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By Marilyn Diggs
March 5, 2016

In February, while revelers in Brazil delighted in carnival delirium, the Chinese had their own celebrating to do. This year the Chinese New Year arrived on February 8th. The very day samba schools were shimmering down Av. Marques de Sapuca in Rio, the Chinese were welcoming in the Year of the Monkey with firecrackers, drums, red lanterns and of course, dragons on parade. Based on the Chinese lunar calendar, New Years Day can fall any time between January 21st and February 20th. Also known as the Spring Festival, it is the most important traditional celebration of the year.

A Festival for Family, Food and Fun
The two main reasons for the festival are to wish for a lucky and prosperous upcoming year, and also to commemorate accomplishments, rest up and relax with family. Besides wearing new clothes, decorating with red and shooting off fireworks, one of the main traditional ways to bring in the New Year is eating a "reunion dinner" with family. This smacks of our Thanksgiving meal, where family members try their best to reunite and savor the feast together.

P.F. Changs, the internationally-renowned Asian cuisine restaurant, is the official sponsor of events that focus on the Chinese New Year in Brazil. If you missed the dancing dragon and drums in its front entrance, dont fret. Until April 8th you can partake of P.F. Changs special Chinese New Years Menu, consisting of eight recipes to bring you luck in 2016.

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Spicy Firecracker Chicken symbolizes firecrackers used in a ritual to scare away evil spirits and open the door to fortune. Crab Wontons are in the shape of ancient coins and symbolize prosperity and a new start. They are served with chives for protection, and plum sauce for long life, youth and beauty. Continue with seafood, which brings abundance and prosperity. Since shrimp brings happiness Ma La Shrimp is a perfect choice. The Apple Crunch dessert helps new opportunities arrive to you. Just decide what you desire and choose the delectable dish symbolizing your wish for vitality, protection, communication skills, spiritual cleaning, happiness, good health, mind expansion, love, harmony, power, long life or even an aphrodisiac. Choosing the dish is half the fun and you cant go wrong because they are all winners.

If you still want more, request a red piece of paper (representing fire), then write your wish with black ink (representing water) and tie it onto the "Tree of Wishes" (a.k.a. decorative room partitions inside the restaurant). At the end of the Year of the Monkey, P.F. Changs will host a ceremony in which a Buddhist monk will bless the notes before burning them so they can be received by the universe and granted.

The Chinese New Year is a Season of Superstitions – Taboos
These measures will be especially helpful for those who were born in former Years of the Monkey (1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, etc.), washed your hair on Feb. 8th, and/or cleaned your house on Feb. 8th and 9th. It also goes for those who before Feb. 15th did not pray in a temple, asked for a loan, allowed your child to cry, did not have a girl/boyfriend and/or did not wear red underwear. It certainly makes the American tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Years Day for good luck, seem trivial, doesnt it?

These dishes and wishes activity will be available at the four restaurants located in Rio de Janeiro and So Paulo state: Av. Juscelino Kubitschek, 627 in Vila Nova Conceio, S.P. city; Alphaville and Campinas. Until April 8.

Further information: www.pfchangs.com.br

Marilyn Diggs is an American living in Brazil for over twenty-five years. She is a freelance writer, artist, lecturer and author of nine books – two about Brazilian art history. As an art reporter and travel writer she has written for the Miami Herald and Museum International (a UNESCO publication) as well as newspapers and inflight magazines. Marilyn has a degree in Latin American Studies and is often contracted by intercultural training services to give talks on expat challenges. www.mdiggs.com

If you’re in São Paulo on Oct. 30, come along to our Oktoberfest Party and meet the rest of the gringoes gang at the Pe na Jaca” bar in São Paulo&rsquot;s bohemian neighborhood, Vila Madalena.

