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.
Cascanueces, a thirty minute exploration in dance and music through the dreams of a young Maria, is based on the time honored story of Nutcracker. Maria dreams of the dances, land and music of her extended family and is entertained by folkloric dancers, in colorful traditional costumes and mariachi musicians. She travels thru Hispanic culture and is visited by the Sugar Plum Fairy in a traditional European tutu and Pointe shoes dancing to the rewritten version of the classic variation.
This year we will be adding a new dimension to the event. Six weeks before the production date, a professional folkloric dancer will instruct 10 students from each school, in one of the dances of the production. The young people will then perform, with the professionals, at their school assembly.
Dance Kids arrive forty-five minutes before the presentation to prepare the stage for the musicians and dancers with a portable set piece. Dancers will require a room for changing costumes. The musicians and dancers enjoy interaction with the audience after the production for 15 minutes.