Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Next Level Montenegro

The Next Level program has been having an incredible time with NL Team MonteBosnia (AKA The Elements Crew).  This specific program is special for a number of reasons. First, they are the only Next Level team to have 5 members, because we woudn't dream of splitting Deena and Wandee of TruEssencia up. Second, because they are the only NL team running hip hop diplomacy programs in 2 countries.

The Elements Crew arrived to Podgorica last week, and we went out for a welcome dinner at a traditional Montenegrin restaurant called Kuhinja Bake, which means "Grandmother's Kitchen."  Everyone loved the traditional Montenegrin foods.  Marc ("DJ Mista B") Bayangos was the most adventurous, and tried the horse sausage.  Of course, I had it too. He liked it, and thought it had a bit of a bacon-y flavor.

The next morning the team was already busy at work running hip hop workshops at the Bozidor Vukovic Podgoricanin school. The school hosts one of the largest communities of Roma students in Podgorica. All the students loved the hip hop demo by the NL team, and had a grand time learning the elements of hip hop in hands-on workshops!


The NL MonteBosnia Team returned in the afternoon to Bozidor Vukovic Podgoricanin school to run workshops for the hip hop community of Podgorica. The Elements Crew had a fantastic afternoon working on best practices in hip hop with the b-boys and b-girls of Podgorica.






The following morning, the team departed Podgorica along the beautiful mountainous route north to Nikšić.  After settling in to Montenegro's second city, the NL team headed over to the Matrix Dance Center to run a morning workshop on hip hop dance.

The talented students of the Matrix Dance School had a fantastic time working on dance best practices with Deena and Wandee of TruEssencia.

That evening, NL Team MonteBosnia had its first concert at the lovely theater in Nikšić at the Dara Čokorilo Music School.  The intimate theater had wonderful acoustics that bounced off the ridges of the corrugated stage wall behind.

The performance began with a dance demo by the Matrix Dance School.  Following the opening act, the Next Level crew came out to introduce themselves and their crafts.  Prior to the beginning of the show, we had a moment of silence as the performance fell on September 11th.  It was moving to be joined in silence by the whole theater, who helped us mark the somber occasion.


The evening's concert continued on, as The Elements Crew wove explanations and demonstrations of the elements of hip hop into the performance.  The performance took the audience on a journey through the creation of hip hop, and had the crowd rocking along.
The Elements Crew were also able to include some of the artists from the previous day's workshop in Podgorica.

After the show, the NL team got to meet the Embassy's Chargé d'Affaires Bix Aliu (diplomatic speak for an "acting Ambassador").  It was nice to meet Bix in person, as he had previously invited me to the Foreign Service Institute to speak on cultural diplomacy and gastrodiplomacy.  We were facebook friends, but this was our first offline meeting.

 The U.S. Embassy did a wonderful job on the program, and we give a real kudos to the Public Affairs Officer Sunshine Ison and Cultural Affairs Specialist Bernard Cobaj, and it was nice for their boss to come out and support the program.

The following day, we started to make our journey to Bosnia.  While we had planned to simply go north from to Sarajevo, NL Program Director Prof. Mark Katz had other ideas, and the team made a detour to Kotor on Adriatic coast.


So the NL Team MonteBosnia stopped in the Montenegrin gem Kotor, in the placid Bay of Kotor off the Adriatic Coast.  The city's walled fortifications were built by the Venetian Republic in the 14th and 15th centuries.  The city resembles a mini-Dubrovnik of King's Landing fame.

MJ, Deena and Wandee wandered through the maze passageways of the old city.

Meanwhile, Marc, Russell and Mark ascended to the top of stone stairs to the lookout high above.  

We were sad to leave Montenegro after such a warm welcome and great hospitality we enjoyed.  But, we are super excited for the upcoming program in Bosnia!  Journey on!





    

No comments: