Berkeley Neighborhoods Council

 

Dedicated to improving the quality of life for all
by creating a unified neighborhood voice
for promoting livability and resolving problems

 

The Cultural Corner

BNC will select a neighborhood cultural treasure to feature in each eNEWS issue .  The business or activity selected must be in the City of Berkeley and nominated by a resident without the knowledge of the business, event or activity that he/she is nominating.  The Newsletter Committee will make the selection if there is more than one nomination and publish it anonymously.  Submissions can be sent to newsletter@berkeleyneighborhoodscouncil.com.  BNC will notify the selected treasure.

Our selection for the September issue is:

The BrasArte World Dance Center
1901 San Pablo Avenue (at Hearst)
Berkeley, CA 94702
www.brasarte.com

Many people remember the Capoeira Studio that used to be Downtown, on Addison Street, opposite the Berkeley Rep Theater.  It was replaced by Freight and Salvage which moved there from its old haunts on Addison and San Pablo.  However, the Capoeira Studio didn't disappear.  It moved to a larger, and very colorful cultural center on Hearst and San Pablo, called Casa de Cultura, and which now hosts a Brazilian center of dance and music called the BrasArte World Dance Center.

The Center is spacious - a large dance floor done in light green with the office and spaces around it simulating stores and cafes as if one were in the middle of a village.  BrasArte offers classes in Samba, Forro, Zumba, West African Drumming, Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban folkloric music and dance, Tango, and Ballet.  There are also classes in Capoeira, some for children, some for teenagers, some for the rest of us.  Capoeira, by the way, is a martial art whose moves are based on traditional dance and whose dance steps are based on fight-moves  -  all to Brazilian music in the background, whether real or imagined.

The BrasArte World Dance Center was founded in 2000.  It had four major purposes:  to preserve the traditional dances and music of Brazil, to offer support and archiving capability for Brazilian artists and mentors, to nurture new emerging artistic talent, and to assist in cultural exchange between Brazil and the United States.  Thus, it reaches out to the Brazilian community dispersed around the Bay Area.

In 2006, it opened to general membership as a cultural center for the entire Bay Area community.  Though its focus and motif is Brazilian, it neither excludes nor discriminates.  People come to use the space for community parties, to play their own music, and to dance.  The Center has hosted concerts of jazz, chamber music, blues and music in Cuban and other Latino idioms.  It has made itself a Center for West African music, dance and culture as well.  The Center reaches out to all, and seeks to be a cultural presence for the entire Bay Area.  All who are interested in a specific cultural form can join and contribute what they know and love.

Toward these goals, the Center organizes a number of annual festivals, such as the Batizado ,in which capoeira practitioners from around the Bay Area, nationally and internationally come and perform their art.  There is a Yemanja Arts Festival in February, a Carnaval Ball at Carnavel, a Sao Joao Festival of Dance in June.  Finally, there is the Lavagen, a massive street fair on September 1, for which the Center blocks off Hearst Street and takes over the adjoining parking lots of Midas Muffler and the 99 Cent Store, and sets up stages.  The Festival is a full day of song, dance, and capoeira contests with booths of food, crafts and information.

It has become known around the world, and people from Latin America, New York, and Europe visit it when coming to the Bay Area.

A schedule of classes and events can be found on their web page, www.brasarte.com