An ensemble of Egyptian belly dancers and musicians and a Mexican band graced the entrance to the Broadway Library in Astoria with their performances on Monday afternoon.
Zykriat, a Queens-based ensemble renowned for extolling the traditions of Egyptian cinema and the greater Arabic world, brought two musicians, who sang a song, as if they were talking to the night, while two dancers in colorful costumes twirled to the music.
“Who would’ve thought, walking along Broadway, that they’d walk into that?” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) asked.
The group was there to promote the summer’s Lincoln Center Local program, which brings acts that play at the Manhattan arts center to Queens.
“Lincoln Center Local is a really important and vital partnership between Lincoln Center and the Queens Library and now Brooklyn Public Library as well, bringing state-of-the-art, world-class performers to our neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn,” added Van Bramer, who chairs the Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee and allocates $10,000 from his discretionary funding for the program every year. “For some of our young folk and some of our senior folks, it’s difficult to get to Lincoln Center, for some folks it’s difficult to afford the ticket prices at some of the bigger venues in Manhattan and that’s why it’s so critical, bringing these performances to our neighborhoods all for free.”
Lincoln Center Local is entering its third year and will run from July through September at nine branches in Queens: Jamaica, Cambria Heights, Flushing, Forest Hills, Ridgewood, Broadway, Jackson Heights and Langston Hughes in Corona.
Bridget Quinn-Carey, the chief operating officer of Queens Library, said the series will include performances by musicians, dancers and vocalists who have performed in famous venues throughout the world. There will be opera, native Mexican rhythms and Flamenco dances, and all performances will be followed by question-and-answer sessions.
Hillary McAndrew Plate, assistant director of education and community partnerships for Lincoln Center, said that this season is bigger than in the past and that it’s the only program that is “co-curated” with the public.
Each library received a list of Lincoln Center performances for the public to vote on. While 5,000 patrons voted last year, this year there were over 10,000 from Brooklyn and Queens. The Villalobos Brothers received the most votes and won an encore performance at Lincoln Center, which will be streamed to 18 library branches. Patrons can also enter a drawing to attend the show at Lincoln Center and receive a roundtrip Metro Card to get there.
The Villalobos Brothers — Alberto, Ernesto and Luis — and Humberto Flores won the vote. They played outside the Broadway Library at Monday’s event. The group will return to the location on Aug. 23, play a double set in Flushing on Sept. 20 and perform the encore at Lincoln Center on Sept. 27.
Ernesto Villalobos said the program is “a terrific opportunity to share our music, especially because Queens is the most diverse.”
He said that the music, is inspired by tradition, but otherwise completely original and that some songs are about social issues, like immigration and low-wage labor.
“Our partnership with Lincoln Center Local makes high end performing arts accessible to everyone, which is what we do here at the Queens Library, make everything the world has to offer accessible to anyone who visits us in person or online,” Quinn-Carey said, calling it “the very best bargain that New York has to offer.”
Van Bramer said the events enable “young people, our seniors, our new Americans the opportunity to see these performers for free and maybe dream that one day they will be at the Lincoln Center Stage in the future, singing or dancing or playing instruments.
Observing the constant flow of traffic in and out of the library as he spoke, Van Bramer said it showed the necessity of libraries.
“That’s the amazing thing about libraries: People want them, need them and use them in greater numbers than ever before and that’s why we need to continue to support libraries,” he said.
The formal kickoff will be at the Central Library in Jamaica at 3 p.m. on July 12, and the opening show will feature the dance group Elementos de Flamencos. For more information visit www.lincolncenter.org/lclocal.