Diversity celebrated at Hazelwood Hydropark

See what those attending learned and enjoyed at one of their weekly performances …

Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya of the Dance Mandal Troupe explains the meaning of their costumes and movements when performing at the “Hazelwood Hydropark Cultural Series”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

In late August and early September this year, neighborhood volunteers arranged a series of programs they called the “Hazelwood Hydropark Cultural Series”.

“Initially, we talked about ways to engage the neighbors of the Hazelwood Hydropark as we started forming the ‘Friends of Hazelwood Hydropark’,” remarked organizer and Parkrose Heights Association of Neighbors Chair Tom Badrick.

This park – once the office, pumping station, and water tower for the Hazelwood Water District, at 1017 NE 117th Avenue – is now the location of the East Portland Neighborhood Office, and large community garden.

Their dances have deep spiritual and cultural meaning for them, confides Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya.

“Then, we learned about the possibility of obtaining a grant the Regional Arts & Culture Council dedicated to cultural performances,” Badrick told East Portland News. “We thought we could hold performance events as a way to bring people out of their houses – not just for a ‘show and tell’ about the garden, but instead, to host a fun activity.”

Once a week for four weeks, the early evening series provided an opportunity for different groups to present the music, dance, and drumming of their native culture.

On September 10 the Dance Mandal Troupe came both to enlighten and to entertain guests, by offering Buddhist traditions from Nepal.

Explaining their traditional dress, Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya told the group, “All parts of the costume are partly hidden gestures in the dance, as much as are the movements. The body is guided by the mental melody, not by [a pattern of] steps.

“You will see many gestures as we are using the music to generate the energy,” Vajracharya said.

Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya and Corinne Nakamura chant while performing their dances.

After the performance, Badrick explained why it was important to mount this performance series.

“We have a lot of culture in our area because of our diversity, but attending a performance in a temple, or a special location, is a bit intimidating for the majority of our community,” explained Badrick. “We felt it important to bring culture and art to the people, to make it a little less intimidating, and increase access.”

He added that the series was a success. “I think we can safely say that the goal for the series is for it to be on-going,” Badrick said. “This year is not a one-off.”

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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