At nearly 14 percent of the population, Hispanics make up the largest minority, in the United States. They may be recent immigrants or their families may have lived here for generations; they may be of European, African, Asian, or Native American lineage, often in varying mix. While California, Texas, and Florida contain the greatest density, of Hispanics, this demographic presence is spreading.
But, how does being Latino, which cuts across racial lines, constitute a distinct identity in the dance world?
"We are a fusion of races, and this gives our art complexity," says Eduardo Vilaro, choreographer and founding artistic director of Chicago's Luna Negra Dance Theater. Cuban-born of Chinese, African, and Spanish ancestry, Vilaro was raised in New York. There he became a principal with Ballet Hispanico, where for 35 years artistic director Tina Ramirez has promoted styles, dancers, and--rare in American troupes--choreographers from the Latino community. "Our work can embrace all the characteristics inherent in our cultures," Vilaro says. This brings vigor to Luna Negra's repertoire, which draws from flamenco, tango, and salsa to portray contemporary themes ranging from immigration to telenovelas [soap operas].
Many Latinos also feel the constant presence of a vital, other place. San Diego's Patricia Rincon Dance Collective has addressed this pull through its Blurred Borders Festival and works such as Nothing to Declare. …