Fall arts festival: reconnecting with ancestral heritage through dance
BY ALESSANDRA POLANCO
Lights, cameras, acción! With only a few hours before the show, DSA students touch up their makeup and run down their dance steps in hopes of putting smiles on their audiences' faces. Stages are being lit and decorations are waving in the air, but what has led them all here?
Durham School of the Arts hosts annual fall festivals dedicated to celebrating Dia de los Muertos, a Latinx tradition that aims to honor loved ones who have passed. Through colorful handmade crafts and thoughtful dances, students and teachers alike are able to showcase the community around them. Osmara Vallecillo and Victoria Diaz are both sophomores at DSA this year, and have served side-by-side as Ambassadors to the Performing Arts, focusing on the performance meant to showcase Latinx culture.
"We're doing the festival to bring our communities together. People of all different races," Vallecillo explained.
PHOTO CREDIT: ALESSANDRA POLANCO
The dancers run down their steps hours befores the show. The catrinas' dresses shimmer with the sun as they sway to the mystical vocals of one of the fellow catrins, Anthony Gutierrez.
The festival uses various amounts of symbolism to communicate why and how the festival aims to spread Latinx culture. One main example is the monarch butterfly.
"Each butterfly is an immigrant," Diaz began, "Our ancestors migrated from one country to another and passed down their culture to us," Vallecillo added.
This year, Vallecillo and Diaz were given the opportunity to guide and work on the dance performance. They hosted two-hour-long practices and met with fellow volunteers and ambassadors.
"I didn't have my quince last year, so when I went, I saw that they were doing a thing with the catrinas and quinceañeras, then I wanted to have some part in that," Vallecillo explained. "I saw that Larry was the host and I was like 'Oh, that's really cool'. Him having an opportunity to speak to adults and he was good at it," Diaz discussed.
The Fall Arts Festival is one of the most anticipated events at DSA. It offers an environment filled with happiness and unity created by the various volunteers and workers who offer time to prepare food and decorations.
"We have a lot of things to offer. We offer food, there are performances, live music, and a good show," Vallecillo said. "It's community-based. We have a lot of different people volunteer and we just work together to come up with the things that they have," she continued.
The dance performances consist of students dressed as catrinas and catrins to symbolize the sacred afterlife. Students dance with one another under lights and music to honor the Day of the Dead.
"Last year, I saw that the catrinas just danced in a circle, but this year Mara and I decided to actually do a whole vals [waltz]," Diaz explains. "We did a dance to honor our loved ones. When the catrinas dance with the picture, they think about their loved ones," Vallecillo adds.
With their hard work and dedication, they look forward to what's to come with the festival in hopes of a good show.
"Our main goal is to have fun and for people to learn about the land and community," Diaz begins. "Not even just for our school, but the whole Durham City, we want to spread the word that it's okay to be Latino, it's okay to be yourself," Vallecillo concludes.