Let me just say: I love performing on stage! I am not a talented actor, singer, or dancer, but I have been an active participant in multiple shows at Middlebury College. Every year, Alianza holds a Cultural Show that celebrates Latino identity on campus. This gives me an opportunity to express my artistic talents with stunning choreographies, singing, and skits.
In the past three years, I have choreographed many dances representing different regions of Latin America. My personal favorite is El San Juan or El Sanjuanito, which is a traditional indigenous folk dance celebrated during the winter solstice in Ecuadorian Andean communities. Since I was a child, my maternal family taught my cousins and I to learn this dance as a way of preserving our indigenous roots. I will never forget that summer day of 98, when my mother cleared the furniture in the living room, played El Sanjuanito on the stereo, and taught my brother and I how to move our feet with swift rhythm and stretch our arms like a condor flying above the Andes Mountains. She also told us a story about why it was important for us to learn this dance: “Even though we can’t claim a particular tribe in Ecuador, our ancestors wanted us to remember them through El Sanjuanito.” Since then, I have made a personal commitment to teach others the steps to El Sanjuanito as a way to celebrate my indigenous identity.
Another exciting dance piece is Guyanese Chutney. In a nutshell, I came across with this dance when I went to a wedding party a few years ago. First, I was impressed by the dance. My friends moved their hips in circles, shrugged their shoulders, and stretched their arms in creative shapes. I thought my friends were Indians because of the familiar movements. But they told me that they were from Guyana, a small country in the northern tip of South America. In Guyana, 45% of the population have Indian roots, which explains their Hindi influence in the dance. Chutney music is a form indigenous to the southern Caribbean, originating in Trinidad and Guyana. It derives elements from traditional Indian music and popular Trinidadian Soca music. Their music is also a fusion with traditional African music. I also made a commitment to learn this dance on my own and with the help of my best friend. With this new dance skill, I taught many people how to dance Guyanese Chutney and they all LOVE it! This year, I am doing a chutney dance.
We have singers. Dancers. Poets. Alianza will have an amazing cultural show, and it will be my last one. So I am making every minute count. I will keep you posted next time with videos and pictures of the Alianza Cultural Show next month!