this coffee and coffee/creamer purge after chatting with Tracy, but first I was going to Flywheel it! I have friends that rave about indoor cycling and boutique workout classes and felt compelled to try out this trendy cycling class. My first impression: it’s small enough to cater to individual class participants, they provide you with a bike – make the necessary adjustments for your height, and strap in your feet with bikes shoes in your size. I liked that; a little handholding is always welcomed by me.

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Photo: Courtesy of Emily Fayette

Furthermore, the instructor who led the class, Emily Fayette – a seasoned fitness trainer and health coach made the class enjoyable. I didn’t clock-watch once, whereas at other gyms, I become antsy and can’t wait for cycling classes to end – either they’re too fast or the instructors drone on about achieving Lance Armstrong-type euphoria, pre-scandal, of course! It was Throwback Thursday at this particular Flywheel class, and Emily played oldies from the 80s, 90s, and 00s that got the class pumped. She routinely checked in to make sure everyone – either stepped up the pace or took a breather, complementing everyone’s efforts all throughout. Added bonuses; she added arms to the workout and promised a variety of LACTAID® smoothies would be waiting for us after class. I chatted with Emily about her fitness motivation, her Flywheel instructor gig and what led to the collaboration with LACTAID®.

DSMC: What inspired you to get into fitness? What are some of your earliest recollections of becoming fit and immersing yourself in the fitness world?

Emily Fayette: Growing up I played soccer, basketball and lacrosse. I always love being part of a team. I’m a huge community person. In college I played lacrosse for the first year, but I wasn’t sure if the sport was for me, so I started running marathons and half marathons while studying to be a teacher. Education was huge for me. After I finished school, I moved to New York City. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in the classroom – but I knew I wanted to educate in some way or fashion. I knew I had a passion for fitness and landed a role as a Managing Director for My Gym – kids fitness centers in New York. I loved it, but I ended up getting stuck behind a desk and wasn’t doing fitness. Then I began teaching cycling and boot camps outside of that 9-to-5 job. I realized I live in a city where this is possible. I can do adult fitness – teach these classes and feel amazing myself – before and after. I started doing more adult fitness, became a trainer and a health coach.

DSMC: As a health coach and self-described foodie, what misconceptions do you frequently hear about fitness and nutrition?

Emily Fayette: There are so many fads that come and go. I’m part of a wellness community. As I health coach, I can’t give out nutrition plans and we hired a dietician. What I’ve learned through her is that every single person has an ideal diet for themselves. Testing out foods. Making sure it feels right for them. I don’t ever want to consider myself a vegan, vegetarian or plant-based person. I’m Emily and I found these foods that make me feel amazing all the time. As a health coach, I don’t give out nutrition plans. I rely on learning lifestyle changes. It’s not the fact that you – should or shouldn’t – eat certain things. It’s about seeing the patterns in your life. I had this client that ate French fries all the time and I didn’t suggest removing this thing that she loved, instead I told her to treat it as a special item, create small little habits, have these fries once a week and not everyday – maybe consume it once every other week. I’m all about making these small little habit changes in your lifestyle that ultimately becomes changes in your overall healthy lifestyle. Most diets don’t work for the long term. You have to want a healthy lifestyle. You can have a friend that goes on a diet loses 30 lbs., is killing it, but you don’t know if the weight is going to stay off. They may have different body than you. You have to test out what will work for your body and stick with what’s right for you – whether it’s incorporating new foods into your diet or a new fitness routine.

DSMC: With the popularity of Flywheel and other boutique studios opening up around the city, what advice can you give newbies to indoor cycling, how not to get discouraged if they’re not great at the sport right away?

Emily Fayette: What I love about Flywheel is that it’s a very inclusive environment. That’s part of our mission statement – you are part of a team. Any time I meet someone new and it’s their first time, I make sure they feel comfortable. Before every single class, I go over everything that’s about to happen. I encourage them to try everything three times, have a ton of fun and listen to their body – if you need to take a break, take a break, you shouldn’t be afraid or discouraged – this is a new thing for your body. It all starts with the vibe of the studio – of Flywheel; we try to keep it motivational.

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Photo: Mercedes Vizcaino

DSMC: How did the collaboration with LACTAID® come about?

