May 19, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

sjDANCEco brings back its free Spring Festival this weekend

3 min read

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

The annual event presented by sjDANCEco is celebrating 20 years of bringing a broad spectrum of dance to the stage — from East Indian Bharatanatyam to hip-hop and traditional Aztec to classical ballet. The event’s newly expanded format now offers free admission for two full days of live performances and classes at the Eastridge Center in San Jose.

The festival opens 11 a.m. Saturday with the indigenous Mexican company Calpulli Tonalehqueh of San Jose presenting an ancient Aztec ritual. In the ceremony, drums call the four elements — wind, water, fire, and earth — and the four cardinal directions — North (Tezcatlipoca), East (Quetzalcoatl), South (Huitzilopochtli), and West (Xipe Totec) — together with the Great Cosmos, Mother Earth and the Center — our hearts.  Dancers, wearing elaborate feathered regalia, carry the elements in the form of an atecocolli (conch shell) blown to call in the winds, as well as incense burners summoning fire and conveying prayers on scented white smoke to the ancestors.  The ritual asks permission to be present and to call the gods to help guide and protect the space.

With an incredible variety of ages and cultural origins filling the stage, each day features two, one-hour slots (noon-1 p.m. and 5-6 p.m.) filled with short performances by professional troupes or 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 de San Jose, and Body Language.

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

“We very much wanted to be involved with the community and the diversity of dance that already existed in the South Bay, and San José in particular,” he says. “Bringing together the unique individuality of each culture and dance form seemed to be 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 tremendous success not only with performances going on in the circle but also with classes and demonstrations going on in the Museum of Art just next door.”

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

“At Santana Row we developed the professional hour — highlighting and giving more focus to the 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 venue for us. It was wonderful to see the audience of nearly 10,000 people watching the dynamic, poetic, and passionate performers sharing their love and joy for movement or ‘the language of the inner spirit.’”

Festival director Chloe Crotzer adds, “We’ll have kids on stage as young as 4 or 5 years old from different local dance schools where they take lessons. Dance has such a lineage. We have teachers who bring their students to the festival, then the kids grow up and they’re still dancing. Now they’ve started their own companies or are teaching their own classes and now they’re bringing their students to the festival.”

sjDANCEco brings back its free Spring Festival this weekend

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