Drums of Illumination: Drumming for World Peace
A Magical Winter Solstice Celebration

 (Click to enlarge flyer)

Theatre for the New City/City Theater
155 First Avenue
New York City
December 19–20, 2011

A Review

On December 19 and 20, Drums of Illumination: Drumming for World Peace—an expansive and diverse show that united cultures and perspectives through performance—took the stage in the black box at the Theater for the New City.

I Giullari di Piazza ("The Jesters of the Court") is New York’s southern Italian folk music/dance/theater company, founded by Alessandra Belloni and Sergio Belloti in 1978. Their travels and talents have taken them worldwide.

Belloni welcomed their special guests for the evening, the Silver Clouds Singers, a Native American Trio, who opened the show with Zuni Song. The male singer, in traditional dress, sung with matter-of-fact power, and one could see in his throat the expression that you heard in his voice.

Belloni then welcomed and spoke to the audience, detailing her path with southern Italian percussion. She began her Requiem per Mamma Elvira with a tambourine that bore a beautiful woman on its skin. A stilt walker, Mark Mindek, appeared with a glittering golden mask of the sun and gestured and twirled, interacting with Belloni and the audience. He was graceful and confrontational and altogether impressive in height and skill.

I was particularly taken with percussionist Davi Vieira, another special guest in the company that evening. His joy while he performed was completely infectious and complimented the overall atmosphere of community and communication. Vieira and Bellotti shared an unspoken connection as they laughed and layered many intricate beats. I enjoyed that everyone was on stage the entire time, save for Mindek who retreated to portray the process of drums driving the black plague out of a community or to change his costume.

The dancing, more than anything that evening, stole the show. One dance was planned and clearly in the program and another was an improvised and spontaneous occurrence of childhood confidence and jubilance. A young woman from the Silver Cloud Singers performed a traditional hoop dance. I had heard much about Native American hoop dancing, but to finally see it in person was an unexpected treat. She laced together the hoops and popped in and

Excerpts from Drums of Illumination: Drumming for World Peace, a Magical Winter Solstice Celebration. Recorded December 20, 2011 at the Theatre for the New City in New York.
out of them with her entire body, expertly kicking up her right leg to hike the hoops up around her waist and then over her head in a series of small and swift moves. Each step she took was full of buoyancy so that she appeared as light as a feather while she danced. She maintained the direct facial expression found in the other Silver Cloud members and allowed the act to speak for itself. It was most impressive.

During Canto Da Sereja (a traditional chant from the northeast of Brazil), a young boy, Luca Silvano-Tarantata, was clearly moved by Vieira to come onstage and showcase his moves. This boy of about 7 or 8 years old came forward and began to breakdance! As the audience clapped and hooted, Vieira and Luca then began a classic capoeira battle dance. I cannot imagine a heart in the house not swelling with joy at this boy who so clearly enjoys dancing.

Alessandra Belloni, before each song, outlined the tradition in each culture. Her intense love of each form supported the entire event. And what could be more appropriate for an evening of connection and community than to end with an invitation to the audience to dance? I looked to a woman on my right: “Andiamo?” she asked. “Si!” I shouted over the drums, and we all linked hands and made our way to the stage to share in joyous movement and music.

—Mary Ellen Carafice