 Emily Fayette: I haven’t been eating, drinking dairy for years just because of the way it made feel – and it stems from the need to drink and eat things that make me feel good; I know I need a lot of energy throughout the day. I would get terrible stomachaches. I took it out of my diet, knowing I would lose out on a lot of nutrition. When I found out Flywheel and LACTAID® were partnering, they reached out to me, knowing I didn’t eat dairy. Before I put my name to something, I had to make sure the products made feel good. I’m a firm believer of that. They sent me their ice cream and milk products and now I substitute back in dairy – it’s real dairy without the lactose. It doesn’t make me feel sick, makes me feel good. I created the Chocolate PB&J And Oats Smoothie. I love to have it post-workout, gives me my protein. I feel lucky I found LACTAID® through Flywheel because I don’t know if I would’ve found them otherwise.

DSMC: What emerging fitness trends do you foresee in the near future the public will be gravitating to?

Emily Fayette: I think at-home experiences. We see waves of boutique being big, at-home being big. It does go up and down throughout the years. You think Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda – that was a ton of at-home workouts. At Flywheel, we have the at-home bike now and I’m one of the instructors on that platform. Bringing the Flywheel experience you had for instance – bringing that into people’s homes so they can feel they are part of the experience at their own time and leisure – is the goal.

DSMC: What’s on the horizon for Emily Fayette? What do you see yourself doing in the next couple of years?

Emily Fayette: I want to continue what I’m doing in a bigger way. The Flywheel at-home platform allows me to do that. As we continue to sell bikes, there will be more people I can inspire – bring my energy and positivity to. My girlfriend, Sherica Holmon and I created a wellness company called Elevate Together, a community of people, with a Facebook page, that feel safe to share recipes, workouts, and questions. We have a dietician that can lay down the law on what fads – we can and shouldn’t – follow. It’s a matter of being around a ton of people that want to find their healthiest lifestyle. Social media is a blessing and a curse. We get to see what everyone’s up to in the world, but also get down on ourselves if we don’t look like a certain person or celebrity. We see someone that’s doing a diet/fad and think, if I try this, I’m going to look like that. That’s not the case. Granted, I used to be someone that followed that mindset. I’m very happy that I’ve found within myself, ways to make me happy and find my healthiest lifestyle. Within the last year, I’ve readjusted my mantra to: eat to live and not live to eat. I used to live for my next meal. I thought: Can I eat that today or should I? Now, I create my own little diet  that works for me and I fuel my body to live my life. I’m not worried anymore about counting calories or macros. And if using my and other people’s experiences I’ve helped, to assist others in finding their happy place and make significant healthy lifestyle changes, is very rewarding to me.

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Photo: Courtesy of Emily Fayette, From L to R, Sherica Holmon and Emily Fayette

The 277 billion health and wellness industry with an emphasis on mind and body is projected to be the next trillion-dollar industry. With so many products and services to choose from – what do you do? Experiment, experiment and experiment some more. Don’t be afraid to try a new class, whether it requires equipment or not. Trainers and instructors are more than happy to lend a hand and give you background and member testimonials on a particular fitness class or equipment. Most gyms will give you a one-day or one-week pass to see if it’s a good fit for you; gyms and fitness classes, like foods, are so varied, it’s inevitable that they can subscribe to one-size fits all categorizations and false expectations.

After I tried the smoothies at the LACTAID® x Flywheel event, I was content and surprised the ingredients were filling. I didn’t need to have dinner as it was already past 7:30pm EST. And usually I’m ravenous after any workout. I still need coffee and I still need creamer, but instead of going cold turkey with them, I’m going to opt for LACTAID® lactose-free and other products to substitute my dairy intake. Stay tuned!

To learn more about LACTAID® products, click here. To schedule a visit to Flywheel Sports and take a cycling class, click here: 

 

Film Review: ‘Catch the Wind’ (‘Pendre le large’) NY Premiere: Challenges the Pliability of the Human Spirit

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Photo: TS Productions, Actress Sandrine Bonnaire

The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) hosted the Focus on French Cinema Festival’s 14th annual closing night screening of: Catch the Wind (Pendre le large)’s New York premiere – and what a gem! The film starring acclaimed French actress, Sandrine Bonnaire (Vagabond, Á nos amours) and director Gaël Morel’s muse for writing the screenplay, captivated audiences with a delicate balance of grit and vulnerability. The international film festival showcases the best of contemporary French-language films from around the world – particularly France, Switzerland, Canada, Belgium, Lebanon, and French-speaking African countries. The festival commenced on April 27th in partnership with Alliance Française of Greenwich, continued in Stamford, Connecticut, and wrapped with its highly lauded final film in New York City.

