In Milford: Summer means tango as well as sand sculpture

World champion dancers Manuela and Juan will be featured in the Tango Passion Show  on July 29.

World champion dancers Manuela and Juan will be featured in the Tango Passion Show on July 29.

by Keith Loria — Summer can be a busy time for some people with vacations, camp for the kids and visits to the beach and local pools occupying their time; but it can also be a season in which families find they have too much time on their hands and nothing to do.

Luckily, the Milford Arts Center offers a plethora of fun activities and events that can fill those otherwise lackluster days with excitement and joy.

“Our goal in the summer is to offer arts programs and events that are not available at other venues that people in the area will want to take part in,” Richard Stephen, business and marketing manager for the MAC, said. “There is a lot of free music in downtown Milford in the summer and so we concentrate on other offerings.”

Things kicked off on July 7 with the opening reception of the Milford Photo Expo at the Center for the Arts, 40 Railroad Avenue South, where 140 photographs from regional photographers will be on display through Sept. 19, with prizes going to the top entries.

“The Photo Expo was a show we did years ago and for some reason, it ended, so we decided to bring it back,” Stephen said. “There are a lot of professional and amateur photographers in the region that now have a new place to exhibit their work.”

Local artists are also featured at the Firehouse Gallery, 81 Naugatuck Avenue, in the exhibit, By the Sea, where paintings and photography will be on display through Aug. 5. Two weeks later, the gallery will host the exhibit, Light and Shadow.

On July 29, the Tango Passion Show will be staged at the Center for the Arts at 8 p.m., featuring world champion dancers Manuela and Juan, Latin Grammy winner bandoneonist Raul Jaurena, singer Marga Mitchell, pianist Maurizio Najt, and the Tango Sueño Performance Group.

“The mission of the show is to present an Argentine Tango experience with authentic music and dance,” said Gem Duras, organizer of the event. “The intimate theater of the Milford Arts Council creates the perfect environment for hearing live musicians up close, and observing the subtle footwork of the dancers, as a result experiencing all the range of emotions that these diverse artists embody.”

Argentine Tango is well known for the sensuality and close embrace of its dancers, their virtuoso leg movements such as boleo kicks, gancho hooks, and the elegance of the ankles with sensual embellishments.

Scoring Manuela and Juan was something of a coup for the MAC, as the duo are considered the best tango dancers around, having recently won the Mundial, the most respected tango competition in the world, Duras said.

“Their dance embodies all the special elements of tango with their refined elegance, sensuality, and the virtuosity,” Duras said. “As a couple from the younger generation, their energy, and enthusiasm combined with their 2014 stage tango championship and their first prize at the tango vals social dance category makes this an event not to be missed.”

Dance enthusiasts will also want to check out the Alison Beatty Cook Dance show at the Center for the Arts from Aug. 26 to 28, as Milford native Alison Cook-Beatty brings her New York City-based dance company to perform. Tickets are $17.

“It’s going to be a fantastic show,” Cook-Beatty said. “We have 11 fantastic professional dancers from all around the world—Italy, France, Chile and all throughout the United States—that make up the company. It’s a very talented, multi-cultural group of people, and they all bring so much to the work as individual artists.”

The company will perform five different pieces, including two new works that will premiere in Milford.

“All of the works range in very different emotional content,” Cook-Beatty said. “The work itself has a lot of physicality, there’s a lot of energy in the movement style, so that’s exciting for people. It’s a very physical type of style, each choreographer has a different way of moving. Not that every piece is constantly fast, but there’s a charge, there’s an electric, dynamic physicality within the work, and I think that’s exciting for people to see.”

The Milford Beach sand sculpture contest will be on July 30.

The Milford Beach sand sculpture contest will be on July 30.

One of MAC’s most popular events of the summer is the annual Sand Sculpture Competition at Walnut Beach, which is now in its 38th year. More than 50 sand sculptors are set to battle it out on July 30 to create unique sand designs.

“The Sand Sculpture event is special in that it brings together families, friends and local organizations that as a team, compete in the event,” Stephen said. “It’s usually a beautiful day with hundreds of spectators and it’s free.”

Theater lovers will want to check out the East/West Playfest at the Center for the Arts on Aug. 5 and 6, as six one-act plays will be presented by up-and-coming playwrights, and the audience chooses the winner. There’s a $10 suggested donation at the door.

C.J. Ehrlich is one of the finalists with her play, It Skips a Generation, the story of a girl who secretly meets with her grandfather she’s forbidden to talk about.

 “Despite their estrangement and very different cultures, they connect when she asks Sam for advice, and he brings out an album from his days on the vaudeville circuit,” Ehrlich said. 

This is Ehrlich’s second year in the competition, following her play, All’s Fair in Love and Science in last year’s East-West Fest. 

“The festival’s high level of professionalism comes from the talent, high standards, and dedication of this sophisticated group of artists (and audiences) a stone’s throw from New York City,” she said. “A well-curated festival of new work like this is a win-win for everyone. Audiences get to travel into half a dozen new worlds in one evening. Besides meeting new characters they also get exposed to up-and-coming playwrights.”

Rich Orloff is also a finalist, with his play, I Was Fine Until You Came Into the Room, the story of a man and woman who meet in an art gallery and don’t know what to say to each other, but their conversation has ramifications that last generations.

“Whenever a theater chooses to produce one of my plays, it both reassures me that others value it and encourages me to keep taking chances and writing more plays,” he said.

Even with so much on tap, Stephen noted that the summer is “a pretty slow time” for the MAC, which just shows how much the organization provides to the community year round. One thing’s for certain, there’s plenty for people to enjoy in the hot months ahead.

For more information about any of the summer events, visit www.milfordarts.org.

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