Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Latino performance review does not disappoint

Latino Expressions is Fantástico
Jordan Gamble, NDSMCOBSERVER.COM, 3/31/09

For the packed house at downtown South Bend's Century Center Friday, Latin Expressions 2009, "Ritmo Latino," did not disappoint.
The annual performance revue, organized by Notre Dame's La Alianza organization for Latino students, featured 19 acts by various campus groups, all with a Latino flavor.

The show started with a dance act, the only one sponsored directly by La Alianza. In a mix of ballet and ballroom, 10 dancers acted out a five-minute "West Side Story," complete with blue and red outfits and two star-crossed dance partners. It was a great and dramatic way to begin the evening, since it pulled the audience into a rousing and rather professional routine.

The rest of the show was a mix of group acts and individual dance, singing, or instrument performances by Notre Dame students. Ballet Folkorico Azul Y Oro, Tango ND, La Punta Hondureña and La Bomba Puertorriqueña all had great dance performances. One performance, called "Danza De Los Viejitos (Dance of the Old Men)" by Ballet Folkorico Azul y Oro, featured four male students dressed up in ponchos and masks who danced with canes and did a comedy routine set to music. Chorale and instrumental groups like Mariachi ND and Coro Primavera presented two heartfelt songs in the first act.

With Latin Expressions, the Latino students at Notre Dame have a chance to express their cultures, but the annual show also brings in students of all backgrounds, nationalities, and talents. Student groups like Troop ND, First Class Steppers and Project Fresh, which are not necessarily Latin groups, lent their usual routines a new flavor. Troop ND performed to a mix of several Latin songs in their high-energy dance. In the second act, the men of First Class Steppers pounded out a routine, and rhymed "Don't think it's crazy" with "First Class guys like Latin ladies," which got a cheer from the audience. The "First Class Chicas" then took the stage for an entertaining workout-video inspired routine. Wearing sweatbands and running shorts, they urged the audience to get in shape with the help of Latin dance moves.

The different performances were strung together by two emcees, seniors Maria Moreno and Danny Rosas Alvarez. Besides introducing the upcoming performers, the two were an act all their own. Moreno's obsession with telenovelas and Alvarez's scheming to steal Moreno's choreography were running jokes, but right after intermission, the two also pulled several audience members onstage for a dance contest. A mix of high school seniors (here for Notre Dame's Spring Visitation Weekend) and college students competed for audience approval while dancing to some '90s Latin pop. The winner received thunderous applause, but no formal award.

Latin Expressions was a night for real awards, however. Father Tom Eckert, C.S.C., received the Julian Samora Faculty Award for his dedication to improving Latin student life at Notre Dame. Father Eckert, currently the rector of Duncan Hall, started Notre Dame's Latino Student Ministry after his years of working in Mexico, Chile, and Peru. Two Notre Dame juniors also received the Julian Samora Scholarship Award.

"Ritmo Latino" is really an accomplishment for La Alianza and all the students who participated. The show, with more than one hundred performers, has outgrown the campus theaters of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's. But Latin Expressions also had no problem filling the huge venue at the Century Center - the tickets sold out at least a half-hour before show time, and for the latecomers seats were a hot commodity. Choreographed lighting, a respectable sound system, and a simple but sizable stage really made a professional show.

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