Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Be'la Dona rocks the Kennedy Center
One of the free 6 p.m. performances at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage last week was by Be’la Dona, D.C.'s own "homegrown" all-female band whose members can shake a tail feather, yes they can!
Dance and jive, yes!
Be'la Dona last week at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage/Patricia Leslie
I know I shed about 500 calories just watching them, and all I did was clap and throw my hands in the air. I didn’t even stand up and get out on the dance floor like the white-haired white guy in the yellow shirt up front who thought he was part of the act, too. But he produced a lot of laughs and applause with his show inside a show.
An audience member who became part of the Be'la Dona show at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage/Patricia Leslie
Despite his participation, it did take a while for the singers and musicians to get the rest of the KenCen audience "going" in the spirit of things, but "going," it finally did.
It was the first Millennium production I've seen where the performers left the stage to go down into the audience and try to coax the crowd into a boogie. It was like rolling a wagon through a mountain of molasses, but then the people finally got into it
Said one of the leaders right at the beginning, "This is the Kennedy Center, after all, and we’ve got to be respectful” or something like that.
One of my favorite kinds of music, gospel, is one of Be’la Dona’s genres, but I didn’t hear any.
What I did hear was mostly loud percussion and vocals, and to my untrained ear, selections were repetitive. One (maybe more) of the Be’la Dona members used to sing with Mr. Chuck Go-Go Brown, and it was his brand of music I was hoping to hear. (Mr. Go-Go may be 75, but he'll never be old, even when he gets to be 105! Hope he's feeling better.)
During the production I did pick up a few words which may have been song titles since they were repeated about a millennia: 25 Days, Heartbreak Hotel (not the Elvis version), and Love Will Make You, Oh, So Happy…So Sad (Sing it sister! Not the Al Green version).
Members of Be’la Dona are Rhonda Coe, Wendy Rai Mackall, Genevieve Konecnik, Cherie Mitchell Agurs (maybe relative of John Agurs, manager?), Claudia Rodgers, Tempest Thomas, Shannon Brown, and Karis Hill. If there's a happier band, I'd like to know who it is. These ladies in their black and white apparel never ceased smiling broadly throughout their hour-long appearance.
It was surprising at 5:30 p.m. to find plenty of empty seats which I would have expected the hometown fans to have filled, but, by show's end, they had showed up, and it was SRO.
Reminder: Before 6 p.m. you can get Happy Hour prices at the KenCen's hallway bars. Five bucks will get you beer, crunchy treats and live music. Who can beat it? Gospel, not necessary.