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‘Legado Dorado’: Jackson Heights artist and activist to present first show at Astoria Performing Arts Center

"Legado Dorado," a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color, will be performed at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Jackson Heights-based artist Manuela Agudelo will debut her first ever show, “Legado Dorado” (“The Golden Legacy”) — a “showcase about family history and legacy for people of color” — at the Astoria Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Oct. 30.

QNS got a sneak peek of the performance before it premieres on Saturday in the small theater, located at ​​44-02 23rd Street in Long Island City, where the feeling of intimacy with the captivating ensemble of young performers is amplified.

Agudelo is not only starring in the show, she’s the creative director and choreographer. The showcase, which is co-produced by Karen Lopez, will unabashedly celebrate the themes of legacy, ancestry and identity from a diverse group of young artists all curated by Agudelo.

The 24-year-old began researching her own family history in college when she joined The Legacy Arts Ensemble, and learned how to retrieve stories from ancestors as well as pay homage to their lives.

“I felt like it triggered something in me to look within the legacy and history of my Colombian heritage and the stories of the women in my family,” Agudelo said.

In the two years since she graduated college, she’s discovered Cumbia and other Colombian folkloric dance and Afro-Indigenous music that have inspired her to bring her family’s story to life.

“Legado Dorado,” a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color, will be performed at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
“Legado Dorado,” a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color, will be performed at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Agudelo added “golden” to the mixture to represent “forever” and the connection people share with the Earth.

“It came from the stars and it became earth, and I think that that’s the same way we were made … from the stars and molded out of clay,” Agudelo said. “It makes me think of what’s going to last forever after you’re gone. Even though many stories and many histories have been erased and taken from us, this show is a reminder that everything [our ancestors] have done still affects everything that we do today and the little that we know, we should preserve.”

The production will feature live music by the band Los Cumpleaños as various interpretive dances and choreography with hints of traditional Afro-Indigenous dances are performed by Agudelo and a team of dancers, including Génesis Perdomo, Lynnette Paz, Sequoia Aya and Melissa Garcia Velez.

“Legado Dorado,” a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color, at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

One of the solo dances is Agudelo’s “Magia Cafetera,” her first solo performance she debuted in Austin, Texas this summer for Encuentro, an intersectional feminist art festival.

Manuela Agudelo will perform in “Legado Dorado,” a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color she creative directed, at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Throughout the emotive performance, Agudelo uses coffee beans — which fill the room with its distinctive aroma — to represent her Colombian heritage and her relationship with the substance, as planting, harvesting and drinking coffee has been a part of her lineage for four generations.

“We, both women and coffee beans, get planted in our land and we grow in our land and then we get shipped out to big cities and we power those cities with our labor — and the coffee beans do that too,” Agudelo said. “It really made me think of [how] it feels like we’re a commodity sometimes. The immigrant women are definitely the ones powering the city in so many ways, and they’re these essential workers that are working so hard but are receiving such little benefit. Meanwhile, those same people they’re working for are drinking the coffee that our agricultural workers back home made, and those agricultural workers are probably underpaid and probably experiencing a lot of rural poverty.”

Manuela Agudelo will perform in “Legado Dorado,” a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color she creative directed, at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Agudelo takes audiences on a journey of that complex relationship her culture, and many others, have with coffee through her enthralling movements.

The dance showcase will also feature spoken word by Juaquin Bennett and Kacia Flórez, each exploring their own take on race, gender and ancestry.

Kacia Florez will perform in “Legado Dorado,” a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color, at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Agudelo noted the show intentionally begins with solo performances by two dark-skinned artists, Bennett with an introspective spoken word and Aya with a captivating dance about embodying the freedom she wishes her grandmother could have had.

“I really wanted to make that a distinction [that] we’re here because of this history that we share, and to support those similarities and observe them and take care of them,” Agudelo said. “And also take care of each other’s differences in our histories.”

Juaquin Bennett will perform in “Legado Dorado,” a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color, at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
Sequoiah Aya will perform in “Legado Dorado,” a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color, at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
Kacia Lopez and Sequoiah Aya will perform in “Legado Dorado,” a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color, at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

While the show offers a diverse set of interpretations regarding the central themes of legacy and identity, it flows harmoniously and builds toward a grand finale of vibrant dance and powerful drums.

“Legado Dorado,” a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color, will be performed at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
“Legado Dorado,” a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color, will be performed at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

On Saturday, the performance will be displayed in two sessions, from 2 to 3 p.m. and 8 to 9 p.m.

Before each dance performance session, they will screen “Mar y Tierra,” a short film about ancestral women-directed and choreographed by Agudelo, along with Director of Photography and Producer Zhane Parker, Production Coordinator Sunny Roberts and Editor Jonathan Hinterberger.

“I directed it in 2020, and it started this whole journey of creating the show, actually,” Agudelo said.

In addition to the production, the event will showcase visual art in “La Galeria,” with artwork by Mark Saldana, Kelly Arango, Serge Toxqui, Nandita Raman and Monica Patten. Each commissioned artist based their work on their heritage and family histories. The gallery will be on display from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Agudelo, who co-founded arts collective Kaleidospace and has produced several other artistic events, was able to bring her vision to life thanks to grants from the City Artists Corps and Queens Council of the Arts.

“They really powered me up to be able to create in a more liberating way,” Agudelo said. “I’ve seen so many people take advantage of artists, and now that I’m in this position, I’m doing everything in my power — like raising extra funds — to make sure that people get respectable pay. I see the work in a very new way.”

The event, which is free to the public with donations encouraged to support the local artists, is sold out.

“I’m just really grateful that this is just the beginning of a bigger journey where I get to share more of this more often,” Agudelo said.

“Legado Dorado,” a showcase about family history and legacy for people of color, at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

For more information, visit the Eventbrite page here or Agudelo’s website and Instagram at @_mangoviche.

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