A Moving Force: In the Country's Biggest Minority, Latino Artists Fight Stereotypes That Blur Their Artistry and Their Diversity

By Perez, Guillermo | Dance Magazine, June 2005 | Go to article overview

A Moving Force: In the Country's Biggest Minority, Latino Artists Fight Stereotypes That Blur Their Artistry and Their Diversity


Perez, Guillermo, Dance Magazine


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. For choreographer/artistic director Rincon, the matter couldn't be more personal. "Going to live with my father's family in Mexico completely changed me," she says about her experience as a girl. "I came back focused. Emotionally and physically, I found out who I was and what that meant." Since then her choreography has evolved to treat iconic Mexican images in innovative ways. "I want to jolt all those pictures, with their riches and their depths," she says.

Examining the role ethnicity has played in their careers, other Latino dance artists give voice to similar feelings, albeit in the registers of a complex chorus.

Meet Neri Torres, dancer, choreographer, and artistic director of the Afro-Cuban fusion troupe Ife-Ile and Baila USA, an African roots Caribbean festival she initiated in 1998. She choreographed Andy Garcia's upcoming film The Lost City, featuring San Francisco Ballet's Lorena Feijoo. (See "Lorena in One Take," DM, December, 2004.)

Meet Helena Thevenot, a Nicaraguan-born choreographer/performer who, after a long career in modern dance, now works in butoh.

Meet Octavio Campos, creator of dance-theater pieces reflecting Latino issues in postmodernist modes culled from training and performing in the U.S. and Europe. In September his Luna del Pinguino will be presented by the Latino New Works Festival in Los Angeles.

And meet Isanusi Garcia Rodriguez, Miami City Ballet principal, whose classical base (from Ballet Nacional de Cuba) and neoclassical enrichment has made him a powerhouse in ballets from Giselle to Balanchine's Stravinsky Violin Concerto.

"In this multiethnic society, our struggles at times seem more difficult--due to differences in culture, language, temperament," observes Torres, looking back on her career since arriving in the U.S. in 1991. "But our differences are positive," she considers. "We must keep these idiosyncracies. They're what define and make us unique."

Dealing with those defining aspects influences how Latinos take stock of who they are as artists and how they contribute to dance. To a great extent, what audiences most readily appreciate in Latino dancers is also what the dancers are proudest to claim.

"We have a more unselfconscious way of moving," Torres maintains. "There's a certain easy voluptuousness that enlivens every style we try." This is obvious in response to the Afro-Cuban rhythms she works with, but Torres insists it can even ignite ballet "in the feeling with which one attacks a variation, for example. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Moving Force: In the Country's Biggest Minority, Latino Artists Fight Stereotypes That Blur Their Artistry and Their Diversity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.