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Creating Duende by Samantha Rojas

Five local artist-entrepreneurs were selected to brainstorm and design Duende - the sensational celebration that will mark the culmination of Broward County's centennial. Eddy Edwards, Jim Hammond, Pablo Malco, Myrna Meeroff, and Loren Oliveira, came together in 2014 and immediately shared mutual respect and great admiration for the collaboration and product that has become Duende.

 The Creative Minds team: Eddy Edwards, Loren Oliveira, Myrna Meeroff, Pablo Malco and Jim Hammond.

In meeting with them, they each spoke of inspiration, synergy and immediate creative camaraderie, from which "they felt Duende would be extraordinary."

Initially, Duende seemed soft and mysterious - difficult to describe. When the brainstorming had been completed and the contracts signed, and all that was left was two months to go, and a fantastic, abstract, conceptual production to execute, it seemed scary. However, the final presentation has blossomed into a home-grown production of local talent and specifically-choreographed performances, rather than a concert of national celebrity stars. Duende is produced and cast by the local community, businesses and the county government, making it special to Broward County.

The Creative Minds are pioneers for this event, but each of them brings more than 20 years of experience with producing and creating art. Here they each give very personal interpretations of Duende elaborating through an abstract concept and a mixture of emotions.

Duende, a term which loosely translates as having soul, represents a true meeting of the minds - the Creative Minds.  It will have special meaning for all those who participate, whether on stage, in the wings or in the audience. 

Eddy Edwards

Twenty years ago, when Eddy Edwards first arrived in Broward County, it seemed that everyone was from somewhere else - or on their way to somewhere else. "Broward was a very transient community," he says. Today, things are different.  He says people have stopped moving away and have started to feel a sense of community.

Everyone who has moved to Broward County has a unique story; some came from another country, others from what may seem like another world. They come alone or with families; we share experiences, hardships - hurricanes; successes - sports and Edwards believes, as they all come together to form a community, a common thread emerges. "All the various emotions that we have, we can translate that through the arts," he says.

For Edwards, the performances at Duende will celebrate the area's multiculturalism in music, dance and costume.  "I like the idea that Broward County is now going to be celebrated," he says. "We have produced something in our respective areas that is artistic, collaborative and interesting.  The fact that it is high-quality with local talent is what is unique and inspiring as a Broward County resident."

 As the entertainment director for two festivals - the Sunrise Jerk Festival, which has been known to attract crowds of more than 20,000 in its 14 years, and the New York Jerk Festival, now in its 4th year, Edwards brings more than 15 years of experience in producing events like Duende.  "I have worked with groups and several organizations in different situations for many years, but this particular group [the Creative Minds] for some reason has quite a harmonious composition, despite diverse backgrounds. I have never worked in a situation where we are so much in harmony. Even when we disagree, it's fascinating to see how we react and interact with each other."

Jim Hammond 

Jim HammondFollowing much discussion and the exchange of ideas about emotional memories and experiences that can portray a centennial and a community, Jim Hammond proposed the name, Duende, which loosely translates as having soul or expressing emotion through the arts. In harmony, his fellow Creative Minds said, "Yes!"

Jim plays with dolls. He is a puppeteer, live entertainment consultant, and character-driven brand designer. Carrying a Masters Degree in puppet arts design alongside credits as a puppet master for Broadway's "The Lion King", Jim has more than 20 years' experience in the field. Founded in 2008, Hammond's firm Puppet Network specializes in producing international festivals, theatrical productions and web/mobile content.

His projects are centered on community redevelopment and engagement through the arts.  A regional favorite that has become a Signature Event of Broward County is Florida Day of the Dead Celebration.  Based on traditions of remembrance throughout the Americas and now in its 6th year, the celebration every November 2nd has grown from 750 participants to almost 11,000.

Pablo Malco

Pablo Malco"Working with these particular four professionals, I felt my own creativity has had a rebirth. I had a new insight into a way of doing things.  That was inspiring for me," says choreographer, hip hop artist, poet, teacher and dancer Pablo Malco.
Duende, he says, is one of the highlights of his career. The production is also a love letter to his home, his community and his passion for dancing.  "For me it is about unity and mixing cultures and how Broward County became a melting pot of culture and race. At the end of the day what is most special is the people who reside here. When we came up with the concept of Duende, in and amongst the entire description, I got stuck on the blending of cultures. I immediately decided I would spend my time focused there."
 Malco is bringing what he knows and what he loves to Broward County's 100th birthday party - color, movement, energy.  "I have worked with a lot of talent in Broward County and for me to be in this position, it was a chance to give new talent an opportunity," he says. "I not only engaged people that I knew because I had been working with them already, I wanted to see and meet new talent. I encouraged those immensely talented individuals out there to come out, step out of their box and show us what they have got. And they did!"

Myrna Meeroff

Myra MeeroffMyrna Meeroff says on the first day the Creative Minds came together, they understood each other implicitly from an artistic point of view - even though they were all from different disciplines.  It was a first in her experience.  After much brainstorming, she says, the concept of emotions became central to the group's work.

"Duende is all the emotions that are part of the creative process. Every creation begins with a spark of excitement, followed by self-doubt, followed by working through that doubt to the final product. You go through all kinds of different emotions from hope to fear to joy.  It's that process of creation that for me is what Duende is all about."

A native of Buenos Aires, Meeroff has been a faculty member of Broward College since 1999 and is currently principal horn of the South Florida Philharmonic and solo horn with the Florida Chamber Orchestra. An avid soloist, she has recorded two solo albums and performed for audiences all over the world. To further her commitment to musical education, she founded the South Florida Chamber Ensemble, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of South Florida residents through music, with programs ranging from concert series, arts integration programs, music instruction, and community partnerships using music to help solve social problems.

Loren Oliveira 

 Loren Oliveira
 Photo Credit: Mauricio Thomsen
A native of Brazil, Oliveira has been immersed in the arts since childhood, studying voice and drama and landing leading roles in internationally-touring productions of "Hair" and "Evita," among others.

Following broad acclaim for her show "The Eight Deadly Sins" presented in Brazil, Oliveira came to the U.S. to further her artistic dreams and performed at The Public Theater at The Shakespeare Festival in New York.

Her confidence quickly grew in the arena of American art and entrepreneurship as she gained extensive experience working as a singer/performer, artistic director, creative producer and musical director for a variety of both large and small clients. She has produced events for the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, the Miami Heat, Morikami Museum and others and has produced and supervised recording sessions and concerts in Brazil, New York and Florida. In 2001, Oliveira co-founded Brazilian Voices to bring her musical heritage to American audiences.  She continues to serve as the organization's musical director for over 14 years. The group is highly acclaimed and is the ten-time winner of the Brazilian International Press Award for Outstanding Brazilian Musical Group in the USA.

Her involvement in Duende stems from a desire to repay in some small part the warm welcome she received when she came to Broward County in 1998, from the arts community and the Cultural Division, a welcome of her culture and support of the arts of Brazil. "It came from a sense of appreciation," she says. Because she realized that it was not just about Brazil that this support came, but for all cultures, she wanted to give back.

Oliveira says the Creative Minds did a lot of research, not only on the history of Broward County, but also on other centennial celebrations. The goal, she says, was to translate an authentically Broward County experience.

 "I came to realize that the most common explanation of this abstract concept might be, for example, when you are watching a performance and there is that moment when you can see the artist start to open up, you can feel the energy building with a note or movement that builds to a "crescendo". The orchestra or artist is building, building, building.RIGHT THERE! That's duende! 


Full Duende Weekend Schedule here.

Broward County Cultural Division
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