Esteban Ortiz and Elda M.Ortiz show a dance step from Vera Cruz, Mexico outside the Watsonville Cabrillo College Center. Photo: Tarmo Hannula

Esperanza del Valle, Pajaro Valley’s long-standing Mexican folklorico dance group, is preparing for the “Reinforcing Cultural Identity” conference coming to Cabrillo College on Aug. 15-25.

The group will welcome Ballet Folklórico del Puerto de Veracruz de la Universidad Veracruzana, from Mexico, to offer a series of performances and classes blending the two groups’ talents that will be offered at both Cabrillo College’s campuses in Watsonville and Aptos.

The outfit from Universidad Veracruzana (UV) will feature 24 dancers and their musical accompaniment, the five-piece Nematatlin. They will be in residence to teach and perform dance and music of Veracruz.

Esperanza del Valle members, Janet Johns, Ruby Vasquez and Leti Ponce just returned from Veracruz where they met with UV faculty, signing an agreement for a four-year collaboration between Cabrillo College, Esperanza del Valle and the UV.

Dr. Graulty Dean of Cabrillo’s VAPA Division and Dance Department Director David King were also part of the delegation to UV.

“Our dance company has been collaborating with dancers and musicians in Veracruz for 35 years,” said Johns, the artistic director of EDV. “Because Cabrillo College is a designated Hispanic Serving Institution it is important that we recognize and celebrate the culture of 50% of our students by establishing this collaboration.”

Johns said that the “Reinforcing Cultural Identity” conference is the kick-off event for the four-year project.

“When all of the participants perform in the Watsonville Plaza, with all the colorful outfits and musicians, it will be simply amazing,” Johns said.

“Reinforcing Cultural Identity” will offer a variety of classes for youth, teens, students and adults/seniors. Organizers said participants do not have to have a music or dance background.

Classes include:

● Dance Classes: Beginning, intermediate and advanced levels of the son jarocho from the Port City of Veracruz and Boca del Rio.

● Master Level Dance Seminar: For professional dancers and directors of folklorico groups, taught by Angeles Luna and Daniel del Valle Hernandez

● Music Classes: Offered by Nematatlin musicians in jarana, requinto/guitar, violin and versada jarocha/voice at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels.

● Lectures and Demonstrations: Learn the cultural heritage of Veracruz.

● Community Performances: Participate in a community performance of son jarocho “Todos Bailan Su Son” and a fandango for all to enjoy.

More info

“ROSTROS DE MEXICO” performance will be staged at the Mello Center for the Performing Arts, 250 East Beach Street in Watsonville, 8pm Aug. 17 and 3pm Aug. 18.

The “RAICES DEL PUEBLO” performance will be staged at the Crocker Theater at Cabrillo College, 6500 Lower Perimeter Road in Aptos, 8pm Aug. 24 and 3pm Aug. 25.

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.