Where: pé na Jaca, Rua Harmonia, 117, Vila Madalena, São Paulo

When: Thursday, Oct. 30, from 7.30pm

Entrance: FREE. Includes one free drink if you arrive before 20h30

Please RSVP to gringoes@www.gringoes.com or join the Facebook event

If you’re in São Paulo, don’t miss the chance to attend this rare www.gringoes.com happy hour, and meet some of your virtual buddies in the flesh.
The meetup will be hosted at the gringo-owned pé na Jaca” bar in everyone’s favorite neighborhood of Vila Madalena.
Where: pé na Jaca, Rua Harmonia, 117, Vila Madalena, São Paulo
When: Aug. 21, from 19h30pm
Cost: R$20. Includes one free drink if you arrive before 20h30

Please RSVP to gringoes@www.gringoes.com or you can join the Facebook event

By Larry Ludwig
June 3, 2014

[Photo by douard Lock of dancers in The Seasons” on São Paulo Companhia de Dana&rsquot;s website]

The São Paulo Companhia de Dana continues its rise up the ranks of internationally renowned dance companies. The Companhia (hereafter referred to as the Company or SPCD), under the leadership of Artistic Director Ins Boga, has progressed dramatically since its formation back in 2008. It has gone from a small company performing set standard classical ballet and modern contemporary dance pieces in São Paulo City to today&rsquot;s organization of world-class professional and artistic excellence, performing not only nationwide in Brasil, but also throughout South America, Western Europe and the Middle East. It has attracted and continues to attract the attention of composers and choreographers from around the world, who create, either by commission or spontaneous voluntary submissions, new, innovative works to be debuted and danced, world premiered for that matter, by the Company. The list includes Giovanni Di Palma of Italy who choreographed last year&rsquot;s “Romeo and Juliet” of Prokofiev (SPCD&rsquot;s first full length ballet), as well as Canadian choreographer douard Lock&rsquot;s, “The Seasons”, with music composed by Gavin Bryars of England. 1/

On April 25/26 the São Paulo Companhia de Dana (SPCD) presented its world premiere of “The Seasons” of douard Lock, Canadian-Moroccan Montral-based choreographer, with original music by Gavin Bryars. Bryars has reworked Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” from 1723 to a 21st century version, expanding the piece from four movements into twelve movements or segments, each presumably representing one of the twelve months of the year. The premiere performance took place at the Teatro Municipal Jos de Castro Mendes/the Jos de Castro Municipal Theater in the city of Campinas, a city of some 1,000,000 inhabitants in the “interior” of São Paulo State, Brasil, an hour to an hour-and-a-half&rsquot;s drive from the city of São Paulo, traffic willing.

The performance of “The Seasons” was preceded by a presentation of “Gnawa”, a SPCD signature modern/contemporary dance piece choreographed by Nacho Duato of Spain back in 2008; danced to a variety of musical; compositions of 20th-21st century composers. “Gnawa” represents the cultural confluence of Black African slaves, commercial entrepreneurs and Islam within Africa. It was exuberantly performed by the SPCD dancers, being well received by an enthusiastic full-house audience, an excellent warm-up act for “The Seasons” to come.

“The Seasons” is what in the world of classical ballet might be called a series of divertissements. That is, a sequence of dance steps not tied to any one overall story/plot line, albeit, here in “The Seasons, a particular divertissement can and occasionally did contain a thematic story line inclusive to the segment itself. “The Seasons” is however not a classical dance piece per se, but a mix of both classical (for instance spins and arabesques) and modern/contemporary dance forms. The dancing is largely incredibly rapid, utilizing high-energy non-stop quick, very quick movement, sometimes robotic-like, of arms, legs, feet, hands, head, torso, mixed in with very effective synchronized spotlighting… as well as with the use of rapid-fire blinking on-off strobe lighting (the kind of lighting often associated with nightclubs and rock concerts). The stage was surrounded by black walls/drapery, with most of the costumes of the dancers in dark-to-black tones, accompanying the mostly dark lighting on stage. The darkness worked well to accentuate the movement of uncovered arms and legs and the white ballet shoes. The light skin tones, the white shoes had the effect of the audience suddenly seeing brilliantly lit movements juxtaposed against the dark background, movements which just as suddenly disappeared back into the darkness. That darkness was interrupted occasionally by moments of bright/brilliant lighting of the entire stage, effectively creating additional opposing theatrical emotional contrasts for the audience. Especially fascinating was how the dancers knew just where on stage they had to move to suddenly be under a brilliant spotlight. There was constant movement, constant new spotlight locations throughout all twelve movements.

“The Seasons” movements/divertissements were danced by a complement of only twelve dancers. The length of each of those movements was of significant duration, causing the audience to be in awe of the dancers&rsquot; talent, their ability to perform and memorize-in-sequence so many, sometimes what seemed like hundreds of separate body movements in any one of the twelve segments. Equally awesome, if not astonishing, was the dancers level of stamina and physical conditioning required to accomplish the dancing of the total twelve segments… The dancers level of athleticism simply amazing.

