The annual Columbia Festival of the Arts is expected to kick off tonight with an unprecedented splash.
For the first time, the festival's lineup will also include an opening ceremony, "Lighting up the Lakefront," beginning at sundown.
Molly Ross, a self-described "celebration artist," designed the opening activities, which will include fireworks, a lantern parade and music to celebrate the start of the two-week-long festival and Columbia's 34th birthday.
Ross solicited help from the community in planning the ceremony, and dozens of people turned out at four workshops last weekend to build more than 100 bamboo and paper lanterns to light the lakefront.
Mary Anne Knab, the festival's marketing director, built a lantern at one of the workshops. She predicted that the audience will be awed by the display Ross has coordinated.
"Some of the things that are going to be done will be a surprise for the public," said Knab. "Suffice it to say it's going to be quite a vision."
Ross, whose studio, Nana Projects, is in Baltimore, said the festival's organizers contacted her in September with ideas for the opening ceremony. Ross visited Columbia's lakefront and decided to incorporate the lake into the festivities.
"It seemed very obvious that we needed to do a really beautiful floating pageant," Ross said.
During the opening, kayakers wearing illuminated hats will paddle around the lake. Ross said this display is designed to remind spectators of lightning bugs flying over the lake in the summertime.
Ross also collaborated with Alison Heimstead, a Minneapolis pyrotechnician, to create a fireworks display over the lake.
"We're praying for good weather," said Knab.
SoulShakUs, a Baltimore music group, is composing original material to accompany the lights and fireworks.
La Orquesta Romana, a salsa band from Virginia, will take the stage at the lakefront just before 9:30 p.m., immediately after the opening ceremony.
A rain date has been scheduled Saturday evening if bad weather dampens the carefully orchestrated event.
Katherine Knowles, the festival's executive director, said this year's program, starting with tonight's opening ceremony and concluding in two weeks, is designed to impress spectators with unique performances by local, regional and international artists.
"The world is in your back yard," Knowles said. "Take advantage of it."
Organizers and volunteers were working overtime this week as the opening loomed to ensure that this year's festival, which will draw performers from around the world and visitors from around the region, goes off without a hitch.
Festival workers who have been working on the festival since last year agree that, so far, everything is going smoothly.
"As far as I know, everything's groovy," said Kini Collins, the festival's coordinator of volunteers.
Columbia Festival of the Arts
Some featured events :
Renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp will take the stage at Jim Rouse Theatre for Performing Arts at Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road, at 8 p.m. with her new company, Twyla Tharp Dance. Two new works, Mozart Clarinet Quintet K.59 and "Surfer on the River Styx," will be presented. Tharp will also lead a master class at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Rouse Mini-Theater.
Traje Nuevo, a popular Cuban band, will make its debut American performance at 8 p.m. at Howard Community College's Atrium.
Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba will also make its American debut. The dance troupe, which has been lauded as "the next Riverdance," will hold a Master Class at 10 a.m. in the Rouse Mini-Theater and perform at 7:30 p.m. at Jim Rouse Theatre for Performing Arts.
The Washington Ballet will give a sneak preview of its work-in-progress at the Rouse Theatre at 6:30 p.m. After the show, Septime Webre, the company's artistic director, will lead an open discussion of the work, which addresses community relationships. The Washington Ballet will also give a performance at 8 p.m. June 23 at the Rouse Theatre, which will be followed by a feedback session with Webre.
Saturday, June 23
A new element to this year's festival is a poetry slam, a performance poetry competition featuring regional and national poetry slam champs, which will be held at 9 p.m. at Slayton House. The "Slam Masters" will lead a workshop before the poetry slam, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Slayton House, to teach aspiring poets how to perform their poems.
Sunday, June 24
Israel's Haifa Festival Orchestra, visiting the United States for the first time, will give the first of its two concerts at the festival at 7:30 p.m. in the Rouse Theatre. The second will be at 7:30 p.m. June 25 in the Rouse Theatre.
Thursday, June 28
FreeFall Dance, a new professional dance company based in Maryland, will perform a collection of old and new works at 7:30 p.m. in the Rouse Theatre.
Friday, June 29
Les Deux Mondes, a Canadian dance company, will perform "Memoire Vive," a colorful look at life through the eyes of a young girl, at 8 p.m. at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre. The troupe will repeat the performance at 2 p.m. June 30.
Saturday, June 30
Olodum, a Brazilian music group that has performed at Rio de Janeiro's Carnival and on Paul Simon's 1990 "Rhythm of the Saints" album, will entertain audiences at 8 p.m. in the Rouse Theatre.