You say you like the arts and music scene in Chicago but don’t like the high prices of tickets and the hassles connected with driving and parking? Erika Ochoa and Jodi Gianakopoulos, co-directors of the World Music Series here in town, contend that some of the advantages of the big city are right here in Forest Park. And the parking is free.
Saturday, Dec. 7 Ruben Pachas will bring ten performers from the Peruvian Folk Dance Center of Chicago who will dance to a Peruvian band, Sol Andino, with pipes, guitar and percussion. Ochoa said that some of the dances will be to music which is lively and upbeat, and the dancers, dressed in vibrant colorful costumes, will do a lot of foot stomping. Other dances will be to music that is more mellow. “Peruvian dances,” she explained, “are primarily of native origin. There are also dances that are related to agricultural work, hunting and war.”
“Marinera,” she added, “is a dance from the Coast of Peru. It is a graceful and romantic couple’s dance that uses handkerchiefs as props. The dance is an elegant and stylized reenactment of a courtship, and it shows a blend of the different cultures of Peru.”
Gianakopoulos emphasized that these musicians and dancers are top flight performers who are at the top of their game and play and dance at the same level as performers at the Old Town School of Folk Music or at the Chicago World Music Festival. Ruben Pachas, for example, represents the Peruvian Consulate in Chicago at many cultural events. Some performers in their series are Grammy winners. One writes music for the Goodman Theater.
The two world music promoters have approached some musicians, “at the upper pay level” who have said yes to their invitation, partly because they’ve collaborated with Ochoa, who is a professional belly dancer, and partly because they love performing in the small, intimate 50-seat Pineapple Dance Studio.
Ochoa explained that this small venue allows the audience and the performers to connect and have a real two-way conversation. The musicians will often answer questions from the audience and talk about the instruments they are playing, something impossible to do at a Paul McCartney concert at the United Center. “We want to provide a medium not just for the audience,” she explained, “but for the musicians, too. That’s when the magic happens. When artists are appreciated, music can be very spiritual.”
Gianakopoulos noted that many people who are not familiar with the world music scene can feel intimidated by an artistic form with which they are not familiar.
Ochoa acknowledged that first timers at a world music concert “have to be open to a new thing,” but added that the arts have “a way of bringing people together regardless of your language or background.”
As the tagline for her radio show Gianakopoulos hosts on alternate Tuesday mornings on 88.9 FM WRRG says: “The Old School Playground: Where we all speak the same language.”
When it comes to world music, the two women know what they’re talking about. Jodi, who with her husband Peter owns Old School Records, deals with world music as a business person in addition to hosting her radio show. She has a degree in cultural anthropology. Erika was born in Mexico and loves exploring dance from around the world. She teaches Zumba, piloxing, Middle Eastern belly dance, West African dance and hip hop at the Old School Folk Music and at Pineapple Dance Studio, where she is the director, on Madison Street.
The two partners no longer see our town as just having big city access. They believe that some of the advantages of big city living are already here in Forest Park. Their website sates, “Minutes from downtown Chicago, Forest Park offers the amenities of urban life with the casual elegance of a boutique shopping and dining neighborhood. You are sure to find incredible options for night out with friends after our shows.”