The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul: Jazz

The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul You Me NYCSaxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet have been playing rebellious and unapologetic Jazz for the past three decades.  Anyone familiar with this group is definitely aware of their high-flying improvisations that can launch at any given moment.  “The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul” is a perfect example of freeform at it’s best with each instrumental voice being defined with purpose.

For 20 of those years, piano player Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis have been a staple in the group.  Drummer Justin Faulkner has been with the band for about 10 years respectively.  I have to say that the band has reached another pinnacle tending to a collection of moods with motivating commitment.  Faulkner’s chops are crisp and smooth.  Calderazzo goes ahead and smokes the ivories and Revis’s bass line is fluent and on point.  Marsalis outdoes himself on this album, his phrasing is sharp and endless.  Each member of the quartet compliments each other the way an improv band should.

“Life Filtering from the Water Flowers” is Marsalis’ one and only composition on this album and it is of true Marsalis form.  This arrangement displays a cleverly organized instrumentation with very moving and contained sax riffs only Marsalis can phrase.  Calderazzo’s piano playing and Faulkner’s drumming help convey the message Marsalis is bringing across.   “Life Filtering from the Water Flowers”, compliments the album as a reflective tribute to his late mother Delores Marsalis.

“The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul” is a definite must-have for all Jazz fans.  The creativity of the improvisation tangents in each song is truly an original compilation that cannot be duplicated.  This album is an enjoyable and innovative listen that features some engaging moments of Jazz Improvisation.  This album serves as a perfect example as to why the Brandfors Marsalis Quartet is held in such high regard for the past 30 years.

A Leader for the People of The People

Image Courtesy of Vulture.com

When the news of Nipsey Hussle’s murder broke, I couldn’t believe it. I was honestly a little confused and it took a while to understand. Looking at all the social media, comparing his death to Tupac’s. I didn’t really get it but now I do. It does feel the same in a lot of ways emotionally. Even people who have never heard of him were affected by his death.

I was in the nail shop the other day as the conversation came up between a few customers. Everyone had nothing but amazing things to say. I remember hearing about the rapper who sold the first 1000 copies of his mixtape for 100.00 and made over 100,000.  Hussle was one of those rappers who were on the scene but not in it. He came up around the blue-collar rap.  He was part of the XXL freshman class with the likes of Freddie Gibbs, Jay Rock and Wiz Khalifah. 

You could tell he wasn’t in it for the perks of rap.  He was using his voice to teach a new message, by showing a different side of rap, the entrepreneur side and the mental state. Nipsey was the first rapper I heard talk about investing and buying land. He recognized the value in the message and what it would mean for his neighborhood and others. Shortly after he took a trip to Africa, he made it his mission to provide, uplift and invest in the community.

He was one of those guys that could go into any neighborhood and be good anywhere. Nipsey had that kind of respect and gave that same kind of respect in return. He knew and recognized the fact, that there are Crenshaws everywhere all over the world.  I don’t know why but when you lose someone in the Hip Hop community especially in the Black community, it feels too close to home.  The fear for black men in this country is as real as fuck.  It’s too easy to become a stain on the sidewalk always in arm’s length of that terrible phone call. It’s one of my biggest fears and I don’t feel alone on that.

With this tragedy, he brought people together and sheds light on a topic that fell upon deaf ears unless you were vegan or a conspiracy theorist.  At the time of his death, he was promoting and working on a documentary about the New York Trial in which Dr. Sebi won against The Attorney General of New York.  Dr. Sebi was being sued for not having a license to practice after advertising his cures of multiple diseases including Cancer and AIDS in 1988. He proved that you didn’t need medicine; holistic, natural remedies and a change in diet is the cure and of course, this didn’t sit well with the medical field. He brought attention to the sad truth, there’s more money in the disease than the cure.

Conclusion

I would like to thank Ermias Joseph Asghedom A.K.A Nipsey Hussle for his contributions to Hip Hop, his community and community’s worldwide. A man who truly understood his purpose and voice. A man for the people, of the people. May his soul Rest In Peace 

Getting to Know ToniSteelz

Toni Steelz You Me NYCToniSteelz, Brooklyn born and raised, adult-contemporary hip-hop artist has been performing ever since she was a kid.  Considering she comes from a long line of performers in her family, performing comes naturally to her.  As busy as she is, she took a few moments out of her day to allow You Me NYC to get to know a little more about her.

