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Friday, July 29, 2016

Dancing with Mary Magdalene

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The Mary Magdalene Celebration culminated in a dance by all the guests who felt inspired to dance! This video by Melissa Coss Aquino shows the beauty and energy of this special moment.

There were so many reasons for organizing the Mary Magdalene Celebration. This post would be too long if I were to mention them. The main reason was that Raquel Z. Rivera and I have been doing this event in different forms for about 10 years now, and I felt inspired to share this passion of ours one more time, one bigger time.

I was also feeling what other people who offer a promesa feel: the need for change, the gratitude for graces received, the inspiration for creating something beautiful. It took a year and help from many friends to conceive it, create all that it encompassed, and put all the pieces together.

One of my main goals was to work with other people. I had almost forgotten how pleasurable it is to share a big moment with other creative souls. And now I remember clearly, because as the day approached, the guests arrived, and the event came together, the flowing movement during the last 3 hours of preparation became proof that it is possible to experience harmony at a time that has the greatest potential for caos. A small army of friends came to help at 3:00 p.m., and by 5:00 p.m. we were done with the art exhibition, the food, the tables and most of the preparations. The doors were to open at 6:00 p.m. and we were ready early!

I had decided that it would not be perfect, but it would be beautiful. That was the goal and we accomplished it. The space was transformed with art, song, crafts, paper flowers and lots of dance.

The performances began with something I was wishing for but was afraid to announce since I was not sure if it would happen. I had invited a group of women from the now closed Holy Rosary Church in my neighborhood, beloved people who always transported me back to my childhood when I heard them sing. They are not a choir or anything like that. They are the older women of the church, whom I met around 2010, and who gave me so much love I can't even describe it. I asked one of them, Sara, if she would bring a few of the others to sing a song to Mary. It didn't matter to me which Mary. Because it all has to start somewhere. It was beautiful because they sang their hymn in Spanish, and soon everyone was singing with them, because most people there knew the song. "Ven con nosotros a caminar, Santa María ven..." Come walk with us, Saint Mary, come walk with us. It was a perfect, beautiful beginning for our promesa.

The performances followed, framed by 3 different kinds of dance: a meditation dance by Corazón Tierra, a dance-theater piece by Xiomara Evans and Marni Rice, and Bomba dance by Alexandra Vasallo.


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Video by Jorge Latorre

Raquel Z. Rivera and Ojos de Sofía sang the seven songs, I lighted the candles at the altar, and finally, Alexandra came in to dance. I don't know how old she is, just that she has been dancing all her life.

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Video by Ana Alicea


 During the last song, I called all the dancers to the center and they danced some more.

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Video by Jorge Latorre


And then, women danced in a circle, and then everybody danced.

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Video by Olga Ayala

We danced with Mary Magdalene. And the joy was so great that all who were present went home a little bit different than when they arrived.

(Photos coming soon in the next post.)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Join the Mary Magdalene Celebration!

A Creative Feast in Honor of Mary Magdalene
A Saint for Those Who Believe in the Redeeming Quality of the Creative Act

 


Raquel Z. Rivera will come from Albuquerque New Mexico to sing.

This July 22, 6:00-9:00 p.m., at the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center in East Harlem, NYC, there will be a peculiar gathering. Artist Tanya Torres and musician Raquel Z. Rivera, together with artists from many other disciplines, will come together to celebrate in honor of Mary Magdalene, "Our Lady of Lexington, Patroness of all faithful creative ones who don't believe in anything, but believe in the redeeming quality of the creative act." The Mary Magdalene Celebration is a free event and open to all who love Mary Magdalene or would like to know her.

Mary Magdalene has been an inspiration for Tanya and Raquel for more than a decade, and every few years, they come together to sing Las 7 salves de La Magdalena / 7 Songs of Praise for the Magdalene in honor of the mythical Mary Magdalene. The Celebration consists of an art exhibition of the paintings of Tanya Torres and a performance of the songs by Raquel Z. Rivera. This year, dancer Corazon Tierra, dance-theater performers Xiomara Evans and Marni Rice, bomba dancer Alexandra Vasallo as well as many other artisans, writers and visual artists will be joining with artwork and performances dedicated to Mary Magdalene.

The Celebration takes the form of a traditional Puerto Rican promesa and the songs are performed "promesa-style," with the voices, bodies and joy of everybody present. A promesa is a traditional offering to a saint where people gather to honor that saint through prayer and song. At the Mary Magdalene Celebration the offerings are the artistic creations of the participants, but to keep up with tradition, refreshments will be served.

The artists go beyond the most traditional interpretations of the Biblical Mary Magdalene to explore in art, dance, word and song this Christian character that has emerged in the 21st century as the most accomplished disciple of Jesus Christ, Apostle to the Apostles, priestess, mother, the Goddess in Christianity, and a constant guiding presence for the leading artists.

Although the Mary Magdalene Celebration has been taking place since 2005 in different places and formats, this year the Catholic Pope Francis declared July 22 a Feast Day for the Catholic Church, which imparts a special significance to this year’s Celebration.

To join the Mary Magdalene Celebration, please visit Magdalene.org and sign up for updates and RSVP.