Floricanto is now entering its 49th year of existence. Through the years, we have become so much more than just a Mexican folk dance company. We are educators of our youth. We are a community resource. We are a bridge through which other communities have been able to interact with our community. We are, in these days of quick turnovers and disappearing dance companies, a constant in the folklorico world. And we are, we hope, a window into the future of folklorico. A world that is as wide and full of opportunity as this country, where there will be university folklorico groups, community folklorico groups, regional folklorico touring groups, national folklorico touring groups and, yes, international touring groups whose provenance is the United States.
During the coming years we will continue to do what we have always done. Represent our community through our music and dance. Because it is time, we have also broadened our horizons and we will not only represent where we came from; we will also feature our current moment in time.
One of my artistic endeavors took me to Veracruz a few years back where the syncopated rhythms of its music are in direct opposition to the very symmetrical sounds of traditional Mexican music. In Contrast, the fandango musician and dancer are as one. It is not about steps or body isolations, it is about rhythms. The dancer learns to create his/her own percussive sound and become part of the music by establishing a dialogue with the musician(s). For me it was a dual pleasure. Not only did I learn to dominate these new rhythms, I also found the vehicle for my personal artistic voice, a Chicana voice.
The Chicano visual arts movement is now well established and is almost 50 years old. The Chicano theater movement has also been well represented for at least that long. Over the last 30 years Chicano music has also developed strong proponents. We in folklorico have just begun to evolve in that direction. I am pleased to note that there are a handful of companies throughout the Southwest that have begun to create and evolve an aesthetic called Chicano Dance. And so it is this Chicana's goal to continue moving forward in that direction. My desire to create movement that echoes my past and speaks to the present as it moves towards the future is now.
It is also worth noting that Floricanto continues to evolve. We are now 49 years old! As part of that evolution we now have a physical space where we work and thrive. We have had one for 10 years- The Floricanto Center for the Performing Arts. Here we offer classes and programs accessible to the whole community. And our new Artistic Director is Christie Rios. She is not new to the organization. Christie has been the Director of Programs for the Center for over 14 years and assistant Director of Danza Floricanto/USA for over 17. Under her direction, the Center will reaffirm its leadership in the Arts in our community and Los Angeles at large, and move Floricanto well into the 21st century.
Danza Floricanto/USA, also known as Floricanto Dance Theatre, was founded in 1975, is the oldest existing professional Mexican folk dance troupe in Southern California. From Aztec rituals to the vibrant fiestas of today's Jalisco, from the African influenced tropics of Veracruz to the conflictive realities of the Chicano experience, Danza Floricanto/USA presents the bold, colorful panorama of its Mexican heritage as it interacts with its American reality.
Danza Floricanto/USA, under the direction of Gema Sandoval, has recreated the movement, costume, and song of 17 different regions of Mexico, and countless works on the Chicano experience which celebrate cultural identity for the Chicano/Latino community and the immigrant experience for the rest of America.
This award-winning, 46 year old company, has been enthusiastically received on tour throughout California and the American Southwest. Its mission is to preserve the Mexican culture, help validate it as a cultural expression of the Chicano/Latino people in the American Southwest; to create awareness for it through the medium of music and dance; and to explore ways in which it can connect with mainstream American culture.
Floricanto does this in several ways: By touring full concert presentations throughout the United States, conducting workshops, lecture demonstrations, educational assemblies and residencies, seeking partnerships with like organizations of other ethnicities and art forms and by providing after-school alternatives through Mexican folk and Chicano dance for the youth in our immediate community.
Nestled in the heart of Boyle Heights Los Angeles, The Floricanto Center for the Performing Arts offers its audiences affordable, family programming with a Latino/Chicano perspective and a focus on dance.
Sandoval and Floricanto are the proud recipients of the 1994 and 1995 Lester Horton awards for staging of traditional dance, the year 2000 CAC fellowship award in dance, the Irvine Foundation's California Dancemaker's Fellowship in Dance in 2001. In 2004 the company and choreographer were awarded a grant from the New England Foundation of the Arts' National Dance Project to create Fandango Without Borders. In 2006 The Irvine Foundation's From Creation to Performance Award and the National Association for Latino Arts and Culture supported the company's creation of Un Zapateado Chicano-Rhyhmic Footprints. And in 2009 CounterPulse gave seed monies for the creation of Alma Llanera-Spirit Of the Plains
Immigrant Stories (2015) - Stories inspired by first hand accounts of men, women, and children who came to the United States in search of a better life. All told through the medium of dance.
Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead Celebration (2001) - El Camino College, LATC, Curtis Center, Oakland, Shannon Center, Whittier College, and Nate Holden Theatre, respectively. The work received rave reviews, and since its creation, it has become a once a year tradition somewhere in Los Angeles.