A day for Toni starts with an early rise and a prayer.  Then she lets the dog out to take care of his business.  Next, she dedicates an hour or two to social media and emails.  Then breakfast, yoga to follow and then she takes a walk around the neighborhood to prepare for the day and kick off her creative flow.

Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Queen Latifah are her musical inspirations when it comes to creating her work.  Her process requires meditation, water, snacks, trees, a pen, paper and space.  Toni Collaborates with other artists as well and finds the process to be a bit more simple.  According to Toni, it’s easier to bounce ideas off of someone else.  She will definitely work with other artists in the future.

Toni loves her work, she loves to create, meet new people and adores her fans.  When her fans reach out she reaches back.  She can’t acknowledge all of her fans, but she does try her best.  She does, however, dislike the backhandedness and the judgments that come with the territory in this industry.  However, when asked if she ever thought about leaving the performing arts and starting a new career, she replied with an emphatic “No”.  Hence why she involves herself with other aspects of the industry such as acting, writing and producing.  She is also considering other genres, like, RnB/Soul and fake singing(jokingly) as well.

With all that is going on in her life, we asked if she ever has time for herself and her response, “I make time for myself”.  Unfortunately, she learned that the hard way, after she was hospitalized for dehydration.  Toni relaxes by going to theme parks, comedy shows, traveling, hanging out, enjoying a nice bowl of pasta(her favorite food), watching television(The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is her favorite show) and occasionally takes a “hit” of “weed”.

Toni Steelz You Me NYCConclusion

Be consistent, relentless, focused and always remember to have fun which is her advice to anyone trying to get into the game.  According to Steelz, “ToniSteelz” is the future and she plans on bringing her lady friends with her.  She sees herself creating and starring in films along with a few other business ventures.  Toni is traveling on a long road and she is excited to see where it brings her.  We at You Me NYC are delighted to be a part of that journey.

 

Check out ToniSteelz’s “Welcome to my Hood” and share with all you know.

Hip Hop Started out in the Heart

Hearing the theme music to Wayne’s Brother’s play for the first time changed my life forever. Electric Relaxation by the Hometown Heroes, A Tribe Called Quest. I guess you can say that’s when I decided to make it official with Hip Hop. No doubt about it, I was in love and couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it. I’ve had crushes before but nothing like this, nothing I could put into words. Just a feeling I couldn’t and didn’t want to describe. Kind of like the first time you have great sex. A Tribe Called Quest You Me NYCA Tribe Called Quest in the early days. From left to right,
Jarobi White, Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Phife Dawg.
Ernie Paniccioli/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

That’s what Hip Hop is to me, a feeling with such a vast everlasting stamp on this world. Too much to box in but just enough to recognize. However with any and everything, we need reasons to classify and define. If it doesn’t fall into the guidelines regulated by individuals not even responsible for its creation; it’s seen as blasphemy and should be punishable by law. Funny, I haven’t been on this earth as long as most people, however, I have never heard anyone debate so passionately about who’s the best country singer. Especially when it comes to content. There’s a certain kind of freedom allowed in other genres that I don’t see in Hip Hop. It’s always who did it first, who’s the king or queen? Who’s the strongest lyrically? No real room for growth, variety or inclusivity. Unless it’s being used for advertising purposes, then the lanes and streams are endless.  

Hip hop tends to get treated like the troublesome teenager with talent and promise that needs to be disciplined and watched constantly. That one kid all the students love and the teachers can’t stand. The kid with straight A’s who lived in detention really out of boredom unless you needed to show diversity on campus. Hip Hop is almost 40 years old and should be treated as such including the artists who continue to strive and create in this genre. 

I love hip hop but I hate having discussions about it sometimes. If you say more quote on quote conscious artists like Kendrick and J Cole then you get some form of respect but if you say Migos or Kodak then your musical choices are in question when there’s room for everyone to have a seat at the table. Like for BET to trash Nicki Minaj while congratulating Cardi B on her Grammy was disappointing. I’m actually not a fan of either personally but both women worked hard, created their lane and succeeded in it. That’s what Hip Hop is all about. Take out the competition, find the beauty in that. Get back to the heart.  

