Categories: Entertainment

Concert celebrates diversity

CROWD PLEASERS – Balada Romanian Dance is one of many acts in the lineup of the annual Unity Diversity Concert.

The St. Albert Baha’i strongly believes in giving back to the community and every year the organization mounts the ultimate variety show.

The 20th annual Unity in Diversity Concert, running Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Arden Theatre, is a modern spin on a classic form of entertainment that’s as old as showbiz itself.

There’s a reason it has lasted two decades. It takes every possible style of entertainment and rolls it into a tightly packed two hours of fun.

This year the eclectic mix includes top-tier jazz, ethnic folk dances, beat boxing, modern dance and African music. High energy and fast-paced it caters to every taste.

Underneath the frivolity and fun, the Baha’i deliver a message about acceptance in our cultural mosaic.

“Different cultures have different things to offer and they have special gifts to share. By sharing we can all learn something from each other,” says planning team member Renie Zeitz.

This year the concert kicks it up a notch. Opening the extravaganza is the fiery Obsessions Octet, an Edmonton-based world-class jazz ensemble that performed at Carnegie Hall in 2012.

Three of its members are from St. Albert and perform with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra – John Taylor (double bass), Ronda Metszies (cello) and Neda Yamach (violin).

“Any kind of orchestra is a find for Unity in Diversity. We’re very fortunate to have Kent Sangster bring the octet to our show. Some people pay a great deal of money to see them,” notes Zeitz.

Another St. Albert-based group represented on stage is Scoil Rince Mahoney, a group of Irish dancers taught by Lori Mahoney Smythe at Zero Gravity Studio in Riel Park.

“Laura’s been teaching for 25 years. Normally when we host our concert, she goes to competitions in Calgary and Vancouver. We’re finally so glad to have them. I love Irish dance. It’s upbeat and exciting and it’s very precise footwork.”

The razzle-dazzle continues with Balada Romanian Dance, a genuine crowd-pleaser at the 2013 Edmonton Heritage Days.

“Several of our team went to Heritage Days and saw them. They were very accomplished and colourful. They were lovely and the footwork was excellent.”

Karim Rushdy, first introduced as a master of ceremonies several years ago, returns with a blistering beat-boxing and rap mix. Accompanying the St. Albert son is Arlen Yanch and Lahib Quddusi.

“We wanted to appeal to young people and Karim has such a dynamic personality. He’s good-natured and pleasant and gets along with all ages.”

Sophistication plus arrives with former Morinville dancer Kyle Toy and his dance partner Caitlin Griffin. Toy received his classical training at the National School of Ballet and has since worked with countless choreographers and performed at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“He’s so graceful and athletic. He’s slim, but very strong,” Zeitz said.

Kyklos, a Greek dance troupe will introduce the Hellenic culture. Greece’s strong dancing tradition that dates back to 1500 BC is as important in socializing as conversation and good food.

And finally the concert closes with Garth Prince, a Namibian musician who gets crowds clapping and snapping fingers. The award-winning African singer-songwriter is accompanied by Roya Yazdanmer.

“This concert is to help build appreciation between people in St. Albert,” Zeitz said. “It’s important to see the oneness of humanity and how we can help each other. I think it will prevent racism and the judgment of others.”


20th Annual Unity in Diversity Concert
Saturday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.
Arden Theatre
Tickets: $15 plus agency fee. Call 780-459-1542 or purchase online at www.ticketmaster.ca

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.