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Davis, California

Friday, July 12, 2024

UC student organization Danzantes del Alma invites the community to experience annual performance

“Historias de Nuestra Tierra” will showcase the group’s dancing and share the importance of Latinx tradition and history


By MIA BALTIERRA — features@theaggie.org


Danzantes del Alma, established in 1977, is a student retention program under the Cross Cultural Center that aims to foster student leadership and academic excellence through the traditional Mexican art of Ballet Folklórico. Over the years, the group has established a presence in the community of Davis, holding events year-round and providing resources for students to succeed artistically and academically.

“We do Mexican traditional dance,” said Fernanda Serna, a fourth-year statistics and economics double major and a student manager. “Some of our dancers learned from maestros in Mexico, and some learned from people here in the U.S. We are trying to stick to what they do in Mexico. We try to keep it authentic so people who know about it feel we are representing it the right way.”

Danzantes del Alma welcomes all skill levels to join their group, teaching basic movements in the beginning of fall quarter and building up to more technical steps as the school year progresses, according to second-year animal science major and student instructor Jat Cruz.

With the support of a non-student instructor, Danzantes del Alma is completely student-run. The organization has a board of 13 members who organize practices, foster a welcoming and successful community and prepare members for the group’s main event — their annual show.

The group is currently at full membership capacity at 63 students, but some members still feel Danzantes del Alma is not recognized on campus. Members, including third-year psychology and Spanish double major and this year’s annual show chair Christopher Lopez, hope the annual performance will bring attention to the organization and give students the opportunity to learn about Latinx traditions.

“It shows support to the minorities here on campus,” Lopez said. “It shows involvement and appreciation. It seems like our group gets pushed under the rug, so I think it’s important for the community to show up and show their appreciation and support […] and learn something.”

This year marks the 44th annual performance for the group but only the second annual performance that will be held in the Mondavi Center, a venue that the group fought hard to secure. 

“We are reclaiming the power we have in this campus and [showing] how our communities are so strong,” Serna said.

In preparation for the event, troupe members practice nine hours per week in fall and winter quarters and up to 20 hours per week leading up to the show. During practices, members learn dance steps as well as the history behind them. 

“There are different dances for each state in Mexico,” said third-year design and communications double major and dance troupe member Michelle Mendoza. “They all vary in different ways, but each one tells a specific story.”

Danzantes del Alma hopes to convey not only the stories in the dances but also the joyous spirit of Mexican culture, according to fourth-year aerospace engineering major and administrative chair Juan Carlos. The theme for this year’s performance is “Historias de Nuestra Tierra,” which directly translates to “history of our land.” 

“We are also trying to bring a piece of Mexico to this place,” Carlos said. “We are trying to bring people who haven’t been to Mexico in a very long time back. Their experiences, the colors, the music — it’s a way for them to be reminded of what home feels like.”

Lopez shared the goals of the organization in planning the show.

“We are trying to implement cultural values and the rebirth of Mexican culture in a way that represents who we are and what we stand for,” Lopez said. “Not only as a community, but as individuals who have a past, who have a heritage and who have a culture they long to represent.”

Members encourage all students to come see the show, regardless of background or major, as they believe everyone can get something out of the experience. 

“You don’t have to be a part of this community; you don’t have to speak the language or understand the dance even,” Mendoza said. “You are not just seeing and hearing the sounds. You are experiencing it, and we want people to connect with us as a bigger community more than just [individuals].”

Students can expect a colorful, joyous celebration of music and dance at the performance on April 22, including brightly colored costumes and props depicting a narrative. 

The performance will include “a lot of noises, a lot of skirt work and a lot of movement of the arms,” said second-year animal science major and student instructor Jat Cruz. “We have long skirts that go all the way down to your ankles, […and] a lot of olas [waves].”  

Doors to the annual show open at 5 p.m. and the performance begins at 6 p.m. Visit mondaviarts.com for more information and to purchase tickets.

Written by: Mia Baltierra — features@theaggie.org