Dressed head-to-toe in authentic Mexican folkloric dress, a group of local teens and young adults at Sunday’s Lummis Day Festival gave a dance performance that was anything but typical.
The six dancers, ages 13 to 25, are part of the Northeast Los Angeles based Tierra Blanca Dance Company.
While some traditional dances, like the zapateado, were performed, they were intermixed with dances performed to music from a different era, including a tune that once served as the theme music for a 1980s Mexican television show.
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Two thirteen-year-old dancers performed to “Mexico de Noche” (Mexico at Night), from the TV show “Noche A Noche” produced by Argentinean composer Bebu Silvetti, according to Tierra Blanca founder and president, Blanca Soto.
Silvetti recorded “Mexico de Noche” for an album in Mexico, Soto said.
The instrumental melody with a slight disco beat, both excited and surprised listeners who didn’t know what to expect as they watched the girls add jazz moves to their folkorico performance.
A song by a Brazilian composer was also included in the performance, but all the songs have a tie to Mexico, Soto said.
“One of our goals is to fuse the new styles and the new music with history and the backgrounds of the music,” Soto said about the multiculturalism reflected in her work.
Tierra Blanca, established in 1996, seeks to promote Mexican culture and traditions through music, dance and regional folklore. But dance students get more than a lesson in moving their bodies to counts and memorizing original choreography, they learn the story and history behind a song and experience their cultural roots in a non-stereotypical way.
Soto’s non-profit, Tierra Blanca Arts Center, has focused on bringing dance to low-income Latino communities where cultural institutions are lacking.
“That’s a reason why we started the dance company, there are a lot of kids with great potential but they don’t have support to develop their talent and learn more about their culture,” she told EGP.
Soto, a Cypress Park resident who studied Theater and Dance at the University of Guadalajara before immigrating to the US, has primarily taught dance to Spanish-speakers in the Southeast cities, like Huntington Park. But Tierra Blanca also works closely with local Northeast LA art institutions Plaza De La Raza and the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts.
For the last four years, Tierra Blanca has also produced Semblanza Latinoamericana, a showcase of diverse Latino dance companies. Last year the show focused on African-inspired dance and song, this October, however, the show will feature Asian influence in music, she said. The production unites cultures through music and tradition, Soto explained.
Tierra Blanca is comprised of three age-specific dance companies; for more information visit www.tierrablancaartscenter.org