Metro Manga

People draw inspiration from pretty much anything these days.  Whether you are walking around Central Park, strolling down Eastern Parkway, or staring out a window.  Manga artist Sophocles Plokamakis, founder of “Sophocles Art” and coiner of the term and genre “Metro Manga” finds his visions in the Subways of New York City.  Sophocles Art You Me NYC

Peter Frz:    What genre do you consider your art to be?
Sophocles:  I create comics in the subway which I call Metro Manga because they are inspired by Japanese comics and read from right to left. When I paint Metro Manga on canvas, I’d say that my work is a mixture of Manga and Pop Art. I used to paint in a photo-realistic style, but I much prefer impressionism painting and pop art.

Peter Frz:    Where are you originally from and where are you currently residing and how long?  
Sophocles:  I’m from Astoria, NY a very Greek city in Queens and I live here now for about 8 years but I’ve been in and out of Astoria my whole life. I love how it’s a great mixture of the city and the suburbs. 

Peter Frz:    What is your creative process like and what tools do you use to harness your creativity then transpose to the canvas?
Sophocles: 
 I use a portable clipboard as a drawing pad that holds all my paper and Japanese Kuretake Fude pens (calligraphy brush-pens), sharpies and Japanese animation red and blue color pencils. Sometimes I draw on black paper, usually black card stock. I make the majority of my art in the subway drawing real people on the spot. When I step into the subway, as I’m waiting for my train, I make a composition of Manga Panels starting from right to left. I record my journey from what stop and train I started with so that my readers can see where I was that day. Each panel in manga records a moment in time and I want my Metro Manga to be my daily visual ongoing comic strip, that people can look back on many years from now, like old newspapers as a moment in the history of art. 
Sophocles Art You Me NYC

Sometimes I color my paper manga with Copic sketch markers and more recently I’ve taken them to the next level by making large acrylic paintings of the comic pages that I made in the comic. For my paintings, I use Copic brush pens on top of acrylic paint on the canvas.

Peter Frz:   How has your style changed over the years? 
Sophocles: I started making art when I was 3. It started out very abstract, drawing comic, video game and cartoon characters with accurate colors and costumes but in an extremely simple style. The Heroes all had giant smiles and the villain’s big frowns. I’ve been told by art teachers my whole life that I had good observational skills so as time went on my fan art became more precise, subtle and detailed, but I’ve always been a fan of the more abstract simple design of characters in Japanese cartoons and comics. It was Shonen Jump, a Manga magazine translated into English from Japan that changed my life. At SVA I learned fundamental drawing, painting and sculpting skills and was exposed to different kinds of art I had never looked at before and was encouraged to experiment with different genres of art. I love that school and the effect it had on my journey through the art world.

Today my characters have detail that sets them all apart from one another but they are still simple. I use as few lines as possible to suggest the people of the Subways of the world like an Ukiyo-e (Japanese woodcut print) artist or a Sumi-e (Japanese ink painting) artist. I’m always open to my style constantly evolving and exploring new territory as an artist, which I think is vital if you are to keep growing and coming up with new pieces that have an impact.

Peter Frz:   What do you believe is a key element in creating a good work? 
Sophocles: The key element in making great work is to do what you love. I learned this from my favorite teacher Keith Mayerson in our Principles of Cartooning class in my sophomore year at SVA. Once you find a subject that inspires you the rest is easy because I get overwhelmed by the urge to create something new every time I travel on the Subway. The subway is my main studio so you need to find what moves you and gets you painting, drawing, sculpting, making collages, prints, or even in the other arts, which subject(s) inspire you to create a new song, dance, etc. 

Sophocles Art You Me NYC

Peter Frz:   What lead you to make art a career and was there any adversity from family or friends regarding your decision?
Sophocles: It was my love for cartoons, Manga, comics, video games, museums, and galleries. There was a lot of adversity from family and friends regarding my decision to be a pro artist and art teacher especially those closest to me. You have to push through that, if you are serious about being a pro artist, you got to show your art to people in galleries, the subway, parks, shows and network with artists, curators, and collectors so you can attract more opportunities through other people. 

