Announcing Center Stage Season 5: Ensembles from Colombia & Perú

Aug 12, 2020

Announcing Center Stage Season 5: Ensembles from Colombia & Perú

Kelsey Colcord Spitalny

Program Coordinator, Center Stage

Neighbors and Rising Stars: Center Stage returns to connect the U.S. with the Contemporary Roots-Powered Arts Energy of Colombia and Perú

There’s an urgent and fluid energy moving through South America’s performing arts scenes, inspired by deep and diverse local traditions and styles, and catalyzed by the polychrome influx of global ideas, sounds, and images flowing from smartphones. Latin stars topping world charts are just the pop tip of the iceberg. Independent artists across the continent are reinventing their performance practices to celebrate their diverse and complex cultures, and speak to their communities’ pains, dreams, and joys. And women are leading many of these dynamic artistic interventions. 

For its fifth edition, Center Stage (www.CenterStageUS.org), the successful cultural exchange program initiated by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and produced by New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), will host five contemporary ensembles from Colombia and Perú in the U.S. Musicians and multimedia artists will make independent month-long tours across the country from June-November 2021, promoting global ties and engaging with audiences on stage, off stage, and online. Each will make their U.S. debut with the program.  

Through virtual activities and direct engagements, Chontadelia (Colombia), Diana Burco (Colombia), Fílmico (Perú), Hit La Rosa (Perú), and Lundú (Perú) will reach communities across the U.S. via performances, workshops, talk back sessions, jams, potlucks, and other activities to bolster mutual understanding and citizen diplomacy. Meet them here. Lisa Booth Management, Inc. (LBMI), which has served as the Center Stage’s general manager since the program’s inception, will continue to craft and organize the community residencies that make up each tour.  

Links across the Western Hemisphere 

Colombian and Peruvian music and performance have both been influenced by a dazzlingly wide range of cultures, from the dozens of indigenous peoples of the Amazon River or Andean highlands to the many Afro-Latin communities along the countries’ coasts and in their cities. Both countries have strong immigrant ties in the U.S., making them ideal for engaging a variety of American audiences. 

“For the first time, we are focused on South America, our neighbors to the south, and are thrilled to host U.S. debuts by these performing arts ensembles making significant, high-caliber work,” explains Adrienne Petrillo, Senior Program Director of Center Stage at New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA). “Our goal has always been to serve diverse communities and markets large and small, boosting access to excellent global art and the thoughtful, vibrant people who make it. These artists are the perfect fit to fulfill this mission.” 

This year’s edition centers the stories and creativity of women leaders in every ensemble, from Chaska Mori’s Fílmico which excavates Perú’s social and cultural structures through a distinctly personal lens, to incandescent songwriters and frontwomen (Hit La Rosa, Chontadelia, Diana Burco) to stirring voices extending venerable traditions (Lundú). “We purposefully set out to foreground women, who are active as composers, performers, managers, and educators in each of these ensembles,” says Petrillo.  

Meet the Center Stage Season 5 Ensembles 

Diana Burco (Colombia): Vocal chameleon and Latin GRAMMY nominee weaves regional Colombian music and global contemporary sensibilities together with a feminist outlook, elegant songwriting, and a nimble, soulful accordion. 

Chontadelia (Colombia): Steered by a marimba master and former member of ChocQuibTown, Chontadelia melds funk and psychedelic rock, and contemporary issues into the rich world of chonta and other Afro-Colombian styles of the Colombian coast. 

Fílmico (Perú): Merging documentary research, personal herstory, moving image, and live performance, Fílmico’s multimedia production “El apellido comienza conmigo/The last name starts with me” explores the raw intersection of family lore, political corruption, and resolute justice amid chaotic and arbitrary circumstances. (In Spanish, with supertitles) 

Hit La Rosa (Perú): Darlings of Lima’s indie scene turn cumbia into a phantasmagoric world that embraces the Peruvian highlands’ rhythms (huayno) and Amazonian psychedelia, with a bold surf-punk streak.  

