MEZCLA mixes traditions of Latino cultures

Monday, November 13, 2006

Brown’s Latino performing arts group MEZCLA showcased 15 spirited pieces that enlivened the audience gathered in the Salomon Center Friday night. Mezcla dazzled the Brown and Providence communities with music and dance highlighting the rich culture of Latin American countries such as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

For good measure, MEZCLA added Middle Eastern belly dancing, called “Raqs Sharqi,” and Brazilian samba to the eclectic, but effective, repertoire.

Titled “Abriendo Puertos: Dancing Though Generations,” the performances presented a true mezcla – mixture, in Spanish – of cultural traditions. Each performance spoke to a form familiar to a specific country. The most effective pieces were “The Samba featuring Brown Capoeira Team” and the “Mariachi de Brown,” which vibrantly represented the rich cultural traditions of Brazil and Mexico, respectively.

Encouraging cultural instruction through dance is one of MEZCLA’s goals. “We have made it a priority to reach out to the Providence community especially the younger generation,” the event’s program states.

The success of this community outreach was evident Friday night when the groups “Mezmerize” and “El Grupo Juvenil de San Juan Bautista” performed to resounding applause with students who were taught traditional and modern dances in MEZCLA-sponsored workshops. A third group, “Quisqueya en Accion,” was slated to perform at Saturday night’s performance.

While each performance celebrated a particular cultural tradition, the show as a whole spoke to common experiences shared in the mezcla of Hispanic culture.

Particularly intriguing was the show’s presentation of movement, art and dance as artistic media to escape the harsh reality of life.

Commenting on the horrific conditions of the “real Dominican Republic” before performing the Merengue, the Group “Perrico Ripiao” addressed the liberating freedom of dance.

Whether through the ecstasy of dance, the freedom of song or the power of poetry, the MEZCLA show presented the celebratory function of art in the Hispanic community. Particularly praiseworthy was the felicitously realized dance sequence “Afro-Caribbean,” which was choreographed by Grisselle Escotto ’09, and the stirring musical rendition of “Preciosa” by Joanelle Hernandez Lopez ’07.

The painful struggle faced by Hispanic communities was powerfully presented in the show as well. Especially evocative of the agonizing struggles of Hispanic immigrants was the spoken-word piece “Puerto Rican Obituary,” which was written by Pedro Pietri Elyse and beautifully performed by Alyse Ruiz ’09.

MEZCLA will hold its next showcase in the spring.

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