For 11 years, Jessica Salazar—Utah Hispanic Dance Alliance founder and artistic director—has educated and entertained the community about Latino folkloric dance with the annual Latin American Dance Celebration. “There’s more alumni each year teaching and performing dances, which expands the community” Salazar says. “This year’s cast will be incredible, too.” The theme observes the bicentennial celebration of independence of Mexico, Chile and Colombia.
Within folkloric dance are historical and cultural markers, embedded to celebrate or to remember. “Even though youth these days are identifying themselves with modern or contemporary rhythms and dance, it’s important to expose them to the whys, whos and hows of their and other’s heritage,” Salazar says. For instance, the cumbia—Colombia’s national dance—came out of slavery. Salazar notes that slaves were not permitted to dance throughout year, except during a three-day celebration. While dancing, the slaves still wore shackles, so they slid their feet; today, Cumbia is still danced this way in memory of ancestors. On a lighter side, Chile’s national dance, cueca, is all about courtship and love, with waving hankerchiefs and fancy footwork to impress the women.
Beyond national dances, there’ll be regional selections—differing drastically because of geography, ancestry or worklife—along with pieces from other Latin American countries. The evening’s program will provide background information on each dance.
Aside from education, the night is just plain fun. Whirling beauties in ornate, imported dresses and stately stomping gentlemen in sombreros make for an aesthetic wonderland that’s cheaper than a multi-country vacation south of the border.