Segerstrom Center for the Arts celebrates -Día de Muertos-

Monday October 24th, 2016
I love writing these posts for you guys and when it is related to Mexican culture/tradition or events, it is even better.
Segerstrom Center for the Arts will celebrate Mexico’s revered Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) with an amazing program that will feature performances by Grammy Award®-winning singer-songwriter Perla Batalla, La Santa Cecilia, Pacifico Dance Company and Quetzal.
The date is Tuesday November 2, in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the Día de Muertos celebration start at $39 and are available online at, at the Box Office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa or by calling (714) 556-2787.
Segerstrom Center for the Arts-Pacifico Dance Company
I had the opportunity to talk to Adriana Gainey, Artistic Director of Pacifico Dance Company, founded in 1992 (yup 24 years) as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and reconstruction of classical and contemporary Mexican dance forms.
"We are excited! Calacas Clandestinas (kinda translates like 'Clandestine Skeletons) is the first piece with a setting in Michoacán in a plaza, so it gives you the feel of the area with the color and the costumes that are gorgeous. Then, it transitions and we enter the cemetery. There we  unite with our deceased." The iconic Catrina will be in the piece off course, illustrating the mystical -in between- life and death.
A second piece titled Costa Chica will be performed. It covers the regions of Oaxaca and Guerrero consisting of a popurri (medley) of Chilenas. Ahem...

What is a Chilena you ask? (for all of us unfamiliar with the Mexican dance term). In Guerrero a Chilena is a dance form that came into the area in the 1800's during the California Gold Rush. History has it that miners from South America migrated north en route to California following the Pacific coast line. Acapulco was one of the last resting points. As these hardy sojourners disembarked to get food and rest, they sang and danced their typical styles: the Peruvian "Marinera" and the Chilean "Cueca". Both styles include the use of a kerchief to indicate choreography. The locals adopted the style and gave it local characteristics. Most Chilenas, especially from the Tixtla municipality have names that refer to animals particular to the local fauna: The Buzzard, the Duck, the Cat, and the Iguana. Mexican Chilenas are also saturated with African elements that have been incorporated as part of the tradition*.

And there you go, lovely reader. Pacifico will incorporate a medley of Chilenas and ad a song El Mezcalito. With original music from Huatulco that you will not find on these grounds, so that is a definite added value. "This music was the actual inspiration for me to choreograph and put this piece together alongside my associate artistic director. It is a beautiful mixture of that part of Mexico that has a lot of African and Peruvian influence, like the handkerchief, the relationship between the male and the is very rich, audiences will see it in the costuming and the music. The feeling is very coastal, smooth, I think it turned out quite nicely and people will enjoy it..." Added Adriana, happily.

Pacifíco Dance Company has performed for audiences around the world. With 40 dancers and musicians, prides itself on educating culturally diverse communities as well as providing Hispanic audiences with a forum for developing pride in their own heritage.
These brilliant artists present both traditional and innovative works that combine the essence of traditional styles with modern dance idioms.

The fact that we are seeing more and more 'Baile Folclórico' in California is something to celebrate. I asked the Artistic Director how she has perceived the audiences reactions towards the company alongside these almost 25 years. Gainey would've answered differently every 5 years into Pacifico. Now the immediate word that comes out is maturity...

"I have evolved, I feel evolved. Something that has come up is that we do not do what is considered -traditional- and I am not one to profess that I know all the traditions of Mexico, the steps and the music of what it should be exactly even though, I have stayed in Mexico for months and trained and taken several courses". 

Adriana also a second grade school teacher, believes in keeping her dancers healthy due to the nature of this type of dance. "The 'zapateado' is jarring on the joints. I Take it serious because I myself have had issues, so when that happens you think 'what can I do differently to prevent my dancers from having the same injuries". With that, she has applied -body intelligence- incorporating yoga and ballet training, so that they can be more in tune with their bodies.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts-Pacifico Dance Company
"You are not going to please everybody. There is good and bad entertainment. At this point in my life, I am good where I am at and with what I am doing. I have two teenage boys and it is very reassuring when they say 'mom that was beautiful'. They have seen it since they were little. So all of this is really reassuring and it is because of where I am at. You are constantly having to change in order to meet the needs or demands of the dancers, the company and my own. What I need to do to get that to happen".

Going back to the November 2nd celebration, Gainey believes there are going to be moments for everyone. With interactive and very visual situations. "It is always nice to see something fresh and different, I think it is a great idea bringing different types of artists and collaborators".

*The Chilena definition taken from The Mexican Folkloric Dance Company of Chicago's website.

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