Story By Patrick Hartley
Dancers swayed and rhythms thumped as Palomar’s Studio Theatre was transformed into a 1950’s style Latin nightclub for Palomar Colleges 21st anniversary Noche Havana: World Dance Festival on October 19th. The show was a celebration of the diversity of the Palomar Performing Arts Department.
The night opened up with a Latin social dance class that was open to audience members of all levels. Students, grandparents and kids all joined in learning the basic front and back, side to side, steps and spins to the Cumbia style music from the energetic live band Kimba Light.
Next was the Popurri de Cuba, a fast paced blending of music and dance from Africa and Cuba. The resident dance and drum company “Agogo” blended the sounds of African Conga drums with Latin rhythms. The dancers wore traditional colorful wide ruffled skirts and jumped and shimmied in proud display of Afro-Cuban style.
After that the Capoeira dance was demonstrated by Professor Elias Fonseca. The dances were a form of martial arts that were brought to Brazil by African slaves and disguised from slaveholders as a dance.
The show also included Hawaiian and Tahitian music and dance that combined chanting with native dancers. The Mexican Ballet Folklorico duet showed how the German Polka-style music was popularized in the state of Chihuahua at the turn of the 19th century.
Advanced student Anna Lopez’s spotlighted Irish dancing while Emily Martinez took us on a tour of the Middle East. Martinez performed movements from Turkey and Egypt including the belly dance. “All of the faculty and professors are well trained, well travelled and it’s just a really good place to get a really good quality education in these cultures” said Martinez.
Patrice Ann Mead, Dance Professor and Director of the World Drum and Dance Program came to Palomar in 1997 and built the department into one of the most comprehensive world programs in Southern California. “We incorporate a lot of dance forms. You can’t see your world if you only represent one culture, you have to be open” Meade said.
Mead echoed the message of how the arts builds a bridge of inclusion. “People can find their niche and be exposed to things that would bring them joy, will bring them community, bring them a sense of belonging.”Mead said. The Palomar Drum and Dance program brings all of those things without missing a step.
Agogo company dancer Michelle Pledger, talked about how Mead and the Palomar Performing Arts program have helped her. “It has really not only just built my confidence as a dancer. But she’s an incredible human being who’s just taught me a lot about how to be a woman with integrity” Pledger said.
“Everything you see in the program you can study in the spring” Mead said. “I hope my performance today can increase enrollment for that class so that it will not be dropped” Martinez said.
The refreshing diversity of styles and cultures kept the audience on their toes, while the family atmosphere kept everyone firmly grounded. The show was a reflection of how the program has brought together many people and created a community.