Peter Frz:   Who or what are your biggest influences?
Sophocles: My biggest influences are Akira Toriyama (Creator of Dragonball and Doctor Slump) and Osamu Tezuka (The God of Manga and creator of Astro Boy) Toriyama’s amazing draftsmanship in Doctor Slump and his action-packed storytelling in DBZ and Tezuka’s Genius level storytelling made me want to make comics, art, cartoons and animated tv series for my whole life. Another huge influence on my life was traveling to Japan twice and visiting all the best manga museums, galleries and shows like the world of Dragonball in Nagoya, and the Osamu Tezuka museum in Takarazuka. That trip changed my life and I began to focus all my energy toward making comics on the subway as opposed to just drawing sketches of the passengers before that. Also, the character Goku always inspired me to want to keep making art and to see just how skilled I could become.

Peter Frz:   What are some of the challenges you face while you are creating?
Sophocles: It’s easier for me to draw in public and make comics on the go than at home. At home sometimes I get distracted. When I’m on the subway there’s always someone who inspires me to make art every time I commute on the trains. A challenge I face when drawing in the subway is when someone gets up and leaves the train before I’m finished drawing them.  However, I solve the problem by playing a drawing game I call MR. Potato Head. I’ll piece together a character in my Metro Manga by drawing other people’s features or clothing onto the original person that I drew so that I am still drawing from life and not inventing things. I find that when I draw from life or quality photo references my drawings look more accurate and polished than when I draw from my head.

Peter Frz:   Is Sophocles Art your first venture and were there any other ventures before Sophocles Art?
Sophocles: 
My business name used to be Sopho Toons (short for Sophocles’ Cartoons) but I changed it to Sophocles Art so people would know the name behind the work. 

Sophocles Art You Me NYC

Peter Frz:   What’s been your greatest artistic success?
Sophocles: I’ve had lots of success in my journey as an artist but I have to say Decemberfest and the other shows I curated at ONE ART SPACE in Tribeca, NYC is my greatest accomplishment. Decemberfest was a 70-artist group show that I curated with my business partner and fellow curator Oriel Ceballos on December 1st 2018. We had 1000+ people come to see the show in only a 3-hour span. There were lines around the corner of the block to get into the show. I have never seen anything like that in all the shows I’ve been a featured artist in, as well as shows in the Chelsea galleries even for big-name artists from the past. I put my all into that show and the results were a testament to the power of GREAT ART and how it inspires a community and the world. 

Peter Frz:   What is next on the horizon for Sophocles Art?
Sophocles: I make a ritual of writing my top 10-20 goals for the year before the new year starts. For 2019 I have 5 more shows to curate at One Art Space. The next one is on April 5-6. Send me a DM if you’d like to learn more on Instagram @sophocles.art. I also want to self-publish 5 books this year featuring my subway art, a children’s book and a look book for my animated TV series that I’m working on.

Sophocles Art Nas You Me NYC

Peter Frz:   Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Sophocles: In the next five years I see myself earning the money selling my books, art and to travel to all the major cities in the world that have subways and making METRO MANGA a Global project sort of like how Brandon Stanton (HONY) has taken his camera to other parts of the world, however my stories are fictional to give me the freedom of what to write. I see myself exhibiting in NY Comic Con and San Diego Con as well as cons and galleries around the world. I plan to make volumes of books of my travels through the subway systems of the world and drawing on location in other countries as well as places in the U.S.  

Conclusion

Sophocles Art, an innovator in such a crowded, demanding, and high-pressure field, delivers exceptional results and shows that in a craft like this, there is always room for exciting new ideas.  As long as New York City has its subways and urban settings we look forward to seeing what else this dynamic artist brings to the imaginative table of art.

Sophocles Art You Me NYC

  

 

Thank You Kate Spade

Katherine Noel Brosnahan, known professionally as Kate Spade and Kate Valentine.  American born, Kate was a mother, fashion designer, and successful entrepreneur.  June 5th, 2018, we lost a brilliant force in the fashion/accessory world and what a tremendous loss it is.

There is no need to discuss as to how or why this happened.  Instead, Kate should be remembered for her contribution to the realm of fabulous.  Spade started out with Mademoiselle magazine in the accessories department in 1986.  She later left the magazine in 1991 with the title of “Senior Fashion Editor/Head of Accessories”.

