With cross cultural understanding as an educational mission, Dance Kids of Monterey County has created an annual holiday tradition advancing the music and dances of Mexico and the countries south of our border. The idea of melding European and Hispanic music to create Cascanueces: A Latino Nutcracker, has brought together mariachi musicians and folkloric choreographers, in a project designed to educate young children about the culture indigenous to Hispanic familial background as a bridge to European artistic culture.
It is vital to American communities, with a rich expanse of culture, to have young people honor and recognize historical heritage and how it might relate to societal influences. Regardless of ethnic origin, the historical study of cultures is fundamental to the study of society; how to understand people and human behavior. We come to understand how the world around us evolves and how people react to life and circumstances, how they live, what they are trained to live by, how that training affects their lives and how they respond to it. It helps us understand and honor cultural differences. It is with this educational opportunity that Dance Kids will help build bridges beyond differences and help facilitate harmony in our communities.
The Latino Nutcracker project was launched in 2012 as a collaboration between William Faulkner, world renowned Jalisco harpist and Dance Kids of Monterey County. The U.C. Berkeley graduate formed the Mariachi Mixtlán, and in the summer of 1981 first toured México. Mr. Faulkner is currently on staff at Hartnell College in Salinas, California and travels to Mexico regularly and is the official harpist for the town of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico.
The collaboration continued with choreographers Maria Luisa Colmenarez and Rudy Garcia.
Maria Luisa Colmenarez, Mexican Folk Dancer/Artist, has served as Artistic Director for Grupo Mizoc de Sacramento, Danzantes del Alma de UC Davis and Alegria de San Jose. Performance highlights include touring with Linda Ronstadt’s Mas Canciones, the pro-omnibus performance at Candlestick Park for Pope John Paul II and six seasons as a performer at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. She is an NEA Folk Arts grant recipient, former California Arts Council, Artist-in-Residence and Dance Grant Panelist. She is a member of the National Association of Latinos in Arts and Culture (NALAC) and is president of the federal nonprofit, Danzantes Unidos de California, which in spring of 2006 & 2007 convened in Whittier, CA over 1000 Folklorico dancers for a weekend of workshops, concerts and seminars. She is a faculty member of the International Mariachi Conference in Las Cruces, NM and the International Mariachi Festival in San Jose, CA. As a visual artist, she has received various awards and honorable mention for her work in ceramic, glass and bronze.
Rudy F. Garcia began his dance training while a student at Stanford University. He danced with many Bay area Mexican dance groups, including El Ballet Folklorico de Stanford, Flor de la Esperanza, Xochipilli, Los Lupeños de San José and Alegría de San José. He has served as Artistic Director of Los Lupeños and Alegría de San José. In addition, he has performed with the IL Quartiere Italiano, Ballet Folklorico Peruano de Patricia Llosa and in Jubilee American Dance Theater. He also performs with El Mosquito, CASA del Son tradicional Mexicano. As an avid researcher of Mexican folk culture and history, he has established a vast network of information resources and has served as a consultant to groups throughout the state. His “Folklorico Handbook” is currently in use as a textbook for the Folklorico curriculum in colleges throughout California and in Arizona. He is also a contributing author in the book “Dancing Across frontiers: Danzas y Bailes Mejicanos”. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Folk Arts grant and has served as a California Arts Council Dance Panelist. He currently serves as Treasurer on the Board of directors for the statewide organization, Danzantes Unidos de California, which annually hosts a Mexican dance festival that brings over a thousand Folklorico dancers together in California. He also serves on the Board of Directors of World Arts West, which presents the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. Professionally, he is a Principal Engineer at KLA-Tencor.
Now in its fifth year of touring Monterey County, Dance Kids of Monterey County will once again present performances of “Cascanueces: A Folklorico Nutcracker,” in South County schools in November.
This year, 10 students each from elementary schools in San Ardo, San Lucas, Greenfield, and King City, will study a dance with two folkloric dancers and one musician for six weeks prior to the school performance. These students will then perform with the professional troupe in the assembly at their respective schools.
Ten mariachi musicians will perform Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece rewritten by Salinas-born Jalisco harpist, William Faulkner. The program includes the four divertissements from the second act and the much-loved “Sugar Plum Fairy” solo, performed by a Dance Kids’ ballerina in a traditional tutu. Folkloric dancers perform four traditional, and very different, dance styles from four Mexican states. Together the program bridges cultures and fosters growth and understanding of diversity through the art of dance.
The November 2018 tour date of “Cascanueces” is reserved by South County schools early each school year in the anticipation of a colorful and educational assembly. The tour begins in San Ardo with performances in San Lucas, King City, Greenfield and Salinas.
At least two of the schools invite other schools to their assemblies, allowing Dance Kids to impact more than seven schools in one tour date. In November 2017, there were more than 1,500 audience members in elementary through high school in attendance. The day culminated in a performance at Hartnell College in Salinas to a standing-room-only, 250-seat music hall setting.
Dance Kids of Monterey County, founded in 1993, is a non-profit group with the objective of bringing the art of the dance and theater experience to all youngsters in Monterey County. In 25 years, the organization has produced more than 50 productions, including month-long summer theater intensives, traditional and full-length story ballets.
Dance Kids now supports an ongoing afterschool learning program in a Monterey Peninsula Unified School District location, in addition to its popular annual performances of “Nutcracker” at Carmel’s Sunset Cultural Center and “Cascanueces.”
The two directors/choreographers for “Cascanueces: A Folklorico Nutcracker,” husband-and-wife team Maria Luisa Colmenarez and Rudy Garcia, were consultants on the Academy Award-nominated Pixar animated film “Coco.”
Your donation can help us visit more schools and increase the number of performance days. If you would like to support our production of Cascanueces: A Folklórico Nutcracker, please call us at (831) 622-9008, or email us at email@example.com.