Reunions, Reactions, and Real Passion

By ELVA AGUILAR
On March 1, 2012

  • The Ballet Folklórico de Antioquia dance group had an explosive performance last Tuesday night at the CFA’s Mainstage Theater. Courtesy of Columbia Artists Management Inc.

 

Colombia is home to a rich and varied culture – a culture that Ballet Folklorico De Antioquia, Colombia is proud to showcase for the rest of the world.

The group brought Colombia's traditional dance and music to the CFA Tuesday night. Drawing inspiration from various areas of its homeland, the company presented two hours of unquestionable athleticism combined with passion and pride for its culture.

"I know some of [the audience] hasn't been to Colombia in a long, long time. So I'm bringing a piece of our country to you," said Christina Escamilla, the group's female lead vocalist.

The Ballet Folklorico De Antioquia, Colombia dance group had little dialogue in its show Tuesday night at the CFA due to language barriers. The few who could understand knew why the ballet's first stop in Western New York was momentous.

"San Agustin," the opening piece, included contrasting elements between dance and set – a common theme in the overall presentation, titled "Mapale." Replicas of statues that lie in San Agustin, Colombia set the scene as 12 performers gracefully danced around the stage. The elegant movements were accompanied by stern, long-lasting facial expressions.

The music was a traditional folk tune common in the southern Colombian city, and it complemented the dance perfectly. Flutes, faint guitars, percussion, and ballet set the tone for the night. The audience, however, had no idea how drastically the momentum would pick up.

Soon, sound exploded in the Mainstage Theatre when the company began their title piece. It opened as a male and female duo that progressed into a full company performance.

The scantily clad group raised eyebrows not only with its costumes, but also with their movements. The traditional Mapale dance originated among Afro-Colombian communities and soon became a staple of the country's folk music and dance.

The group incorporated the traditional aspects of the dance by mixing smooth hip motions with intricate overall body movements accented by the band's drummer and percussionists. To contribute to the contrasts, a male modern dance solo ended the piece.

"I enjoyed the high energy and the chance to experience a different Latin American country's culture," said Isabel Ortiz, 44, of Buffalo. "I'm pretty sure my husband enjoyed the costumes and ladies hip shaking more than anything."

During one of several breaks in the performance, Escamilla took the chance to acknowledge the families that traveled from all over the East Coast to support family members they hadn't seen in months.

"Today's a big deal for me. My brother is in the audience and this is his first time seeing me sing. It means more to me than any of you could know," said Escamilla in Spanish as she held back tears.

The crowd lost interest as the vocalist shared her personal accomplishment, however. 

"I don't mind that she wanted to speak in her native language," said Adam Cunningham, 52, of North Tonawanda. "They should've considered the demographics of where they were performing. That would be my only complaint."

Ballet Folklorico's only other offense was the unfamiliarity with the venue they performed in. The group introduced every upcoming piece with a voiceover and green-screen images behind the band. To Folklorico's dismay, the recordings were sporadically inaudible and the green-screens also experienced delays.

Despite the two shortcomings, the dance troupe amazed its audience with Colombia's hidden dance gem: El Garabato.

The dancers' homage to Barranquilla, Colombia was the best received performance of the night. The attire could best be compared to Trinidad and Tobago's Carnival festival, with women in tall, feathered headdresses and men in neon green pants. The music was high volume, high energy, and was accentuated by horns and percussion.

The night concluded with the audience on their feet yelling, "Que Viva Colombia (Long live Colombia)!" People spilled out of the Mainstage Theatre imitating the moves they just saw, smiling from ear to ear.

 

Email: arts@ubspectrum.com


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