Cultural appeal

County boasts variety of ethnic events

This time of the year, there’s no shortage of fun things to do in Henrico County.

For example, on two recent weekends, some of the county’s diverse music and dance offerings were on display at three events.

You could enjoy performances by a Latin ballet company, a church choir and Asian Indian dancers.

Ana Ines King, director of the Latin Ballet of Virginia, and two members of the Glen Allen-based company performed June 23 at the CultureWorks CultSha Xpo.

Dressed in a shimmering, floor-length red dress and fringed shawl, King performed a Spanish flamenco on the Science Museum of Virginia’s rotunda stage.

Her dance featured beautiful fluid motions alternating with swirling spins as her shawl stayed in almost-constant motion. She twirled across the small stage, punctuating the dance with rapid-fire footsteps.

Afterwards, King introduced two young dancers costumed in brilliant, tropical colors. The duo performed a hot Caribbean rumba.

For the finale, the trio invited spectators onto the stage for a group dance lesson.

King, who founded the company, said the arts play a dominant role in Latin cultures.

“The most important part of the culture and part of the history is actually dance and music and without that we cannot live,” King said.

The following day in Chester another kind of dance took center stage.

Henrico County resident Bina Shah hurried around the expansive Cultural Center of India making last-minute arrangements for the final day of the Taste of India event.

About 100 people, many from Henrico, performed at the two-day festival. Sunday’s opening performance was a classical Indian dance called Bharat Natyam. The dance, performed by four teens, featured elaborate traditional dress and a tribute to Lord Ganesha, the Indian elephant god.

Shah said the event’s music, dance and food were an opportunity for people to learn about India’s culture without leaving the country.

“We take them to India without going to India… you experience India here,” she said.

The following weekend it was busy at Gravel Hill Center in Varina despite damaging storms the night before and a temperature of 100 degrees by noon on Saturday.

The historic community hosted its “Civil War to Civil Rights” event as part of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Glendale.

About a dozen members of Gravel Hill Baptist Church’s combined choir gathered under a large white tent dressed casually in the steamy weather.

Accompanied by Alvin Campbell, a music teacher at Highland Springs High School, the choir sang four songs including, “We’ve Come This Far By Faith” and “Amazing Grace.”

James Washington Jr., chairman of the church’s music committee, said gospel music appeals to people across many cultures.

“Anybody can sing gospel music. As long as your heart is right and you have the right spirit, you can sing gospel music,” Washington said. “Gospel music is something that everybody can relate to.”

Even if you missed these performances, Henrico County’s broad range of cultural events take place year round. The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is one of the county’s busiest venues.

“We make certain that our performance offerings are culturally diverse,” said Anita Waters, director of public relations and marketing for the center. “Over the [past] five years … we have strategically included the Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats, The Harlem Gospel Choir, Kenya Safari Acrobats, Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company and Eleone Dance Theatre to name a few, as a way to allow our patrons the ability to experience the artistic styles from different cultures and ethnicities.”

So even when this summer’s heat melts into fall and eventually winter, there will still be plenty of opportunities to experience a diverse range of arts, music and dance in Henrico County.

This story is part of the Virginia Tapestry series, which is produced by In Your Shoes Media. For details about each of the organizations described in this article, visit http://www.artsglenallen.com; http://www.gravelhillbaptistchurch.com/home; and http://www.latinballet.com.
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