Bailadores de Bronce dance troupe celebrates 40th anniversary
Bailadores de Bronce, a Seattle-based community troupe specializing in Mexican song and dance, celebrates its 40th anniversary Saturday, April 21 at Meany Hall on the University of Washington campus.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Bailadores de Bronce 40th Anniversary7:30 p.m. Saturday at Meany Hall, University of Washington, Seattle; $20 (800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com).
In a Bailadores de Bronce performance of a dance called "El Sauce y La Palma," the Seattle folkloric dance troupe saturates its movements with quick, intricate footwork that mirrors the tapping of the drums. Women twirl, holding up the hems of their long, full skirts to display a burst of red and white ruffles.
It's dizzyingly energetic, but for the dancers, performing is about more than pretty costumes. Bailadores de Bronce is about passing the torch and promoting Mexican cultural identity.
"(Bailadores de Bronce) is a bridge between Mexico and America," said Jesus Rodriguez, a Bailadores advisory-board member.
In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the group is presenting a gala performance on Saturday at Meany Hall at the University of Washington.
Bailadores de Bronce has come a long way since its inception as a student organization with 10 dancers at the University of Washington. UW student Josefina Jaramillo created the group in 1972 to preserve the richness of Mexican culture and history.
In the early '70s, the University of Washington recruited many minority groups, including Latino students from Texas. The Chicano movement was picking up momentum and many Latino students faced with homesickness and alienation were eager to foster a community where they could promote positive images of Mexico.
"(Bailadores de Bronce) is a way of finding a family, being so far away from home," said Carlos Alaniz, who moved here from El Paso, Texas, to attend the University of Washington.
Forty years later, Bailadores de Bronce is a nonprofit organization boasting a membership of 55 dancers. The tight-knit group, which performs at Mexican-American functions and festivals, has recently acquired sponsorship from the Seattle Mariners and Seattle Sounders.
For the Olivas family, Bailadores de Bronce is truly a family affair. After a few months dancing in the group, Christina Olivas wound up marrying another Bailadores dancer; now, one of their two children participates in the children's dance group, Joyas Mestizas. Bailadores dancers often mentor kids in the younger troupe.
"Passing the torch" this way is what Bailadores is all about, said Rodriguez.
Living in the United States as a minority can be a daunting experience. In the face of discrimination, stereotypes and alienation, Bailadores de Bronce is a symbol of resilience and cultural identity for Mexicans and Mexican Americans alike, according to the group's artistic director Jessica Rohwer.
"There are many negative images of Mexicanos all over the place (and) we try to show a beautiful side of Mexico through music and dance," said Sara Contreras, director of Joyas Mestizas.
Youth are especially vulnerable to the pressure to abandon their cultural heritage, according to Juan Barco, a local bajo sexto musician and a well-known spokesman from Seattle's Mexican-American cultural community.
"At school, assimilation bares its teeth and tries to swallow us up," said Barco, who grew up following crops in America with his migrant family.
Of the music traditions explored by Bailadores de Bronce, the Jalisco region's mariachi music is probably best-known to North Americans. But the upcoming gala showcases song and dance from multiple regions, including Chiapas, Yucatan, Guerrero and others.
If Rohwer has her way, this will be one of many such regional showcases to come.
"I'd like there to be a future for my girls to carry on with the tradition," she said. "I'd like there to be a 50th and 60th anniversary."
Sandi Halimuddin: 206-464-3765 or firstname.lastname@example.org.