While working at the magazine she realized that the market was lacking stylish yet sensible handbags.  After the discovery, she decided to create her own line of chic practical handbags.  Spade developed 6 prototypes out of “Scotch” tape and paper.  Shopping her designs around, she found a manufacturer in East New York who was willing to produce her designs and more importantly, work with a startup.
Thank You Kate Spade You Me NYC

To finance the company Andy Spade withdrew from his 401(k) plan and also paid employees of the company with his own personal checks as well.  Kate was undecided about the name of the line.  Since she and Andy were not married at the time, “Kate Brosnahan” sounded like an unmarketable name to her.  Andy suggested “Kate Spade” which was a combination of his surname and her first name which they both agreed on.

As we all know “Kate Spade New York City” launched into a massive handbag line which extended to clothing, jewelry, shoes, stationery, eye-wear, baby items, fragrances, tabletop, bedding, an d gifts.  Later, Kate and her husband sold the line so she can concentrate on raising her daughter.

Although Spade and her husband are not affiliated with the brand for more than 10 years, the beloved brand lives on.   There are numerous “Kate Spade New York City” stores all over the country and the world with her first store opening up right in Soho New York City where her empire began and her legacy created.

Conclusion:

We will miss you Kate…..

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain, host of the popular CNN series “Parts Unknown” left the world with a final and permanent sign-off June 8th 2018.  I absolutely loved his show and the fact that he brought us all a little closer to each other just by sharing a meal. Anthony really showed us how much we all have in common through all the culture, diversity and cuisines he brought to us no matter where his location.

Bourdain was larger-than-life, an amazing chef and a fantastic storyteller.  The news of his death shocked the world and according to CNN, the most common sentiment was “I feel like I’ve lost a friend”.  I personally felt connected to Anthony, through his extraordinary way with words, his gutsy on-scene locations, and his edgy character.
Bourdain You Me NYC

His article in “The New Yorker” back in 1999 spoke volumes and I can definitely relate to it.  The article titled “Don’t Eat Before Reading This” was about the secrets of working in a restaurant’s kitchen.  “In America, the professional kitchen is the last refuge of the misfit.  It’s a place for people with bad pasts to find a new family”, Bourdain wrote.  Don’t get me wrong I don’t have a bad past.  I worked in a few restaurants, starting in the kitchen as a dishwasher and moved through the stations.  I can definitely say that I have come across some shady characters.

Now I love food and the relationships it brings to the table.  Anthony’s work is incredible and plays a huge influence on my writing as well.  I am sure that I can speak for all of my readers and pretty much everyone else. Anthony is sharing a meal in some part unknown to all of us and telling some amazing story.

Conclusion:

We will miss you Anthony, your work will not be forgotten.

Pure Samba

Making people happy and smile is what is most important to Lisa Ferreira, founder and director of “Pure Samba” a dance and entertainment company based out of the “Fort Greene” section of Brooklyn.  Originally from Long Island, Lisa currently resides in and is a proud resident of “Fort Greene” Brooklyn.  She considers herself the mayor of “Fort Greene”, as she is one of the last remaining cool “Fort Greene” residents from an era of Black Excellence, Black Renaissance, and Black culture of “Fort Greene”, Brooklyn.
Pure Samba Lisa FerreiraThe first time Lisa witnessed a Samba performance, she was enthralled and captivated as to how beautiful, strong, and confident the women were performing.  Her love for Brasil, its people, food, music, dance, culture, energy along with her “West Indian” Heritage,  are all factors that lead up to her decision in becoming a Samba performer.  Lisa’s father’s people are from Trinidad and as a child she and her siblings would hear their great aunt and uncle profess their love for Carnival when they would come back from their trips to Trinidad.  Lisa was fascinated by the costumes worn and the joy expressed by the people participating in Carnival, in the pictures her great aunt and uncle would share with her and her  siblings.  According to Lisa “It is a beautiful coincidence that as an adult I came to fall in love with Carnival from Brasil. It is in my roots, my blood, my heritage as well. My great aunt and uncle have since passed, but I know they are proud to see me living the Carnival tradition by way of the colorful stories they shared with me as a child”.

