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Queens Chronicle

Mestizo Dance Company goes traditional at Thalia Spanish Theatre

Dancers shimmy from west coast to east

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Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 12:17 pm, Wed Nov 21, 2012.

Colombia is roughly the size of Texas and almost the same shape — only with a more jagged border. And like the Lone Star State, with its cowboys, Dallas sophisticates, Austin liberals, Hispanics and oil tycoons, Colombia hosts a bevy of different groups and ethnicities as well.

In the 90-minute show “Colombia de Fiesta” the Mestizo Dance Company whips the attendees through the country’s myriad of different cultures and regions. “Whips” because the dances seem to spin and contract between conservative and risque and among very diverse regions.

Drums begin the show. The white walls of the Thalia Spanish Theatre in Sunnyside fill with projected pictures of Colombia as male and female dancers begin to shimmy onto the stage.

The first dance depicts the indigenous culture of the Muisca people. The dancers wear grass skirts, which just barely cover their derrieres, and bejeweled, golden headdresses. They skillfully twirl and shake around at a dizzying pace. The next two numbers introduce two more indigenous cultures — the Paeces and the Wayuu — and then the show graduates to the extremely diverse west coast.

There the music stems from four main influences: European, African, religious syncretism and folklore. The costumes range from flowing skirts with about as many colors as there were dances in the show — 21 in total — to short little numbers.

Next the dancers take the audience to the Andes Mountains, where more than 90 percent of Colombians live. The dances show off the pride in the country’s crop of coffee beans and then travel to the towns where people huck their goods — embroidered shoes and bushels of bananas.

There’s a dance in which mothers cradle their babies — dolls swaddled in blankets — that marks one instance when nonSpanish speakers might miss some nuance. Perhaps ironically, as the dancers rock their baby dolls, the male singer sings about their lovers using their money on another man. The lyrics are in Spanish, but the introduction was given in both languages, as per Thalia Spanish Theatre’s goal as Queens only bilingual theater.

Nevertheless it’s not necessary to be bilingual to enjoy the show — even though most attendees at last Sunday’s show knew both English and Spanish and even sang along to one of the ending songs.

Then it’s into the rain forests. Dancers don spandex unitards and slither through the performance space. The music is rhythmic and the dancing hypnotizing. (Although, one serpentine dancer’s gyrating might go a little overboard for some as she moved up, down and around a pole on the side of stage.)

Next the dancers travel to the eastern plains region, known for its cattle and Spanish rhythms, and then the show ends on the opposite coast from where it began, the Atlantic. Here the dances mix together Indian and African influences, culminating with the dancers letting down their hair, pulling on denim bras and skimpy bottoms and shaking it like they were at the club.

‘Colombia de Fiesta’

When: though Dec. 9, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.

Where: Thalia Spanish Theatre, 41-17 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside

Tickets: $30; $27 students and seniors, $25 on Fridays, thaliatheatre.org

(718) 729-3880

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