Tour of the 1964/65 World’s Fair Grounds Features Queens-Based Performers

By Britney Trachtenberg

Queens Theater and Queensboro Dance Festival gave free tours of the 1964/65 World’s Fair Grounds on Sun., May 26 in honor of the fair’s 60th Anniversary. Karesia Batan, Executive Director of the Queensboro Dance Festival, and Justin Rivers, Chief Experience Officer of Untapped New York led attendees around Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Pop-up performances represented the pavilions at the World’s Fair, which opened in Apr. of 1964 and ran until Oct. of 1965.

Batan asked, “All the performances and all the artists that you’re [going to see] today [are] all from Queens, so can we please give a shout out to the most diverse borough in the world?” The attendees clapped.

Attendees met at the Unisphere at 2:00 p.m. and participated in an international flag parade in honor of the Fair’s Avenue of Flags and Court of Nations, which represented the unity of the countries that came to the 1964/65 World’s Fair. 

Queens-based band Brass Monkeys led the participants to the Court of the Universe in honor of the New Orleans Jazz Tent at the World’s Fair. Rivers said, “The city of New Orleans was represented by Louisiana. They had a New Orleans Jazz Tent where you could see jazz performed on a regular basis throughout your time here at the World’s Fair.”

The Chinese Dance studio RU Dance from Flushing performed Latin dances at the Court of the Universe. Barbara Deakin from Sunnyside said, “It was cross-cultural, so that seemed to embody the idea of the World’s Fair.”

Rivers discussed the Court of the Universe and the Fountain of the Planets’ significant roles in the World’s Fair. He said, “For those of you who remember the World’s Fair, you know that the theme was all about space. Behind me in that body of water is the Fountain of the Planets. When it was actually created for the 1939 World’s Fair, it required a conduit from the Flushing Bay that is the size of the Holland Tunnel to push the water into the basin and create the lakes on the other side of the highway that we have today.” He also said, “For the 1964/65 World’s Fair, all around this pool were the captains of industry and commerce.” The companies in this area included GE, Clairol, Bell Industries, IBM, and Pepsi-Cola.

CarNYval Dancers from Jamaica, Queens presented a Caribbean Soca near the Rocket Thrower statue. During the 1964/65 World’s Fair, the Caribbean Pavilion was located near the structure. The pavilion consisted of two buildings with palm-tree-lined terraces and contained steel drum bands and calypso dance performances.

Rivers said, “Robert Moses was President of the World’s Fair Corporation and had a say in basically everything that was going on here. He picked the artist Donald De Lue for that statue. He had only six months to create that bronze statue.” Rivers elaborated, “When it was revealed, it was not loved so much by the people in general because it was a little bit older than people’s sensibilities in the post-modern futuristic ‘60s.”

Tinikling from the Philippines and The Physical Plant from Sunnyside danced on a set of steps near the base of the Unisphere. During the 1964/95 World’s Fair, a moat surrounded the Philippines Pavilion with three bridges.

Kofago Dance Ensemble from Jamaica, Queens taught attendees a West African dance routine. The ensemble presented a West Africa drum routine as well.

10tecomai Yosakoi Dance Project from Bayside performed a Japanese Yosakoi routine.

In the Nebula Lobby at Theaterama!, N.Y. Aikikai gave an Aikido martial arts demonstration. The dojo of Yamada Sensei introduced Aikido to the U.S. at the World’s Fair. Batan said, “That is actually something very personal to me. My whole family practices Aikido.”

The Greek American Folklore Society from Astoria presented Greek dances. During their last routine, the dancers invited attendees to perform with them. Participants held hands and danced in a circle. They learned the basic steps involved in Greek dances.

Students from McManus Irish Dance in Sunnyside performed three Irish step dancing routines.

After arriving at the Vatican Bench, participants listened to a music installation of the Cities Service Band of America, which played at the World’s Fair.

When asked how the World’s Fair Tour came together, Batan said, “I love producing events like this. We determined the type of walking route. I looked up the actual souvenir map to see what country pavilions were sort of near the historical sites that we would be stopping at and that was the inspiration to figure out which Queens-based dance groups on our roster to reach out to.”

The QDF presents free outdoor dance performances in public parks across Queens. Their free dance tour begins on June 8. The twenty-five dance groups represent the various cultures in Queens.

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing