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Harlem Nights in Jamaica

One of the hidden gems of South Jamaica is the vibrant artistic endeavor being undertaken by the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL). JCAL is very active in the revitalization of the downtown Jamaica area through its programs that seek to promote the Arts, both visual, performing and literary. Their programing runs the gamut from classes to theater, music and dance. Last Friday, the old church building on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 153rd Street looked unassuming, drenched in the evening spring showers but inside, Jamaica came alive with one of the greatest tap performances led by Omar Edwards and the K360 Club Band. The performance was very electric with Omar, ever the entertainer, getting the audience to participate in the performance at times with call and response intervals that gave the intimacy the performance provided. Attending events in this state of the art venue can feel like an intimate setting with the feeling that one is a part of the performance rather than the audience. The back and forth syncopation between Omar and the K360 Club Band’s performance was a sight to withhold, especially as they jam to the reggae tune “Could you be loved” made popular by the late Bob Marley. The other notable performance was the collaboration with Aurora Reyes on Flamenco and Tap, a collaboration that reveals the origins of Tap, as American artform as a mixture of the dance forms from across a variety of cultures.

If the performance was inspiring, it was all due to Omar’s energetic personality and accessibility. He held tap dancing workshops at JCAL early in the year culminating with this one memorable evening.  Beyond engaging with the audience during his performance, Omar also engaged attendees after the performance by chatting, taking pictures and generally further engage his audience, a true ambassador of this very cultural artform which needs to be preserved and celebrated. JCAL is in the forefront to keep this mandate alive through their various programs.  It is only fitting that Queens which has been home to most of the Jazz legends and artists should continue this legacy at the Jamaica performing arts center. The center has many programs directed at children, teens, adults and seniors where they can work on their creative expression and artistic development. Checking out JCAL and its various programs should be an experience every New Yorker and visitor must not miss out on.


JCAL is a non-profit organization that dedicated to offer quality visual, performing and literary arts, arts education and artistic programs to encourage participation in the arts

Dela Harlley

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