Performance of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

If I have learned an essential truth about life in New York, it is this: the Big Apple is one expensive city. And as cocktail parties and cultural events abound during summer time, every cash-strapped student faces an eternal dilemma. When then, however, one of the city’s most renowned cultural institutions offers concerts and artistic performances for free, it is rather self-evident that there will hardly be a better alternative to spend one’s weekend.

Those who have made their way to the Damrosch Park Bandshell on 62nd  Street and Amsterdam Avenue last Friday night would definitely second that. In this space, Lincoln Center has created an outdoor venue that holds 3,000 people and that proves to be highly appropriate for the Center’s mission to go out of doors, beyond the conventional to provide high-class music, poetry and dance for every taste.

Had there been an overall theme of the performances presented by Lincoln Center Out of Doors last Friday night, it would have been love””love for art as a means of expression, love for choreography and dance, love for poetry and music, love for the beauty of the moment. Accompanied by the evening sunset, Cleo Parker Robinson and her Dance Ensemble took over the stage and thrilled the audience with diverse choreographies in which African-American tradition revives in modern dance moves and ballet figures. Tellingly, the first piece performed was called fusion and marked the wonderful beginning of a night full of energy and rhythm.

A colorful spectacle for the eyes was followed by an equally fantastic treat for the ears when Valerie Simpson and her friends from the Sugar Bar paid a musical tribute to her beloved partner in music and life, Nick Ashford who died last year. Yet, the performance was all but melancholic and with her powerful voice, the soul singer set the audience in motion until even the most introvert spectators could not help but shake their heads to the beat. Various artists joined in to the groove on the stage, creating a multi-layered, cool fusion of voices. And as Valerie was performing her classic “Solid as a Rock”, the audience did no longer stay like that, solid as a rock, but simply had to get up on their feet and sing along. When the show ended after three hours, the air was still filled with good vibrations and not a single person left without a smile on their face.

  Valerie Simpson and Friends