FSU’S Los Dan­zantes presents ‘Christ­mas in Mex­ico’

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For the 31st year, Los Dan­zantes de Aztlán, Fresno State’s folk­loric Mex­i­can dance troupe, will present “Christ­mas in Mex­ico” from 4 to 6 p.m., Satur­day, Dec. 8, at the Satel­lite Stu­dent Union.

The show be­gan with the idea of com­bin­ing two pop­u­lar Mex­i­can cul­tural el­e­ments – Las Posadas, a tra­di­tional Latin Amer­i­can de­pic­tion of Joseph and Mary seek­ing shel­ter for the birth of baby Je­sus – along with tra­di­tional mu­sic and dance.

The late pro­fes­sor Ernesto Martinez com­bined the two el­e­ments to pro­duce the pos­i­tive, fam­ily-ori­ented, cul­tural show at Fresno State.

“The show is one of the key pro­duc­tions of Los Dan­zantes de Aztlán and was the first show of its kind in the Cen­tral Val­ley,” said Victor Tor­res, di­rec­tor of the dance group. “As other groups came to ex­is­tence, they fol­lowed in this tra­di­tion and now have their own Christ­mas/win­ter show.”

Tor­res be­gan di­rect­ing and pro­duc­ing the show in 1997 but re­mem­bers his in­volve­ment with “Christ­mas in Mex­ico” 22 years ago. The show, he says, made him feel at home:

“I still vividly re­call my first show in 1996. The mood and am­bi­ence was wel­com­ing and fa­mil­iar. It had the sense of a com­mu­nity gath­er­ing. The peo­ple were ex­cited and they re­minded me of my own fam­ily. I could see my own par­ents, even my abueli­tos (grand­par­ents), in the au­di­ence.”

It was an ex­pe­ri­ence Tor­res wanted to share with the com­mu­nity for years to come. In ad­di­tion to Los Dan­zantes de Aztlán, he in­vites lo­cal high school and Fresno City col­lege pro­grams to par­tic­i­pate.

“The goal here is to ex­pose them and to in­spire them to at­tend Fresno State. Their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the show has a pos­i­tive im­pact on these young stu­dents,” Tor­res said. “Many of my cur­rent dancers par­tic­i­pated in the show while in high school or at Fresno City Col­lege.”

The show is per­formed in the Satel­lite Stu­dent Union, which seats 880 peo­ple, but the past few years, there’s been a full house in at­ten­dance and peo­ple have been asked to stand. Tor­res’ most mem­o­rable show is that of last year when, for se­cu­rity rea­sons and in an at­tempt to get ev­ery­one into a seat, the mu­sic was stopped in the mid­dle of a per­for­mance.

“Last year, due to over-crowd­ing, the the­ater shut-off the mu­sic while my dancers were per­form­ing on stage. Not to be de­terred, and dis­play­ing great con­fi­dence and pro­fes­sion­al­ism, they con­tin­ued to dance a cap­pella – much to the en­joy­ment of the au­di­ence, which cheered and ap­plauded wildly and loudly.”

While there are some off-cam­pus op­tions, Tor­res wants to keep the per­for­mance on-cam­pus be­cause his goal is to bring the com­mu­nity to the uni­ver­sity. He wants par­ents and their chil­dren to phys­i­cally set foot on cam­pus and think about the pos­si­bil­ity of one day be­ing en­rolled at Fresno State.

Tor­res is hum­bled by his dancers’ ded­i­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism be­cause they not only per­form, but they help or­ga­nize and co­or­di­nate the event. Their work be­gins in Au­gust re­cruit­ing new un­der­grad­u­ates and pre­par­ing them for the show with up to four re­hearsals a week. A strong pro­po­nent of men­tor­ing, Tor­res in­cludes his stu­dents in most of the plan­ning so they can de­velop plan­ning and or­ga­ni­za­tional skills that trans­late to the pro­fes­sional world.

“As I stand at the podium and see a full house, and see the pres­i­dent, sev­eral col­lege deans and fel­low fac­ulty and staff col­leagues, I am in awe. I think about all the hard work and the sac­ri­fices my stu­dents and I made. I think about how hard my stu­dents worked to help make this hap­pen.”

At the end of the show, Tor­res hopes the au­di­ence walks away with a greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion for folk­loric dance as an art form, Mex­i­can cul­tural tra­di­tions, and a greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion and re­spect for Los Dan­zantes de Aztlán as artists and pro­fes­sion­als. He wants the com­mu­nity to feel and know that they are wel­comed on cam­pus and that there is a pro­gram that pro­motes a pos­i­tive self-iden­tity for Latino stu­dents.

Tick­ets are $10 pre­sale, $12 at the door and $5 for stu­dents. Park­ing on cam­pus is free on week­ends.

The show is spon­sored by the De­part­ment of Chi­cano and Latin Amer­i­can Stud­ies and the Col­lege of So­cial Sciences with sup­port from the In­struc­tion­ally Re­lated Ac­tiv­i­ties Grant by the As­so­ci­ated Stu­dents Inc.

For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact Dr. Victor Tor­res, Chi­cano and Latin Amer­i­can Stud­ies pro­fes­sor and Los Dan­zantes di­rec­tor, at 559.278.4115 or los­dan­zan­tes­deazt­[email protected]

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