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Newark Public Library’s Hispanic Heritage Month Salute Showcases Roots of Rhythm: The Latin American Dance Experience
Press Release August 16, 2006
For information contact: Ingrid Betancourt
(973) 733-3637

The swish and swirl of Latino music and movement will fill The Newark Public Library this fall, part of this year’s Annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration: Roots of Rhythm: The Latin American Dance Experience, which includes tango and salsa demonstrations and an exhibit exploring the social and political history of popular dance.

The opening reception features a lecture and live demonstrations of some Latino moves, followed by the spicy beat of a salsa band at 6 p.m., Thursday, September 14 in Centennial Hall at the Main Library, 5 Washington Street.

William Sánchez, executive producer of New Jersey Network’s show "Images/Imágenes" will explore the origins and hidden symbolism in many Latin American dances. Cultural Explosion follows with a short demonstration of salsa before inviting the public on to the dance floor.

"Every society and culture dances," said Ina Rimpau, curator of the dance exhibit and coordinator, with Ingrid Betancourt, of the program. "Dance is an expression of social values; from the tightly controlled moves of the 18th century French cotillion to the body-conscious contact dances like Reggaeton of the 21st century. Popular dance reflects the political and social reality of its times."

"We hope to inspire our guests to dance at the opening event, as well as the other programs scheduled over the two month celebration," Betancourt said.

First instituted as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, the celebration was expanded to span a month, from September 15 to October 15, in 1988. Latinos are America’s largest ethnic minority, comprising about 14 percent of the population, with more than 1 million people of Hispanic heritage living in New Jersey.

While some communities commemorate Hispanic heritage with a month of activities and events, The Newark Public Library celebrates Hispanic heritage all year long through its extensive collection of Spanish-language materials, the Sala Hispanoamericana and its Spanish-language programs and events, notes Library Director Wilma J. Grey.

"We’ve had so many interesting and informative displays, I look forward to the celebration every year. This year our exhibit is not only very informative, it’s just plain fun, too," said Grey, adding that all the events are free and open to the public.

Installed in the second floor gallery of the Main Library, the exhibit features pictures, graphics, instruments, maps, and even video clips that explore the marriage of Latin America’s different cultures--indigenous, European and African--through the evolution of its popular dances. Displays will explore how some dances served a political cause and how others came to be identified with specific countries or cultures. It runs from September 12 through November 11 and is free to the public and on view during regular library hours.

"It is fascinating to see how time, politics and culture changed dances from their original manifestations to their modern forms," Rimpau said.

Featured dances include the tango, once shunned by decent society as fit only for bordellos and dance halls, which has since come to symbolize all that is romantic, and merengue, used as a rallying cry for the disenfranchised rural population of the Dominican Republic in the 1800s and as a unifying force against the U.S. occupation of that country in the 1900s.

Special presentations throughout the exhibit include four Saturday afternoons of dance, various children’s programs and a special presentation of Jose Can Speak, by Latino Flavored Productions, a New York theater group. The play, a sequel to the popular Yo Soy Latina, is a series of monologues that explore the Latin American experience in the United States from a male perspective and is offered on Saturday, September 23 at 2 p.m.

On September 30 at 2 p.m., the Grammy-nominated "Los Pleneros de la 21" will explore the Puerto Rican music and dance tradition and demonstrate the plena and bomba dances.

Tango will be featured Saturday, October 14 in a special cabaret-style presentation “Tarde de Tango” at 2 p.m. in the Library’s Centennial Hall by Teatro Sí, the premier Hispanic theater arts company of New Jersey. Carolina Jaurena and Carlos Acuña, the 2006 tango dance couple winners on the popular program Sábado Gigante on the Univision television network, will perform.

Musicians Sumac Punchau and the Paterson-based dance group Taky Llaqta explore the intricate traditions and haunting music native to the Andean region of South America at 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 28.

The Calpulli Mexican Dance Company wraps up the Library’s Hispanic Heritage Celebration by exploring the images and sounds of Mexico with musical group Bamba NY on Saturday, November 18 at 2 p.m. in Centennial Hall.

The Library’s Hispanic Heritage Celebration is supported in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the Essex County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs.

For more information and to arrange gallery tours, please contact: Ingrid Betancourt or Ina Rimpau, exhibit curator, 973-733-3637.


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