An aside: One of the more interesting and endearing dance moves was, while the dancers both were standing as in the picture above, the male ballerina&rsquot;s use of his arm to move the ballerina’s legs in circular rotations, a most pleasing, somewhat mesmerizing effect. (FYI: About two-to-three minutes of the performance can also be seen on You-Tube, at “The Seasons, 2014 douard Lock”).

The overall impact of this “Seasons” work is what I call frenetic, intense non-stop frenetic… something here-to-fore not experienced by this ballet/modern dance viewer. The seemingly never-ending, in-your-face, rapid-fire pacing takes some getting used to, forces one to pay close attention to the dancers at all times. In some respects not unlike a soccer match, where if for one second you let your attention lapse you may miss a goal being scored. Extra attention above and beyond the normal attention spam was called for with “Seasons”. All the more so in view of the generally dark lighting on stage, which sometimes made it difficult to actually see and focus on those many footsteps and bodily movements. One did not want to miss what might be a more climatic, more dramatic, more uplifting, more stunning dance moment!!

The dancing, as you may guess by now, was spectacular. But as noted, very demanding in terms of audience viewing. After some nine-to-ten segments had been danced, one felt an unconscious need for a respite, a moment of pause to reflect and take-in what had been seen/danced to that point. In fact, that almost occurred in the 11th divertissement (or month, presumably November), when for the only time during the entire work, the music slowed down to a relatively calm, legato like tempo. Alas, reflection was not to be. For whatever reason, the choreographer kept up with those rapid fire, quick velocity dance steps, albeit in this instance, in opposition to slower music. Myself and others in the audience thought the 11th segment would have been more effective and psychologically satisfying if the steps had matched the slower paced music.

Should also note, that unlike “Gnawa” and most of SPCD’s other dance works to date, all performed to recorded music, “Seasons” was performed to live music with five musicians: two violas, two cellos and one bass. They performed outstandingly, but as noted by a conductor-apprentice friend, also in attendance, one of the violas was out-of-tune (a cardinal sin from the point of view of a budding conductor). Have a feeling that like myself, most of the audience ears were not quite so finely tuned, most likely noticing nothing musically amiss.

Would I go back for a second viewing of “Seasons”? A most definite YES!!!! It is an invigorating, uniquely interesting and challenging work, well worth one’s while. And yes, the work was well received by the audience, who at the conclusion, gave the performance a vociferous, long standing ovation of acclaim. Bravos and Huzzahs aplenty.

Forgot to mention that the two April premiere performances were sold out, SRO. Some 300 perspective audience members were turned away Friday night, with 250 not able to get tickets on Saturday. So think it incumbent on yours-truly (myself) to thank SPCD Director Ins Boga, her assistant Morgana Lima and Education and Communications Co-ordinator, Marcela Benvegnu, for my invitation and transportation to the Campinas premiere. More information about SPCD can be found on its website, www.Sãopaulocompanhiadedanca.art.br.

1/ The Company has also commissioned works by Brasilian choreographers and composers, premiering four of them during 2013 at the Teatro Srgio Cardoso in São Paulo. While focusing heavily heretofore on traditional ballet and contemporary dance works in the internaitonal repertory, SPCD is also taking advantage of its cultural blend of African, European and Native American heritage, including samba and capoeira, to create and develop a unique Brazilian dance repertory. For instance one of the four works, “Vadiando” choreographed by Ana Vitória Freire, incorporates dance movements from Brasil&rsquot;s martial-arts equivalent, Capoeira, a mix of dance, acrobatics, marital defensive/offensive bodily movements , and a mix of instrumental music and verbal chants. The “Vadiando”piece is danced an original soundtrack by Brasilian composers Jorge Pea & Clio Barros. The three additional commissioned Brasilian pieces also premiering during December 2013 were “Pormenores” by Alex Neoral, “Azougue”by Rui Moreira and “Mamihlapinatapai” by Jomar Mesquita in collaboration with Rodrigo de Castro. Music for “Azougue” was composed by Rui Moreira & Lobi Traor, for “Mamihlapinatapai” by Silvio Rodrgues, Rodrigo Leão and Cris Scabello, while a Sonata and a Partita for solo violin of Johann Sebastian Bach, played live, accompanied “Pormenores”.

