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Alameda Network Group Throws Big Holiday Event

The Alameda Business Network held a popular holiday get-together and fund-raiser on Thursday, December 2, at Rhythmix Cultural Works. The group now includes about 35 members.

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Several dozen members and guests were greeted by members of the Fourth Force Reconnaissance Company, which has its office on Clement Avenue, and the U. S. Coast Guard’s Electronic Support Detachment in Alameda. The servicemen were collecting unwrapped gifts for the Toys for Tots program. Guests donating a new toy got a free raffle ticket.

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The event also raised funds for Operation Mom, a Castro Valley-based group that supports families of the military and sends care packages to troops worldwide, with ticket sales ($10 each), a silent auction and raffle.

Palacios Brothers Construction staff and family members cooked and donated food for the event, while local vintners and other businesses donated wine and other treats.

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Alameda’s Rhythmix Hosts Open House, Anniversary Event

If you’ve been thinking about taking a class in dancing, drumming or painting, Saturday, June 12, is a good day to visit Rhythmix Cultural Works.

The Blanding Avenue non-profit is celebrating its third anniversary and will be hosting a free festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., which will include performances, demonstrations and more.

There will be belly dancing, capoeira (Brazilian martial arts), circus arts, hoop dancing, poi (rhythmic dancing), taiko (Japanese drumming), world percussion, West African dancing and other activities.

The hands-on workshops are being led by Wendy Allen of Fat Chance Bellydance, Sam Batchelder, Skilly Circus, Betty Lucas, Alyssa Gangemi, Maze Daiko, Afia Walking Tree, Ava Levias-Square, Harry Best & Shabang and Bean’s Got Rhythm class.

“The activities will be very kid friendly all day long,” said Janet Koike, executive director of the arts center. “We had our grand opening in 2007, and this is the first time we are taking the opportunity to celebrate an anniversary.”

As part of the celebration, the center’s K Gallery will be hosting a new exhibit curated by Clint Imboden, which features five Alameda artists: Jon Kerpel, Ginny Parson, K.C. Rosenberg, Peter Tonningsen and Danielle Wallis.

Plus, the day’s activities will also feature art workshops, kids’ activities, face-painting, food booths and a crafts fair with local artisans. Food and snacks, such as tacos and kettle corn, will be sold.

Koike – shown on the left side of the above photo —  set up Rhythmix Cultural Works in 1999 as the umbrella organization for RhythMix world-music ensemble and several cultural-exchange programs involving trip to Cuba and Japan. She then spent five years renovating a building in Alameda to host these and other activities.

The free anniversary bash, she says, is meant to thank the community for its ongoing support and to inspire more people to celebrate the arts.

“It will be a great day for all those who visit us,” Koike said. “We encourage everyone to come out and see our programming.”

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World Premiere of Balinese-Hip Hop Dance Staged in Alameda

Rhythmix Cultural Works held two sold-out shows on December 4 and 5 as two Oakland-based groups came together for the world premiere of a blend of Balinese and hip-hop dance, music and spoken word.

Gamelan Sekar Jaya, which includes about 50 musicians playing instruments such as gongs, drums, flutes and metallophones, was led by I Made Arnawa (top photo, right).  The group presented several original instrumental compositions by their guest music director and two numbers from “Legong,” a traditional palace dance.

In the second part of the show, Emiko Saraswati Susilo — guest dance director of GSJ — and Rashidi Omari — artistic director of Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company presented “Tjak Box,” (second photo, standing center).   This new work merged hip-hop and urban dance with Balinese dance and gamelan music. The inspiration for the piece was the story of Kunti and Karna in the Nahabarata, a great Hindu epic.

“Tjak Box” came after several other performances by Destiny Arts that included poems, or monologues, performed by teens in the program. The spoken word part of the presentation highlighted themes like teenage insecurity, loss of innocence, violence, environmental issues, peer pressure and personal growth.

In much of the second half, Destiny Arts and GSJ performers worked together to demonstrate how different cultures communicate both physically and emotionally and how these cultures, when combined, create a mesmerizing mix of ethnicity, talent, music and movement that dramatically conveys a message of empowerment and hope.

The audience was clearly moved by the unique performance on December 4 and gave the groups a standing ovation.

Rhythmix, located at 2513 Blanding Avenue, will host a show put on by students now taking classes at its facilities at 7 p.m. on December 11. And each Wednesday its K Gallery is open from 6 to 9 p.m.

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S-S-Summer camp in Alameda at Rhythmix Cultural Works

Like a good percentage of Alameda parents with school age kids, I send my kids to summer day camp. These are usually week-long sessions (though some are longer) and they come in all types, from zoo camp to gymnastic camp, art camp to science. Last week, my kids went to camp over at Rhythmix Cultural Works, on Blanding near the new Nob Hill. RCW has been open for quite a while, and I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never been there before last Monday when I dropped the kids off, lunch and water bottles in their backpacks. It turned out to be possibly the Best Camp Ever. In the mornings, they practiced Taiko (Japanese drumming) and Capoeira (a Brazilian dance/martial art), and in the afternoon they crafted elaborate bugs and their habitats. The vibe was good, the kids were happy, and they blossomed with all the music and art (even performing skits that the campers had crafted in their unstructured time at the showcase for parents on Friday afternoon). There’s still two sessions left this summer…and I’d highly recommend the experience.