sjDANCEco is bringing back its free Spring Festival this weekend

It’s National Dance Week and this weekend, as we emerge from pandemic hibernation, the Spring Dance Festival arrives to revive body and soul.

The annual event presented by sjDANCEco celebrates 20 years of performing a wide range of dances – from Eastern Indian Bharatanatyam to hip-hop and from traditional Aztec to classical ballet. The event’s new, expanded format now offers free admission to two full days of shows and classes at the Eastridge Center in San Jose.

The festival opens Saturday at 11 a.m. with Indigenous Mexican company Calpulli Tonalehqueh from San Jose performing an ancient Aztec ritual. During the ceremony, the drums call out the four elements – wind, water, fire and earth – and the four cardinal directions – North (Tezcatlipoca), East (Quetzalcoatl), South (Huitzilopochtli) and West (Xipe Totec) – with the Le Grand Cosmos, Mother Earth and Center — our hearts. The dancers, dressed in elaborate feathered regalia, carry the elements in the form of an atecocolli (conch) blown to summon the winds, as well as incense burners invoking fire and conveying prayers to ancestors over white smoke fragrant. The ritual asks permission to be present and call upon the gods to guide and protect the space.

With an incredible variety of ages and cultural backgrounds on stage, each day features two one-hour slots (12pm-1pm and 5pm-6pm) filled with short performances by troupes or professional dancers. They include sjDANCEco, Hermosura Dance Productions, Samba Colorado, Los Gatos Ballet, N’Fungola Sibo African Dance and Drum Company, Gianna Burright, Shakti Bhaki, Diablo Ballet, Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose, Post:Ballet, Isabelle Edgar, Los Lupenos of San Jose and Body Language.

Gary Masters, co-artistic director of sjDANCEco, explains that the festival started as Dancin’ Downtown in 2003 at the Circle of Palms.

“We really wanted to get involved with the community and the diversity of dance that already existed in the South Bay, and in San José in particular,” he says. “Bringing together the unique individuality of each culture and dance form seemed like the best way to showcase and illuminate the beauty of this art. Originally we had about 30 groups representing everything from cultural dances to ballet, modern/contemporary and jazz. It was a huge success not only with performances in the circle but also with classes and demonstrations at the Art Museum next door.

The festival eventually moved to Santana Row and continued to grow in size and attendance.

“At Santana Row, we’ve expanded the Professional Hour – highlighting and placing greater emphasis on artists in our community who dedicate their lives to sharing their passion for dance,” Masters said. “In 2019, we moved to the Eastridge Center, the best place for us. It was wonderful to see the audience of almost 10,000 people watch the dynamic, poetic and passionate performers share their love and joy for the movement or ” the language of the inner spirit”.

Festival director Chloe Crotzer adds: “We will have children on stage as young as 4 or 5 years old from different local dance schools where they will take lessons. Dance has such a lineage. We have teachers who bring their students to the festival, then the children grow up and continue to dance. Now they have started their own business or teach their own classes and now they bring their students to the festival.

However, not all students are so young.

“We have people up to 60, not professionals but taking courses,” says Crotzer. “It’s honestly a wide range.”

Some of the participating schools and businesses have been at the festival for 20 years, Crotzer says. Others only recently heard about the Spring Festival and wanted to be part of it.

“This year we actually have two bands from Colorado and New Orleans traveling for the festival,” she added.


SPRING FESTIVAL

Presented by sjDANCEco

When: 11am-6pm Saturday and Sunday, professional dancers perform 12pm-1pm and 5pm-6pm each day

Or: Eastridge Center Mall, San Jose

Tickets: Free; more information on www.sjdanceco.org

About Keith Johnson

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