According to Ferreira, there are a few pop influences that have an impact on the way she dances, along with the beautiful dancers she has the pleasure to work with as well.  However, the most significant are the Passistas, the superstars of Samba dance of Brasil, it’s their joy and innovation that inspire Lisa’s dance technique.  According to Lisa, her main motivation behind the establishing of her company is her beautiful mother.  Her mother would encourage her to be the best that she can be and find bliss in doing her own thing.  Unfortunately both her beloved mother and father passed away in 2014.  “Pure Samba” is her tribute to her mother who is her eternal revelation for everything she does in life.  “I continue hearing her say ‘Go ahead do it, do it with all your might'”, Lisa says.  No matter how tired and exhausted she is, her mother’s influence keeps her going, as she puts her heart and soul into every performance.  According to Ferreira, she guesses she is always looking for her mother’s validation which keeps her striving to be the best.Pure Samba Llisa Ferreira

Being a performing artist and the owner of a dance company in New York City, the winter poses an issue with keeping her body warm prior to shows, which is one of the challenges Lisa deals with.  Other than that, there are very little challenges due to her love for dance.  Listening to the music makes her smile and wearing one of her beautiful costumes is like a fantasy.  Samba makes her happy, it’s magical she explains.  If Lisa’s having a bad day, the moment she starts to dance, it all melts away, without a care in the world.

Aside from the demanding world of dance and the countless hours that are spent by being a business owner, there is actually some downtime.  Being a SAG/AFTRA actress, she likes to spend time watching episodic television, dance alone at home enjoying the relationship between dance and music and spending time with friends over brunch.

When asked what advice she would give to up and coming dancers that want to make a career out of dance, her recommendation is to love what you do and be the best that you can be at the moment, along with not judging yourself if you are injured or having a bad day.  With that being said, Lisa has always had a vision to continue to empower the dancers of “Pure Samba”, by creating high profile opportunities for each of the performers, such as the co-creation of a commercial for Hershey’s Kisses “Say it with a Kiss” campaign and an appearance on on the “Nightly Show”, with Larry Whilmore about Cuba.  Lisa also co-stared in a comedy pilot for A&E as a Samba Dancer and she also choreographed a routine for a very well known men’s fashion designer, for New York Fashion Week Mens.

It’s a very full plate that Lisa has on her table and what’s amazing is that she still has time for a social life.  She will continue to create high profile opportunities for the members of her dance company and herself as well.  She is looking forward to continued success in her performing and one day also to be married.

My Passion – My Therapy – My Life

From Hitsville USA (Detroit Michigan) to Bed-Stuy (Bedford Stuyvesant) Brooklyn, Kendra J. Ross, professional dancer, professional choreographer, teaching artist, arts administrator, and community organizer was able to set aside some time out of her extremely busy schedule for us so that we may get to know more about this “Detroit” native, now one of the most well-known performers in the Brooklyn and New York City dance community.  Growing up in Detroit has shaped Kendra into the proud black woman she is today.  One of the most segregated cities, Kendra was always surrounded by black people of all shades, colors and aptitudes.  According to Kendra, black has always been beautiful, she never experienced being a “token” until her adulthood.  Being from Detroit, has given Kendra a love for the flashy elements with a little bit of grit.

Kendra J Ross Teaching Artist

In her early years, growing up in Detroit, Kendra (pictured here courtesy of Longtower Photography) was always a performer.  Her career started with a performance of an assortment of MC Hammer and Michael Jackson interpretations, in a well-know venue to her, which was her living room in front of a very tough crowd, which happened to be her parents and grandparents.  Even though Kendra did not start taking formal dance lessons til she was twelve years old, she was always fascinated with dance.  Her eternal love for the art was conflicted with also wanting to go into the legal profession as an attorney and she would have, until her AP Chemistry teacher told her that aspiring to be a dancer is a “waste of her talent”.  “I do not take kindly to people telling me what I cannot do so I decided to prove her wrong” Ross says.

When asked what she loves and what are some of the challenges she faces in her field of expertise, we find that connecting with other people through movement is what Kendra loves about what she does in her chosen profession.  She can express so much more than words can signify through her choreography,  especially at that moment when she discovers a quality about herself through dance and when she is able to help someone else reveal an attribute about themselves through their progression as well.  With her love for contemporary dance and folkloric dance, specifically Afro Caribbean dance, which tends to be underfunded, coupled with the fact that people aren’t going to live shows as much, unless it’s Broadway or a very well known company, due to the growing popularity of the Internet,  Kendra has to take on the role of multiple jobs while creating and performing her masterpieces.  Fortunately she works in the realm she also creates in, Kendra is the “Director of Programs and Administration” for “Cumbe: Center for African and Diaspora Dance”.  According to Ross, the labor can be exhausting and not as financially rewarding as the amount of work she puts in, however, in her own words “art is my passion, my therapy and my life so I do it anyway”.