Previous articles by Larry:

Brazilian Connections
A Day of Ballet With the São Paulo Companhia de Dana
Brazil: A Beautiful Day in the “Hood” – Bless You Beethoven
Opera Wonderful: “Porgy” Down South São Paulo, Brasil Way

March 11, 2014

Get out your dancing shoes, fancy dresses, tuxedos, party jewels and gather your friends to make

plans for the 2014 American Society GALA fundraiser on Friday, May 9, 2014, at the Buffet Colonial

in Moema. Once a year, we invite all our members and friends to join us in this elegant event. You

will enjoy your evening from the moment your car is swept away by the valet, until you’ve danced

the last dance.

This event, while certainly a wonderful chance for us to all socialize, renew old friendships, and

win wonderful prizes, is also a chance for us to give back to needy children in São Paulo, Brazil.

The food, atmosphere, and service last year were terrific, and we expect more of the same in 2014.

The evening will begin with cocktails and the silent auction. Afterward, we will move into the

dining room for the live auction, a performance by the children from one of our charities, and a

buffet dinner, followed by dancing until the wee hours of the morning.

Proceeds from the live and silent auctions will go to support two of our charities- Associaão

Criana Brasil (ACB) and Lar Tia Edna (LTE). ACB, a charity that provides educational daycare &

after school programs for more than 500 children ages 6 months to 15 years, will use the proceeds

to send 2-3 teachers to a specialized training program to learn to teach art, music, and reading

to the children. LTE, a children&rsquot;s home that houses 12 children ages 5 to 20 will use the

donations to improve their facilities so that they can qualify for government aid.

Gather your friends and reserve your table NOW! Tickets are on sale beginning March 6th for R$300

per person, R$2400 for a table that seats 8. After April 1, the price will increase to R$375 per

person. We expect the event to sell out at 320 guests, so don&rsquot;t delay. Woody Dunstan will be

back as our favorite auctioneer, and Jason Bermingham has graciously agreed to be our Master of

Ceremonies again.

Auction items are already rolling in and will include hotel stays, beautiful works by São Paulo

artists, delectable dinners, spa treatments, jewelry, and electronics. If you have an item to

donate, please contact the AMSOC office.

When: Friday May 9, 2014. 7:30 pm cocktails and silent auction. 9:30 pm dinner/live auction.

Dancing to follow

Tickets are available beginning March 6 by contacting the AMSOC office at contact@amsoc.com.br. Tickets may also be purchased at the

International Newcomers Club BAZAAR from 9-12 noon on March 12 at the Espace Escandinavo, Rua Job

Lane, 1030, Alto da Boa Vista.

Come enjoy a lively evening, and support the children of Lar Tia Edna and Associão Criana

Brasil.

Questions?
Contact Judy Zanchi, GALA Chairman
99621-2215 or judyzanchi21@gmail.com

By Alan B Williams
February 18, 2014

So, my fellow Americans; you want to go to World Cup in Brazil this coming June? You think you have enough money, time, moxie, streets smarts and your high school Spanish will get you by. Think again, Gringo. Here is my primer and a warning.

1) Airfare: I hope your significant other is a travel agent; because you are going to need all the help you can get booking a flight under $2000.00 each. The best way to get to Brazil is out of Miami or Atlanta, direct to Brasilia or Manaus. From there you can get shorter flights to the Northeast or other FIFA World Cup sites. Flying to São Paulo is 10 -12 hours or more. Then if you are heading back up North, add another four hours or more. From Brasilia, Fortaleza is a two hour flight, for example. Of course, if you are heading down South, then Rio is you best bet.

2) Language: Yes, English is the second language for Brazilians, but in my five trips there, only a few people actually spoke any, and one was my wife (and she was an English teacher in Brazil for 16 years!) So bone up on the Portuguese, dudes. You are going to need it for basic everyday survival. And to have great chats over who is going to be in the finals.

