Golden Festival 2012
I woke up this morning still on a high from last night's Golden Festival. This two-day Balkan & Gypsy music/dance celebration is held at the Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn, featuring over 71 individual performances and enough space and friendly people to make you dance your butt off non-stop! They have traditional food from Albania, Greece, and Bulgaria while showcasing artisans' craftwork at the Charshiya (bazaar) situated on the third floor balcony, overlooking the Grand Ballroom. The minute I stepped into the hall on Prospect Avenue, with sounds of the Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band playing in the distant grand ballroom, I felt that I was transported to a different time of courts, serfs, and traveling gypsies! Greeting you with a spectacular grand staircase and leading you around to an early 20th century dance hall, this space was the perfect home for a festival of the most eclectic folk. I wanted to take it all in at a pace that made me understand what I was seeing and hearing - a brass band playing in the middle of the room, people dancing around them hand-in-hand and rotating first counterclockwise, then a few steps back in the other direction, then back on track again. Children were flying by, spinning and running, their bodies naturally reacting to the music as children naturally do (maybe adding in a karate chop here and there). The people were smiling and sweating, and complete strangers soon become close acquaintances all because of this music.
After about 30 minutes of taking photos and getting some footage for my video, I couldn't help myself but want to join in. I found a few dancers that I thought stuck out from the crowd, and I quickly approached them before another dance was about to begin:
"Hi, I'm Mickela. PLEASE TEACH ME WHAT YOU ARE DOING!" And they did. Ivan and Georgi, both originally from Bulgaria, were some of the most lively and naturally inclined dancers I saw throughout the entire evening, and I wanted them to lead me in this evening of circles and song. I quickly realized, as the music came on again, I made the right choice. I was learning basic rhythms, all odd meters of course, and when Ivan and Georgi saw that I could pick up the steps rather quickly, they immediately began to challenge me with fancier footwork. We were moving faster and faster around the room, and as our momentum grew, so did the line behind of us dancers. Joining us in dance was one of Bare Feet™'s favorite musicians, Matthew "Max" Fass from the Raya Brass Band, who was scheduled to play later that evening (the night just kept getting better and better!). As you can see from the video below, there was a reason why I had to put down my camera - the urge to dance, along with the pull from entire floor shaking with the synchronized jumping of hundreds of people, beckons everyone to participate in this haunting and hypnotizing music.
Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, a band by the name of The Lemon Bucket Orkestra entered the stage and really blew the roof off. All the way from Canada and self-described as a "Balkan-Klezmer-Gypsy-Party-Punk-Super-Band", they really did live up to their name. By the end of the evening, I was covered in sweat, smiling from ear to ear and sharing a Bulgarian brew with my fellow dance comrades.
The Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band, Lemon Bucket Orkestra, and Raya Brass Band, along with other talented and entertaining groups including Brooklyn-favorite Slavic Soul Party, Svitanya (an all women's musical group) and What Cheer? Brigade (Balkan meets Bollywood meets hip-hop and metal!) will all be performing TONIGHT, Saturday January 14th, 2012 to conclude this year's 27th Golden Festival. Great for families, tickets are available at the door, cash only, doors open at 5:30pm - $50 per person, $40 for students, and children under 12 are FREE! The Grand Prospect Hall, 263 Prospect Ave., Brooklyn, NY (take the N, R, or D train to the Prospect Ave. stop).