Navidad en Whittier (2004) - An evening of dance, and music inspired by the rich traditions of the Mexican community as told thought the eyes of an "abuelita" (grandmother). Floricanto continues to reprise this work at the Shannon Center as part of its holiday programming.
From Acapulco to Manila, An Untold Pacific Rim Story (2003) - A celebration of the music and dance traditions of the Mexican and Filipino people and their mutual influence and transformation through two centuries of trade with Spanish galleons. This was a collaboration with Kayamanan Ng Lahi, Southern California's premier Filipino dance company.
Opening Night of the Los Angeles Dance Kaleidoscope - Los Angeles View (1999) - Gema Sandoval was invited to create a 20 minute piece related to the theme of her view of Los Angeles. Fandango Angeleno, premiered July 16, 1999 to very positive reviews, at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex.
Si Se Puede/Yes You Can (1998) - CSULA's 50th Anniversary Committee commissioned Gema Sandoval to create a work to be premiered at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex.
From 1994 to 2000 Floricanto's chamber ensemble was part of the Music Center on Tour Education Division and the Orange County Performing Arts Center educational program, helping to instill pride and awareness for the Mexican culture in the children of Los Angeles, reaching about 100,000 children over that period of time.
Over the years, we have come to specialize in artistic collaborations, some of the most memorable have been:
Alma Llanera/Spirit of the Plains (2009) - A two hour dance production based on Rudolfo Anaya's novel, Bless Me Ultima, which deals with (Antonio) a young boy's rite of passage into manhood, the straddling of two cultures and the importance of the values that span across our cultural divide. Choreography by Gema Sandoval and performance by her company blend the vocabulary of traditional Mexican folk dance-indigenous, African influenced with contemporary expressions. Danza Floricanto/USA brings to the stage a vibrant dance rendition of a boy's coming of age story. The work premiered at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena on May 7, 2010.
Un Zapateado Chicano-Rhythmic Footprints (2007) - Funded by the Irvine Foundation's From Creation to Performance and the National Latino Arts and Culture Fellowships, in Un Zapateado Chicano Rhythmic Footprints Gema Sandoval's 18-member company — with music direction and original music by Cesar Castro — takes the audience on a thrilling exploration of the music and dance of Veracruz from the folkloric beginnings to contemporary Chicano life. The work premiered at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex in October, 2007.
Fandango Without Borders (2004) - Funded by NEFA's National Dance Project, celebrates the dance and music inspired by the music from Veracruz, Mexico, and the strongest influence of the contemporary Chicano sound. Originally presented at the Ford Amphitheatre, this was a collaboration with Grammy Award winning, Chicano band music sensation, Quetzal. The project was reprised in the Spring '05 in Seattle's Washington University and at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex in Los Angeles.
From Acapulco to Manila - A Story from the Pacific Rim (2002, '03) - A collaboration with Kayamanan Ng Lahi Philippine Dance company on a two evening extravaganza commemorating the musical and dance traditions of the Mexican and Filipino people and their mutual influence and transformation through two centuries of trade with Spanish galleons.
Bilingual Foundation of the Arts (2000, '01, '03) - Floricanto partnered with the BFA in their adaptation of the film Salon Mexico in September, 2001. The play won critical acclaim from the Spanish speaking media. This was followed by the also critically acclaimed Solamente Una Vez - The Story of Agustín Lara.
Latino LA (2000) - A full evening dance production, curated by Gema Sandoval, based on the history and accomplishments of Latinos in Southern California. Invited guests were dance companies from the Salvadorian, Bolivian, Peruvian Nicaraguan, and Guatemalan communities. The evening was the beginning of Floricanto's 25th anniversary celebration at the Ford Amphitheatre.
Mothers and Daughters (1999) - A work about the process of passing on culture and tradition and making it part of the artistic vision and inspiration for the next generation, presented at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex in CSULA. For this performance Floricanto acted as producer and shared the stage with Lula Washington & Dancers, Dulce Capadocia's Silayan Dance Company, and Anjani's Kathak Dances of India.
Si Se Puede/Yes You Can (1998) - A collaboration with Loretta Livingston on a themed work based on the speeches by Cesar Chavez, at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex, in Los Angeles. One of the pieces of the program, The Promise, was selected for performance at the prestigious Los Angeles Kaleidoscope Dance Festival in July, 1988 and again in July 2000. The whole program was named one of the ten best dance productions of 1998 by the LA WEEKLY.
The Aguila Real Project (1996, '98) - A multidisciplinary collaboration with Mexican artists, Angelica Aragon and Roberto D'Amico premiered in Los Angeles, in 1996, and toured Washington D.C.