Here’s a polyglot mouthful: Japanese arts come to Slavic center in Hipster Mecca

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Besides crimson flags and a penchant for pickled things, the Polish and the Japanese don’t share much. That’s why a blow-out Japanese festival held at a Greenpoint Slavic center must have a good story behind it.

In fact, the happy relationship between a Polish arts organization and a Japanese one began a decade ago when Marian Zak and Koji El Kamada were both dancers in New York.

“We had the same ballet instructor,” explained Kamada, a Hiroshima-native. “Soon, Japanese members of my troupe began dancing in his productions, and then we began having our own festival.”

The close ties between Zak’s New York Dance and Arts Innovation and Kamada’s group, Faune Dance, resulted in a great lineup for this year’s festival, including ballet and festival dancing, Taiko drumming, costumes, Samurai swords, food, vendors and even participatory workshops and open mic.

Kamada says that in past years, 30 percent of the event’s attendees have been non-Asian, with a good number of Polish neighborhood residents showing up to drink sake and eat sashimi.

Zak said the Polish community looks forward to the festival year after year.

“There’s a large appreciation for the arts in the Polish community, but Japan is very far away, so we bring the arts to them,” said Zak. “It’s much cheaper that way.”

Seventh Annual Japan Arts Matsuri, Nov. 21-22 at the Polish and Slavic Center [177 Kent St. at Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, (212) 868-4444]. Tickets are $25. For info, visit

Updated 5:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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