R.Evolución Latina utilizes the arts to empower the Latino community to discover their full potential and this year’s “Beyond Workshop Series 2016,” a two-week dance intensive in March gave participants a chance to audition and perform at the choreographer’s festival weekend. We caught up with co-founders Luis Salgado and Gabriela Garcia to talk dance, the importance of festivals like this and their hopes for the future of R.Evolución Latina.
Where did the concept for the festival come from?
The concept came out of the need to thank our teachers who donated their time to our programs. RL felt that giving them a platform to showcase their work would be a great way to celebrate them. The same is true for our students in the adult program. The more we provide them a chance to discover their art, the more they relate to the mission of our organization and become inspired to give back. We also wanted to add the cultural exchange component, and that is the idea of adding Vania Masias and Dance Company D1 from Peru. We are celebrating Vania not only as a choreographer but as a leader that is transforming communities in Peru, utilizing dance as a tool for growth and leadership. D1’s mission went hand-in-hand with that of RL. The story line was that of RL’s teacher’s experience: inspiring their students through the arts, in this case, telling the story through dance. For this second choreographer festival, the show has a name: BOUNTIFUL, A Teacher’s Journey.
How does this tie in with the outreach programs that are already in place for R.Evolución Latina?
RL’s adult educational program is the perfect segue to the Choreographers Festival. For the past couple of years, the program was structured as a musical theater program incorporating acting, singing and dancing. This year for 2016, we dedicated the BWS to dance in order to provide our artistic community with various styles of dance in hopes that most of the students would be able to participate as dancers for BOUNTIFUL. In this way, they have a complete idea of RL’s philosophy and those who are able to take part in BOUNTIFUL have a platform to perform what they learned. We continue to explore this, for example, we are planning a focus more in acting, specifically Shakespeare, next year. The hope is that after 8 years of offering training in this classical style we can also celebrate Latino actors who are ready to speak the words of Shakespeare’s classical work under our mission of Going Beyond.
How do you stay true to the original vision for the organization?
For us it is all about “why” we are doing what we are doing. Why do we create educational programs for free for our communities? Because we have witnessed the impact it creates on the youth, children and the community. We check in with each other often to ask the question again and make sure we continue to focus on our mission through programs, events, and collaborations.
This season on Broadway is incredibly diverse, but most seasons are not. Film and television also have issues when it comes to diversity in casting. In your opinion, where does dance fall in this conversation?
Some forms of dance are more forgiving than others. In contemporary dance, for example, it doesn’t matter what color or race you are. If you are a great dancer and can dance the style of that specific company, you will most likely be hired. But in America, as we have seen with American Ballet Theater, it took 75 years before they hired an African American female dancer in the rank of principal dancer. It is interesting because ABT has a history of Latino principal dancers both men and women from Cuba, Argentina and Spain but hardly any African American dancers. European dance companies are much more open and welcoming to casting. The Royal Ballet, Paris Opera as well as many of the German classical and contemporary companies have much more diversity.
Luis, you’re on Broadway with On Your Feet at the moment. How are you juggling all of these things at once?
A very funny fact is that I just came out of rehearsal for a play by Quiara Alegria-Hudes that I am creating movement for and the production manager just said to me, “For how much work you have in your hands, you sure as “BLEEP” are on top of your “BLEEP.” That was the best complement I could get at this time of my creative career.
I am actually managing five projects at the moment. So to answer your question, create amazing teams that can support your work. In R.Evolución Latina, I have a wonderful team of directors who have been handpicked and collaborate incredibly well. They each have their individual strengths. For Bountiful, it is the same. There are 9 choreographers and 3 assistants who help me maintain the giant load of work we have. With Dirty Dancing, I am co- choreographing with the master Andy Blankenbuehler. He is a genius at being organized and I have learned a lot from him in keeping a great agenda and a calendar that balances all the responsibilities to handle. Then there is Daphne’s Dive, the play for Signature Theater, and a commissioned piece for Alvin Ailey and finally, the most important responsibility of all, my family.
Beyond the festival, where are your sights set? What does the immediate future look for R.Evolución Latina?
R.Evolución Latina is growing each year at a speed that we need to really analyze for the future. People all around the country and internationally want a presence, but the way we work is so unique and so “tailored” that we need to make sure the people sharing our mission are people that live by the mission. Right now, there is a call for us to visit Guatemala, go back to Peru, to develop and partner in Mexico, and to make more contributions in Argentina, plus we care deeply about the kids and communities we have built relationships with here in NYC for the last nine years. We are keeping our eyes wide open and selecting leaders who can truly stand by our mission and our name so that we can start branching out soon.