By Tammy Scileppi
Rooted in centuries-old traditions birthed far away in an autonomous region of China called Inner Mongolia is a rich cultural past now revealed bursting with ancient song and dance.
Tuvan and Mongolian music is making a comeback, so anyone yearning for the tantalizingly exotic and other-worldly musical strains once heard only by emperors can now enjoy that indescribable sound right here in Queens during must-see shows that highlight all that Inner Mongolia has to offer.
In a special fifth season, the Queensboro Dance Festival was scheduled to return to the Hunter’s Point Park waterfront in Long Island City Sept. 13 and Sept. 14, with free performances by an amazing array of dance companies.
But this time around, the festival is mixing things up. Along with Queens-based performers, they’ve added ethnic Mongolian culture to the mix with a special international guest performance planned for Sept. 13 featuring the Inner Mongolian Performing Arts Troupe in the group’s New York City debut.
If you missed that show, no worries. Queensboro Dance Festival’s executive director Karesia Batan said a second event to celebrate the troupe’s cultural contribution to the World’s Borough was planned for Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. at Flushing Town Hall — located at 137-35 Northern Blvd. Tickets are available for $10 and there is free admission for members, students and teens.
Bringing evocative and energetic performing arts to the stage, the troupe is entertaining festivalgoers with eyefuls of colorful and athletic dance forms based on traditions that developed in the grasslands. All performers, including singers and instrumental musicians, have been selected to represent the richness and beauty of the area’s artistic culture.
You can listen to refreshingly unfamiliar sounds dating back to ancient times — including long-tone and Mongolian throat singing (khoome) — and experience the vibrancy of unusual dance music accented by horse-head fiddles.
“In the spirit of representing dance in the World’s Borough, we are so honored to welcome the Inner Mongolian Performing Arts Troupe to Queens, especially as their first visit to New York,” Batan said. “It will truly be a special performance to show Queens audiences a rare glimpse into Inner Mongolian arts and culture, alongside our wonderful Queens company premieres!”
The troupe is a selected touring ensemble of top performers from China’s Inner Mongolia Bureau of National Art Troupes, which is the only comprehensive artistic institution directly supported by the government of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
Since 2014, the bureau has integrated nine performing art troupes representing the broad range of regional artistry in Inner Mongolia and is a fully state-supported nonprofit cultural institution. Today’s performers are the beneficiaries of a long history and a profound cultural heritage.
Well-known artists who preserve and expand the Mongolian traditions in music and dance are supported and encouraged, and young artists are given an opportunity for creativity and development. These groups of artists have won more than 200 international and domestic awards for their performances.
“How many other chances will you get to watch top-notch, high-energy singing, dancing and live music from a nomadic culture in the far away grasslands? I’m so excited about this and so proud of Queens,” said Queens Economic Development Corporation Tourism Director Rob MacKay.
Other must-see performances on the waterfront feature a great lineup of Queens-based dance companies.
“Alongside the troupe, you’ll be able to enjoy flamenco, contemporary dance, tutting and hip hop, dance theatre, comedy and more, all created in Queens,” Batan said. “We are excited to show audiences the international fabric of our communities.”
Sector Dance (Astoria), Dugal Dance Projects (Woodside), SUNPROJECT (Astoria), Sheep Meadow Dance Theater (LIC), Spaces of Fontana (Astoria), The Kingdom Dance Company (Rosedale), Tango for All (Astoria), Nicole Kadar & Dancers, a movement company (Astoria) are scheduled to perform Sept. 14.
The Queensboro Dance Festival also offers a VIP pre-show reception each night along the waterfront starting at 4 p.m., with an open bar, raffle prizes, and refreshments featuring Long Island City businesses. VIP tickets are $25 via Eventbrite ($30 at the door) and includes reception, exclusive seating area, prizes, and gift bag.
For more information, visit queensborodancefestival.com.