3) Drinking: Think you can handle your alcohol? Forget about it! I have served five years as a St. Patrick’s day bartender, six years at the LA County Wine Pavilion, five trips to Europe, nearly 1000 conventions in the USA and I have drank with everyone from the Star Wars and Lost in Space actors to the Swedish Wrestling team, and I am but a talented amateur compared to the Brazilians. The average party in Brazil is a 24 hour deal, with many lasting 3 days. My advice, get a stint at the local Renaissance Faire and practice all night debauchery. For six weeks. That might get you in shape. Maybe.

4) Public Toilets: Good lord, they are awful. I thought French toilets were the worst (and they have those in Brazil, too) but stop at any Petrobras gas station and you will experience the true horror of filth, degradation, germs and yuck. Bring TP everywhere, and Toilet seat covers, and hand sanitizer. Or hold it until you get to a private home. Or do it in the woods, but watch out for snakes.

5) Driving in the city: Don’t even think about it. Brazilians are the best drivers in the World, and the craziest. And the pedestrians all have a death wish. They walk out in front of traffic without a care, and it is up to you to avoid them. Take a taxi, bus, tour bus or train. The busses are packed to the gills, but they run constantly and there is safety in numbers.

6) Currency Exchange: Use a credit card whenever possible. My last trip this winter, I got 2.36 Brazilian Reals to the dollars with Master Card. When I exchanged cash, I got a maximum of 2.15 Reals. I pissed away over 200 Reals this way, and I am still pissed about it.

7) Shopping: The same word in English and Portuguese, and the same prices as well. Check out the downtown markets, and older businesses for gifts, clothing, souvenirs, artifacts, pottery, art and cachaca, coffee and preserves. Avoid the Shopping Malls, as you will experience sticker shock. I do not know for the life of me how Brazilians can afford the clothing and electronics at the mall, except through the payment plans.

8) Hotels: Good luck finding any within the FIFA host cities. You best bet is to stay at a Beach resort and drive the two hours you need to get to a game. That way, win or loose, when you get back to the hotel, you can chill out with a nice drink, some crab, and the calming sound of the Atlantic Ocean to rest your frazzled nerves. Or stay with a host family in Brazil.

9) Night Life: Best in the World. All night dance parties – Forro, that are very affordable, and tons of fun. Pagode at the local clubs is superb; Bossa Nova on Tuesday night at the local bar will put your mind in the clouds. Many upscale restaurants have live music, jazz or traditional sounds. Get out and get your groove on.

10) Luggage: For goodness sake, do not tell anyone in Brazil that you are coming, or be prepared to be a pack mule. Tommy Hilfiger, electronics, whiskey, Ralph Lauren & Play stations are in high demand. On the other hand, if you bring these items to sell, you may be able to pay for your trip.

11) Insects: Heed my warning, the most important item is Bug Spray. Two trips now the airlines lost my luggage and both times my bug spray was lost. This resulted in 100’s of bug bites. Now, I had enough booze in me to ward off the pain, and the mosquitoes probably died after ingesting my blood but the aftermath made me feel pretty damn miserable. And then there was my run in with the Formiga – red fire ants that burn like sulphuric acid. The pain still lingers, emotionally anyway.

12) Food: My favorite is Tapioca, dried and rolled into a breakfast burrito filled with egg and chicken. All the seafood in Brazil is outstanding, and the portions are large enough to split three or four ways. The Churrascuria BBQ’s are great as well, though I have filled my quota of meat intake for the rest of the year. Eat at the Brazilian cafeterias in the malls and avoid fast food like the plague, because with the possible exception of Habib’s, it is bland at best, and you can eat it when you get back to the states. Avoid hamburgers, pizza and sushi as well.

13) Love: Do not fall in love with a Brazilian unless you are prepared to go all the way. And I don’t mean sex. I mean moving there. They are like the Borg; resistance is futile and you will be absorbed. I know because it is happening to me.

Boa Sorte.

January 26, 2014

We would be delighted for you to join us at the St. Andrew Society Burns Supper 2014, taking place again at SPAC on 15th February. We are honoured that Alex Ellis, the British Ambassador to Brazil, will be along for the celebration.

When: Saturday, 15th Feburary 2014, 8pm
Where: Clube Atletico São Paulo (SPAC), Rua Visconde de Ouro Preto, 119, Consolacao.
Dress Code: Smart casual.
Price: R$130/100 under 30s, over 70s and teachers.

To reserve email eventos@standrews.com.br or click here for the booking form.

More details on http://www.standrews.com.br