Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 44
A melting pot of movementViva el Arte de Santa Barbara! brings New York's premier Latino dance ensemble, Ballet Hispanico, to the Central Coast for a weeklong residency
BY JOE PAYNE
Santa Barbara County represents a diverse cultural palette and therefore yields a bevy of artistic institutions and groups. Viva el Arte de Santa Bàrbara is a coalition of local groups that aims to serve the community by spicing up the artistic offerings with free community performances of Latino music and dance.
For its most recent event, Viva el Arte de Santa Bàrbara—a collaboration between UCSB Arts and Lectures, the Marjorie Luke Theatre, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts and Education Center, and Isla Vista Youth Projects—has pulled all the stops for a truly mammoth program.
New York City’s premier Latino dance ensemble will be coming to the Central Coast for a weeklong artistic residency. The dance troupe, headed by artistic director Eduardo Vilaro, will be showcasing members’ talents for three community performances, five social Latin dances, and several workshops at local schools.
“This is something usual for us,” Vilaro said. “The organization was founded not just in creating excellent works of art, but in education and training.”
Ballet Hispanico is a heavy hitter in the outreach department, serving much of the tri-state area with New York serving as a hub. The school of dance itself serves 700 kids a year at its main location in New York alone, and serves thousands farther out.
“We have a huge, extensive education and outreach program,” Vilaro said, “so this is part and parcel. We go out in the community and share the love of dance and Latino culture with interesting, tailor-made workshops.”
What sets Ballet Hispanico’s artistic residency apart from other Viva el Arte events, which feature concerts, will be the five “Latin Social Dances,” and many local school assemblies that will feature demonstrations and workshops.
“We go in there with kids in kindergarten to seniors in high school,” Vilaro said. “We teach them how to move, movement language, and so they work with choreographic concepts.
“Then they start talking about the movement in the Latino dances,” he continued, “and then the kids create their own movements or movement phrases.”
Vilaro began dancing at an early age. Immigrating to America from Cuba as a child with his family, he remembers dance being a part of his family all along.
“As early as I can remember, I was always being pulled by my arm and hearing, ‘Come on, let’s dance!’ by my mother at parties to music that I knew was Cuban music,” he said. “Coming from Cuba, music and dance was a way to stay connected to the culture. And that stuck with me—the need for the joy of feeling that connection and how I could connect with other people.”
More than just connecting with people, being exposed to an art form at a young age can inspire the next generation of artists. Once that connection is made, it is hard to break.
“Dance is another way of communicating,” Vilaro said, “and it is another way of being comfortable in your skin.”
The highly skilled artists Vilaro will bring to Santa Barbara County are all classically trained and run a broad gamut of experience and education, including the Julliard School.
“I love dancers that come equipped both physically and intellectually,” he said. “The way we create work now, it’s really a practice and a process that takes both the choreographer and the dancer to be on top of their game.”
The “Free Family Concerts” will be the showcase of the raw skill of Ballet Hispanico, which doesn’t rely on one single style, but rather is a fusion of many Latino dance styles.
“It’s not folkloric. It’s actually a fusion of Latino and folkloric traditions with modern dance,” he said. “We fuse it with all kinds of movement to make it very contemporary to today.”
This kind of melting pot strategy at approaching the art is inspired by not just his own, but the shared experience of many Hispanic Americans.
“When you come here from another country, you assimilate and acclimate, you fuse,” he said. “And so that’s what we do: We try to show that blending of different cultures and interactions to express the Latino diversity.”
More than just showcasing their talents, Ballet Hispanico invites people to join the dialogue and start dancing, and organizations like Viva el Arte de Santa Bàrbara make visits from powerhouse groups like this possible.
“When you partake or participate in it, in any art form, you start understanding you are part of something larger than yourself,” Vilaro said. “Dance has been part of man’s being since the beginning of time.”