Wednesday, March 20, 2019
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20190213 UTRGV 08.55The experience of attending a performance of the UTRGV Ballet Folklorico Alegría is nothing less than spectacular. The beautiful costumes, the stage scenery and the professional sounds of the UTRGV Mariachi Aztlan provide the perfect setting for this highly talented cast of dancers to perform their magic on stage at the university’s Performing Arts Complex. This is where audiences go to experience the best of the best in folkloric dance combined with the finest mariachi musicians in South Texas.

Audiences at the UTRGV Ballet Folklórico’s presentation of Alegría, a two-hour exploration into the myths and musical motifs of Mexico, are treated to vibrant visuals that pour over a cast of 34 dancers spinning out in Aztec ritual before shifting into the subtleties of Mexican-styled polka.

Miguel Peña, director of Alegría for the last three years, acknowledges that the seven acts of song and celebration that make up this year’s show function as a form of education as well as entertainment.

This year Alegría has incorporated a new piece called Mexikatl, which focuses on the lives of Mexicas or Aztecs before, during, and after the Spanish conquest.

Peña describes the informative arrangement as “a collaboration between scenery and lighting designers, theater and dance professors.”

“Dance will help the audience digest this information in a very unique way,” he said.

20190213 UTRGV 09.04In a rush of spectral choreography and haunting corridos, Alegría illuminates a story that starts with colonial catastrophe before springing towards Mariachi-styled merriment.

According to Peña, everything from the pyramid backdrop to the agrarian floor props works together to help the audience, “know more about the Mexican culture, to know the Mexican cultural tradition.”

Peña said he is grateful for the support Alegría has received from UTRGV. The costumes, for example, are all brought in from Mexico. Each set of costumes runs about $5,000, so that the six different sets of costumes for each Alegría season, amounts to $30,000.

The Alegria productions are highly popular among locals and winter visitors, but Peña insists that it is the Winter Texan patrons who are the most excited.

“It is the Winter Texans who are always the most fascinated,” says Peña, citing their appreciation for the authenticity of the costumes as well as the chance they get to observe unfamiliar customs expressed through dance.

Peña feels the resulting richness of the show is due to the combined gifts of its committed dancers as well as its talented designers and musicians.

Erick Perales, a dancer described by Peña as one of his best, is thrilled by the opportunity to celebrate his heritage on stage. “My family is from Mexico,” says Perales, “I am proud to show my roots.”

According to Tirzah Claus, a dancer who also works on stage props, the students involved with Alegría are all in fact “ambassadors for the university” and are displaying “the color of culture.”

20190213 UTRGV 09.18Claus feels the work she does with Alegría holds a special resonance. “Being half Latina but raised in a household where Spanish wasn’t typically spoken, becoming involved in this production has helped me feel more connected to the pieces of my culture that I didn’t always have the opportunity to experience growing up,” she says.

Claus is quick to point out that the very name of the show -- Alegría-- means happiness and that this feeling is expressed in every aspect of the production.

Speaking of the Alegría attendees, she says: “We hope they enjoy sharing in the celebration of the richness of our culture,” adding, “and we hope that audiences leave with a smile and a heart full of the contagious sense of joy that unmistakably permeates throughout the show’s majority”.

From the cast to the crowds, it is obvious that the labor of putting on a show like Alegría is a happy one.

For ticket information for upcoming performances call 956-665-2230 or visit utrgv.edu/alegria.

UTRGV Alegria Upcoming Performances
Edinburg Performing Arts Complex
February 15-16 7:30 p.m.
February 17 2:00 p.m.
Brownsville TSC Performing Arts Center
March 10 7:30 p.m.

Admission Prices:
Children $5
Senior Citizens & Students $10
Adults $15

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