PS and MS Celebrate Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month With Ballet Hispánico
Marquis Austin

Last Friday, the Prep School and Middle School partnered with Ballet Hispánico for the first schoolwide celebration of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month at CGPS. America's foremost Latino dance organization, Ballet Hispánico "brings communities together to celebrate and explore Latino cultures through innovative dance productions, transformative dance training and community engagement." The assembly consisted of two portions—a virtual performance and live dance lesson with Johan Rivera, Ballet Hispánico's esteemed rehearsal director. 

Hosted by Community Engagement Director Natalia Mesa, the virtual performance included excerpts from four showstopping pieces from Ballet Hispánico's repertoire — Línea Recta and Tiburones by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Con Brazos Abiertos by Michelle Manzanales and Club Havana by Pedro Ruiz — and insight into the creative processes from the choreographers and performers themselves. The pieces exemplified how Latino artists can use dance to explore their cultural identity and demand social change. In Ms. Ochoa's Tiburones, which takes place on a film set and follows a group of Latino dancers as they defy their director's authority, the choreographer challenges the entertainment industry's stereotypical depiction of Latinos. "For Tiburones, I wanted to show how a group of Latino performers rebel against the entertainment industry, who they feel has been portraying them in cliché and stereotypical ways for so many years," explained Ms. Ochoa. "I really think it's an analogy of what is happening in society nowadays. I think that minorities are tired of seeing incomplete and stereotypical portrayals of their culture in the media."  

During the second half of the assembly, Mr. Rivera led a lively dance lesson with the help of a couple of brave volunteers who danced on camera during the live Zoom webinar. Students were thrilled to watch some of their favorite teachers — Ms. Cusick, Mr. Emeritz, Ms. Gines, Ms. Grande, Mr. Lovato, Ms. Mehan and Mr. Weissman — learn the basics of merengue, a popular type of dance and music from the Dominican Republic. Following the lesson, Ms. Grande and Ms. Mehan moderated a Q&A with Ms. Mesa and Mr. Rivera. During the session, Mr. Rivera offered a piece of advice to students interested in pursuing dance, which consists of many different styles worthy of exploration: "Go out and try everything. You might not like some things, but you will learn things about your body and what works." 

We want to thank Ms. Mesa, Mr. Rivera and the rest of Ballet Hispánico for putting on such an enthralling assembly! Students and faculty were thrilled to delve into the history and artistry behind the varied Latino dance forms. "It was a privilege to share Ballet Hispánico's cultural heritage and beautiful repertory with our community," said Ms. Cusick, head of the Prep School theater and dance department. "We all gained a deeper understanding of the rich traditions of flamenco, Mexican folk dance, mambo, rhumba, salsa and merengue, while also contemplating important questions of identity and cultural misrepresentation in the media."

Click here to watch the dance lesson with Mr. Rivera!

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