Actress Sandrine Bonnaire portrays Edith, a middle-aged seamstress who is laid off, and is faced with the tough decisions to accept severance or relocate with the company to Morocco; she chooses the latter – to her and her coworkers’ surprise. Leaving behind a son (Ilian Bergala) with whom Edith has a strenuous relationship gives us insight into her motivation to abandon everything and everyone in her native France. Her journey to a new place is met with obstacles, bittersweet realizations, and unexpected new friendships. Bonnaire’s expressive nature in conveying a wide range of emotions, gives her character a depth – sans dialogue, which frankly isn’t necessary, yet audiences will sympathize and identify with. Shot beautifully in Tangiers, Morocco with scenes of the Mediterranean Sea littered with picturesque geometric buildings and intricate mosaic designs – the background is a welcomed and nicely added character to advance the narrative. We don’t see touristic Morocco; instead we witness an industrial interpretation of real-life deplorable working conditions of factory life, Edith endures.

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Photo: TS Productions, Actress Sandrine Bonnaire

Catch the Wind (Pendre le large) explores themes of life-changing events and the resilience of the human spirit to counter life’s wonderful and awful experiences – with earnest. After the screening the audience was treated to a Q&A with writer-director, Gaël Morel. Morel’s homage to the working class in the film is attributed to his father’s time as a factory worker – where he worked for 30 years. Morel used his father’s factory as a backdrop for the opening scenes. Catch the wind (Pendre le large) was co-written by Morel’s Moroccan colleague with the intention to – gain perspective and depict – Moroccan women as warriors and resistors.

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Photo: Mercedes Vizcaino, Writer-Director, Gaël Morel – Center

To learn about more about The French Institute Alliance Française’s (FIAF) upcoming events on French culture, the arts, and programs in education, click here: For more information about Focus on French Cinema’s programs, click here:

Credits, Cast: Sandrine Bonnaire, Mouna Fettou, Kamal El Amri, Ilian Bergala, Farida Ouchani, Lubna Azabal; Director: Gael Morel; Screenwriters: Gael Morel, Rachid O., Yasmine Louati; Producers: Anthony Doncque, Milena Poylo, Gilles Sacuto; Director of photography: David Chambille.

Review: ‘Sancho: An Act of Remembrance’ Emotional, Provocative and Timely

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Photo: Robert Day

If Paterson Joseph’s name doesn’t automatically invoke the phrase “thespian of our time”, then the acknowledgement is long overdue. Joseph’s career trajectory spans over two decades with a vast array of Shakespearean and other notable stage performances, film and television series (The Beach, Aeon Flux, NBC’s “Timeless,” and “Doctor Who,”). The talented and versatile British actor brings to life Sancho: An Act of Remembrance to the National Black Theatre in Harlem with an undeniable vibrancy and a steadfast energy. Written, conceived and performed as a one-man show, Joseph commands the audiences’ attention as soon a he steps on stage.

Paterson Joseph begins with a brief intro to his entertainment background and seamlessly segues into the character he’s portraying: Charles Ignatius Sancho. Sancho, an African man born on a slave ship – who was able to rise from poverty and servitude in 18th century England and become an educated social satirist, composer, abolitionist and ultimately a man of refinement evidenced by his portrait – painted and immortalized – by renowned artist, Thomas Gainsborough. I can’t recall mention of this prominent activist in school and welcomed the education lesson of this character’s vital role in becoming the first British-African to cast a vote in England in 1774; quite a feat for a man of color in this era in history. Joseph does a phenomenal job in reenacting Sancho’s birth, early childhood, and life-changing influences that led to his financial independence as a businessman within the oppressive environment bestowed upon him. Joseph transitions between the narrative with comedic and emotionally charged dialogue with ease. And as a theater patron, you can’t help but glance around the intimate setting, and notice other patrons are captivated by Paterson Joseph’s storytelling ability.

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Engraving by: Francesco Bartolozzi

The theme of oppression and strength of conviction to affect change is so timely in our current political system. This play is more than homage to a man who paved the way for British Africans, rose above unimaginable adversity and triumphed in light of the circumstances surrounding him; it’s a testament to the spirit of man and the belief that change and acceptance of marginalized groups is possible. Sancho: An Act of Remembrance will be playing at the Black National Theatre through May 6th. For more information on the performance and to get tickets, click here:

Conceived, written and performed by: Paterson Joseph; Co-Director: Simon Godwin; Music and Sound Design: Ben Park; Designer: Michael Vale; Lighting Designer: Lucrecia Briceno; Costume Designer: Linda Haysman.