Photo From LA CAC
The lively Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company will be showcasing Mexican folklorico dances at the Marjorie Luke Theatre on April 22 at 7 p.m., as well as hosting community dance workshops throughout that weekend. The free event is part of Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara, a series of performances sponsored in part by University of California Santa Barbara’s Arts & Lectures program.
The Los Angeles-based company, founded in 2003 by Jose Vences, has become celebrated by the local community and is rapidly gaining recognition. Grandeza Mexicana, which is dedicated to advancing the field of Mexican folk ballet, strives to preserve the rich cultural dance heritage of Mexico, while simultaneously adapting it to a format appropriate for a concert stage production. For their second encore visit to Santa Barbara, the company is bringing new dances and a fresh energy of innovation.
The dance pieces being presented feature energetic music, colorful handmade costumes and a palpable passion of the dancers. The audience is sure to walk away with a renewed appreciation for the diversity, variety and richness of Mexican art and regional culture. The company explores the creative possibilities of synthesizing folklorico culture with elements of ballet and modern dance to create a new product with global appeal.
Jose Vences, a former dancer himself, started the company because he noticed that there was a great interest in Mexican folklorico dance in Los Angeles, and he had a desire to elevate that interest to a more professional level. The company received a great response from the community, and began to grow rapidly, touring and perfecting the quality of the work. It now boasts over 30 member dancers, including several UCSB alumni.
Ignacio Delgado-Hernandez, company dancer who also oversees the company school, says that the school began simultaneously with the company as a way to preserve the rich dance culture within the younger generation of dancers. The school provides a space where this dance practice becomes a discipline for the younger dancers, not just a hobby.
There is also a sense of responsibility that the dancers bear as the ambassadors of Mexican folklorico tradition.
“There has to be that essence of history and culture when we execute the new choreography,” said Delgado-Hernandez. “We need to know the traditions of the region in which these dances derived so that we can represent them in the new choreography we present.”
According to Jose Vences, there is a distinct sense of pride that dancers develop from performing these cultural dances for a wider audience. One of the company’s goals is to continue expanding beyond the Mexican community and to perform to wider audiences, thereby fostering a sense of cultural appreciation and recognition in non-Mexican audiences.
Vences has high expectations for his dancers. He inspires them to push beyond their perceived limits, and treats them as true ambassadors of the arts. The company includes a diverse mix of dancers, but all are expected to demonstrate a strong commitment to their role in the company, something that is clearly evident in the dedicated way the dancers approach the performance and rehearsal process. When dancers put in this much work, the audience can certainly expect to have a lot of fun. Grandeza Mexicana’s encore Santa Barbara performance promises to be a high-energy celebration of Mexican folklorico culture at its finest.