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Once again Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College has announced a season that is as diverse as Brooklyn itself.

Subscriptions and individual tickets are on sale now for the new 2002-2003 season which includes a constellation of stars - Ben Vereen, Richard Lewis and Barbara Cook - as well as performers from Argentina, Senegal, Russia, Hungary, Vietnam, the Caribbean, and, not as surprising, Brooklyn.

"The melting pot of Brooklyn is reflected throughout the entire season," Julie Pareles, producing director of Brooklyn Center, told GO Brooklyn. "We include the Latino community, our Russian and our African communities because we are working to build roots within the community. That’s why we are such a unique cultural center.

"And Brooklyn is rich in great artists, too, and when an opportunity arises to include them, we jump on it."

DUMBO’s own Vereen will perform on April 5, 2003.

"He’s a great entertainer," said Pareles. "He’s kind of a one man show. He’s captivating; he has a great voice, personality and he’s a great dancer."

Pareles said Vereen is such a hot commodity on Broadway, Brooklyn Center had to book around his appearances there - postponing his event from the initially announced March 15 to April 5, 2003.

"We can’t wait to have him here," said Pareles.

Dan Zanes, former frontman of the Del Fuegos and a Cobble Hill resident, will perform at Brooklyn Center on Oct. 27. Zanes is attracting a cult following with his children’s music - a mix of traditional folk music and rock - which is considerably cooler than Barney.

"My 3-year-old twins love him," said Pareles, and equally as important, "he’s a children’s performer who stands by the integrity of his music. There aren’t a lot of performers like that.

"[Zanes is just] beginning to perform in larger venues. We’re one of the first larger places he’ll be performing in as he moves up and out of the club scene and into the concert scene."

Another Brooklyn group in BCBC’s "Family Fun" series is Brighton Beach’s Russian American Kids Circus, trained by veterans of the Moscow Circus.

"We’ve been thinking about them for a long time. We’re thrilled to have them," said Pareles. "They are keeping the circus tradition alive in America. Generation after generation, in the same way the Chinese do, they preserve this unique fine art form." The circus will perform on Feb. 23, 2003.

After four years, Brooklyn Center has replaced the "Nutcracker on Ice," performed by the St. Petersburg State Ice Ballet, with the Moscow Ballet’s "Great Russian Nutcracker."

"We wanted to make a change, and we had never put a ’Nutcracker’ into our dance series," explained Pareles.

According to Moscow Ballet producer Akiva Talmi, the ballet is celebrating its 10th anniversary tour by incorporating "10-foot tall puppets never seen in the West. It also pays homage to 100 years of puppetry in Russia. These puppets are very expressive. They play Russian folkloric instruments."

Talmi said the puppets make their appearance in the second act.

"They are in the land of peace and harmony, or mir, rather than [the American version of] Clara’s candy land."

The Moscow Ballet will perform at Brooklyn Center on Dec. 22 to Tchaikovsky’s score recorded by the Moscow Festival Orchestra, which, according to Talmi "is the only recording in the world specifically recorded for the tempo of ballet. You can’t dance to the quick concert version. And it was recorded just for this tour."

Another first in Brooklyn Center’s new season is the opening night performance of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra on Oct. 26. Headed up by pianist Arturo O’Farrill, son of the late, legendary bandleader-composer Chico O’Farrill, this is a delicious sneak peek performance of the all-star ensemble prior to their May 2003 Lincoln Center debut.

Another Lincoln Center group, the New York Philharmonic, will perform under the baton of maestro Roberto Minczuk, co-artistic director of the Sao Paulo State Symphony, on April 12, 2003. The Teatro Lirico D’Europa will return, after a well-received performance of "Rigoletto" last season at Brooklyn Center, on March 30 with Modest Mussorgsky’s "Boris Godunov."

"This is a rarely performed opera. It’s a large production, and they have just wonderful singers. We have been thrilled with the quality of their past productions. We got raves from the audience last year," said Pareles.

While the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra is an obvious choice on Jan. 19, 2003, Pareles says that the performance of Vietnamese pianist Dang Thai Son should not be missed on Feb. 9, 2003.

"He doesn’t perform much in US," said Pareles. "He’s known in Europe and Asia. He’s a real find and the first Asian to win the International Chopin Competition. It should be one of those rare performances. He’s one of the best."

Brooklyn Center has once again assembled a top notch dance series. In addition to the Moscow Ballet, they’re presenting Julio Bocca and Ballet Argentino on Nov. 10, Le Ballet National du Senegal’s "Kuuyamba" on Nov. 23, Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba on Feb. 1, 2003, North Carolina Dance Theatre on March 2, 2003 and James Sewell Ballet on April 13, 2003.

Pareles said Lizt Alfonso’s troupe, based in Havana, is returning to New York after a sold out performance at Summerstage in Central Park this summer.

"It is an all-female group which is very unusual, especially in a male dominated culture," said Pareles. "There’s a quality to it that’s very novel. It’s pared down Cuban and Afro-Cuban dance, traditional and modern at once. It’s also Spanish and Cuban, which is really very unique.

"Lizt Alfonso’s company is a sensation."

Another new twist to the season is Brooklyn Center’s annual Jewish series is now geared towards a slightly younger demographic, said Pareles. The retitled series, "L’Chaim," will feature singer-singwriter Debbie Friedman’s "Chanukah Celebration" on Dec. 1, cantor Alberto Mizrahi ("the Pavarotti of Jewish music - a discovery for people who don’t know him," said Pareles) on Feb. 16, 2003 and Ellen Gould’s one woman show "Bubbe Meises, Bubbe Stories" on April 27, 2003.

Brooklyn Center’s Broadway series returns with "State Fair" on Nov. 17, "Crazy for You" on March 9, 2003 and "The Cotton Club" on May 18, 2003. And although they are Broadway shows, they are not presented with Broadway show ticket prices.

Audiences will also be relieved to know that despite the financial challenges to arts groups over the last year, Brooklyn Center is committed to keeping its ticket prices - of all its shows - affordable.

"We’re very conscious of making performances available to everyone," said Pareles. "Modest ticket prices are part of who we are. We want to make programs accessible to Brooklynites of all walks of life."


Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts 2002-2003 season tickets are now on sale at the box office at the Walt Whitman Theater, Brooklyn College, 2900 Campus Road at Hillel Place. Tickets can be ordered by calling the box office at (718) 951-4500. Box office hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 1 pm to 6 pm. Tickets are also available through TicketMaster (212) 307-7171.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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