Lundú (Perú): With its disarming acoustic performances, Lundú’s original compositions, instrumentation, and arrangements of folk standards respond to their environment, complex Afro-Peruvian and Andean roots, and the historic beauty of their hometown, Arequipa. 

Global Touring: New challenges and new opportunities 

This Center Stage edition promises to build on the program’s already flexible and tailored approach in response to the global pandemic. It will offer unique opportunities to arts presenters and artists intent on strengthening international understanding and interpersonal connections, between Americans of all kinds and talented musicians and performers.  

Current conditions have inspired some new approaches. Artists will be supported in creating and sharing work up to the tours themselves, extending the impact of the program and building connections before they even land on US soil. Tour events will be held in appropriate contexts including outside and non-traditional spaces. Social distancing will be honored, but in ways that still foster exchange, interaction, and professional development for the companies.  

“The pandemic has changed how we approach these tours, which is why we chose ensembles with plenty of flexibility and capacity to respond to shifting conditions,” notes Lisa Booth, of LBMI, which, as the program’s general manager, books and organizes Center Stage tours and activities. “We’re looking forward to working with our presenter partners and exploring all the ways these groups can engage their audiences.”  

“In challenging times, cultural exchange and direct interaction remain some of the cornerstones of diplomacy,” says Nancy Szalwinski, Director of the Cultural Division in the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. “We’re proud to be working with our colleagues at the U.S. Embassies in Bogotá and Lima, and with NEFA, LBMI, and our other arts partners to bring these inspiring young artists to meet Americans and start vital conversations.” 

About Center Stage 

Center Stage is a cultural exchange program that invites performing artists from select countries to the United States to perform, meet, and share their experiences with communities around the country. As hosted by colleges and universities, festivals, music clubs, cultural centers, and artist-run organizations, Center Stage artists engage with audiences onstage, offstage, and online, sharing their work in the U.S. and with friends and fans at home to build mutual understanding through shared cultures and values. 

From 2012 to 2018, four seasons of Center Stage 

  • Hosted 189 artists in 29 ensembles (21 made their U.S. debuts) from nine countries Algeria, Egypt, Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ukraine, and Vietnam  

  • Visited 100 communities in 35 states and Washington, DC over 836 days 

  • Booked 285 performances -- indoors and out, ticketed & free 

  • Arranged 718 educational, community, and artist-to-artist activities 

  • Traveled 114,000 cumulative tour miles 

  • Connected with 141,000+ U.S. audience members, students, and peer artists 

  • Hosted 8 journalists from Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, and Ukraine to report on these experiences 

  • Garnered tens of millions global media impressions (online and print) 

  • Engaged millions more people around the globe through social media and online content 

“Center Stage celebrates cultures that people in the U.S. might have no idea about or even negative connotations because of political differences,” recounts Jordana Leigh, Director of NYC’s Lincoln Center Atrium and frequent Center Stage partner. “And, our own community members from those countries see their culture celebrated in a place that they didn’t think valued their culture.” 

“People in my town don’t routinely have access to excellent artistic experiences. We can undo cultural assumptions with professionalism. And it’s especially important for young people to have access to a range of cultures, cultural expressions – to expand their toolkit not only about art but about the world.” - Melissa Richmond, Executive Director, West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts, NH

“The benefit in working with Center Stage is their unique ability to tour amazing international musicians & ensembles from underrepresented cultures. Without Center Stage support, we would not be unable to present these artists due to the logistical and financial hurdles that are in place to tour the U.S.” - Carlos Tortolero, City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events 

Center Stage is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with funding provided by the U.S. Government. It is administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc. Keep up with Center Stage and find additional information at centerstageUS.org, on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Presenters, community organizations, and venues interested in partnering with Center Stage are encouraged to contact Lisa Booth & Deirdre Valente at Lisa Booth Management, Inc. Tel +1-212-921-2114 artslbmi@msn.com