Depicting the human experience with a a wide range of of emotions, Rosa Rodriguez, founder of the LaRosa & Dancers dance company, presented “9 Mexican American Stories” at Fontana A.B. Miller High School.
With the help of five talented individuals as well as the Miller dance group, Rodriguez, a senior at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), presented an exciting blend of spiritual and real life situations pertaining to the Latino culture.
Using a simple but soulful vocabulary, Rodriguez explored issues such as pride, faith, sex, submission, food, infidelity, marriage, domestic violence and Immigration.
“I want to create a conscience on these issues; they are there and are affecting people every single day. This is us, and this is how we see things,” said Rodriguez, a former member of the Gluck Foundation Contemporary Dance Ensemble at UCR and a three-time winner of the Gluck Fellowship Award.
The show opened with a 10-minute video depicting the American and the Mexican cultures. In it, pictures of traditional events, places and people of both cultures explain the bond that attaches two ancestries.
The first tale, “Lost in Translation,” was performed by Rodriguez and Joey Navarrete, a 17-year old Miller senior who plans to attend Cal State Long Beach as a dance major next year. “Lost in Translation” explores language barriers immigrants face trying to adapt to the American culture.
“It's like somehow our parents depend on us because we know a little English,” said Rodriguez, whose parents migrated from Sonora, Mexico more than 30 years ago. “We are their voice; we are them when trying to convey a message.”
“Indecisiveness” and “Faith & Sex” explained why Latino women tend to view sex and virginity differently than women of other cultures. In the traditional Latino community, having sexual intercourse before marriage is banned due to religious beliefs, a cultural factor that creates conflict among Mexican American women who see the practice as normal.
To the rhythm of the tango, Rodriguez, Valerie Aguayo, Lisamarie Carlin, Deyanira Gutierrez, and Carla Zavala, executed “Submissive Women,” a tale that depicts domestic violence and marital abuse. Dancing behind curtains 80 percent closed and wearing red and black skirts, the dancers fought trying to survive emotions, but at the end abuse empowered them.
“I'm not a feminist, but I am all about empowering women. My father hit my mom once, and I saw it. That memory will stay with me forever. I want to end that cycle, I don't want any more kids to experience violence at home,” said Rodriguez, who also works as a host at a local restaurant to pay for tuition. “I hope people think twice before raising a hand to their wives. It's destructive.”
“Tamales,” choreographed in part by Emmanuel Soriano, a choir co-director at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Fontana, explored food, gossip and the relationship Latino people have with the kitchen. A melancholic piece, “Tamales” depicted how cooking evokes a sentiment of happiness and facilitates communication among families and friends.
“The kitchen is the center of universe for Latino families. It's where everything happens,” said Rodriguez, who said that she would still be playing softball if she had not become involved in dancing. “I can tell you hundreds of stories I heard while helping my mom cook.”
Speaking of stories, one of the most popular myths in the Latino culture is the “La LLorona,” or the “weeping woman.” La LLorona speaks of a beautiful woman who killed her children after having loved a man who ended i[ rejecting her. It represents the tragic result a sick relationship can bring to a marriage.
Rejection as well as infidelity could corrode any marriage. In the story “Infidelity and Marriage,” choreographer Zavala created a delicate and passionate performance about love, mistrust and pain. A couple faced the tough decision to continue marrying despite knowing about each other's infidelity.
With marriage come responsibilities and the traditional act of accepting the husband's last name. However, rejection within the Latino community could result when a woman deliberately rejects the last name. Thus, names such as Garcia-Smith or Perez-Jones could arise from such rejection, instead of the classic Garcia de smith or Perez de Jones.
Without a doubt, the climactic story of the night moved the audience into a thoughtful stage as Rodriguez and her group performed the story “Immigration.” Dressed in red and blue, the dancers appeared at one end with their hands stretched toward the American flag, which symbolized freedom and liberty. Step by step, the dancers, who represented documented and undocumented immigrants alike, moved toward the realization of the American dream, only to die in the process.
Smartly illuminated, and carefully executed, “9 Mexican American Stories” delighted a mixed audience of students and professors alike. Rodriguez hopes to continue presenting the ensemble after coming back from Argentina, where she hopes to learn about dance and music as well as their traditions.
“I don't know what the future holds for me, I only know that I'll be dancing for a very long time,” said Rodriguez.