Kendra J Ross Teaching Artist

There is a large source of influence and inspiration Kendra pulls from, including, her family, ancestors, the Orishas,  Detroit and Bed-Stuy and her appreciation for music, all of which inspire her and the different moods it creates.  As far as individual influences, Kendra holds in high regard, both Katherine Dunham and Pearl Primus for their movements and strict commitment to evolving tradition.  Adia Tamar Whitaker the “director” of the “Ase Dance Theater Collective” and the way she continues the legacy of being grounded in tradition along with creating new tradition also has quite an impact on Kendra, who is also a member of this company.  Efeya Sampson, a beautiful dancer, teaching artist, cancer survivor and Kendra’s best friend also inspires and influences her by reminding her to be strong, to walk the world with grace and power, while challenging her to be a better dancer because she doesn’t want to be out-shinned by her “bestie”. (photo courtesy of Erik Bandeiro)

With all that is going on in Kendra’s life there is actually a fraction of downtime.  Kendra has started a new Sunday morning self care ritual.  She starts off by playing her music, then she starts dancing in the mirror, followed by dancing over to the kitchen, to fix herself some “gluten free” pancakes.  On other days, she likes to talk to friends and family in person or over the phone or watch television, her new fix is a show called “This is Us”.  She loves to cook and on days where the weather is cooperating, she loves to walk around  the rapidly changing Bed-Stuy especially during the warm months or sometimes just sitting at home in silence contemplating in her peaceful surroundings.

Kendra J Ross Teaching Artist

Her current residence of Bed-Stuy surrounds her with diverse motivations, ideas and enthusiasm, all a part of community and legacy the two most important factors about what she does.  Since her work is rooted in the African Diaspora, she believes in upholding and carrying on these traditions that hold the ancient knowledge that the people of the African Diaspora have used for survival. Through her work, the companies she dances with and the art she administers, Kendra believes that she is creating community for people.  Hence her creation and founding of “STooPS” a conduit for community building and intentional artistic experimentation.  New York City is massive, it can feel over crowded and lonely at the same time, the community she creates along with other communities she is a part of, serve as a family support system for herself, for those she works with and the continuing of the “Kendra J. Ross Legacy”. (photo courtesy of Ivan Forte)

Kendra J. Ross Teaching Artist

(photo courtesy of Erik Bandeiro)

Little Known Facts About Queens



Queens, a misunderstood borough, mostly because people just pretty much know this borough for three reasons, LaGuardia airport, JFK airport and Citi Field(home of the “Mets”).  However, what most people don’t know, is that the borough of Queens is named after an actual queen.  Queens is named after Queen Catherine of Branganza who was the wife of King Charles the II.  Catherine was born in Portugal and she was wed to Charles back when the British colony was established in New York.

Astoria Queens is the home of one of the world’s finest pianos.  Steinway and Sons, one of the most if not the most famous piano manufacturers calls its home there, for the past 100 years.  The first grand and upright pianos were crafted in Astoria back in 1853.  Tours are given all the time at this astonishing facility.

Famed music performers the “Ramones”, first started to rehearse in a small studio in the basement of Joey’s mom’s art gallery in Flusing.  A few other music legends  that also lived in Queens are John Williams, Tony Bennett, Simon and Garfunkel, Gene Simmons, and Paul Stanley from the band “Kiss”.  Cyndi Lauper, Daniel “Dee” Snider, along with rappers and Hip Hop performers, Ja Rule, 50 Cent, Nas, Nicki Minaj, LL Cool J,  and Run DMC, were residents as well.  Jazz legend Louis Armstrong called Queens home up to his last days, his house is now a museum.

With over 2 million residents, Queens is the most diverse borough out of its’ rival boroughs.  If Queens were to secede from New York City and go back to being an individual city before it joined New York City, it would be the 5th largest city in the United States.  Queens has about 400,000 less people than Chicago.  With that being said, Queens is more than just the borough that houses two of the top ten worst but not the worst airports in the country and home to the “Mets”, Queens has a very rich and dynamic demographic and quite a bit of history that was barely touched in this article.  Get out and enjoy Queens for a change maybe go to a Mets game or one of the numerous museums as well.

Flushing Meadows Park Queens