World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival

FESTIVAL DANCERS

Nicaragua Danza, Hijos del Maíz

NATIONAL/ETHNIC IDENTITY: Nicaragua
DIRECTORS: Luis Léon, Grace Torres
First appearance in SF EDF: 2016
Website: facebook.com/Nicaragua-Danza-Hijos-del-Maiz

Nicaragua Danza, Hijos del Maíz was founded in 2011 to keep Nicaraguan culture and traditions alive. Their mission is to teach compatriots who are born in this country the diversity of the Nicaraguan character through dance.

2016 PERFORMANCE

DANCE ORIGIN: Nicaragua
GENRE: Afro-Nicaraguan
TITLE: Somos Nicaragua Multiétnica
DIRECTORS/CHOREOGRAPHERS: Luis Léon, Grace Torres
DANCERS: Ostmar Aleman, William Alvarez, Levent Asyali, Natalia Chevez, Flor Diaz, Jenny Espinoza, Dara Fonseca, Luis Léon, Hector Marin, Analucía Pérez, Rebecca Pérez, Tobi Thomas

Photo by RJ Muna

Somos Nicaragua Multiétnica—We are Multiethnic Nicaragua—is a set of dances from Nicaragua’s Miskito Coast. This North Atlantic region is home to indigenous people—Miskitu, Mayagna, Ramaki Criollo, and Garifuna—and many people also have British and/or African ancestry. For nearly three hundred years, from 1633 to 1905, British traders exchanged guns and furniture for cocoa, rubber, wood, and animal skins; and British colonists imported thousands of enslaved Africans into the region for plantation work. The Miskito Coast is a North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, and many of its communities live by farming, small-scale hunting, and herbal pharmacy. They speak mostly Miskito and Creole.

The first dance, Un Gigante Que Despierta—A Giant Who Wakes—presents the 1982 song by Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy, a celebration of natural beauty and cultural diversity with Caribbean rhythms, calypso, soca, and reggae. The diverse choreography by Grace Torres includes Afro-Haitian and Afro-Peruvian moves, and costumes evoke Miskito dress and the blue, blue sea. The lyrics sing:

From this land flint and honey are gone,
gold and jade
none of this stayed
Remaining are remnants of language:
Miskito, Sumo, and Rama; together
with Creole
Where there are no longer cities nor ceremonial
temples, cassava and pejibaye stayed.
Between blasphemy and prayers, English
and Spanish, a foreign country is born in
my heart.
An awakening giant on the coast,
unstoppable, afraid of nothing.


The second dance, Las Sirenas—The Mermaids—is a Miskito dance with an ecological message. In traditional indigenous cosmovision, God, creation, and nature form a sacred triangle. Guardians—Unta Dukia for rain; Swinta, forest animals; Prahaku, air; Planta Uhra, marshes—warn humans to use resources respectfully or risk disappearance, disease, or even death. The beautiful mermaid Liwa Mairin, protector of waters, is featured here. Men throw nets and row, as she singles out a dancer disrespectful of nature and seduces him away.

The final piece, Tulululu Pasa, is from the Creole community, people of African and British descent. When African dance was prohibited, communities syncretized European dance and African rites. This Palo de Mayo (May Pole) dance is now a joyful rite for procreation, with a decorated tree, springtime dress, and traditional African pelvic movements, celebrating sensuality, fertility, and abundance.

Somos Nicaragua Multiétnica is based on research by Nicaraguan choreographer Cleopatra Morales Montiel and created by choreographers Luis León, previously of Ballet Folklórico Nicaraguense under Francisco González, and Grace Torres, formerly of Ballet Folklórico Tepenahuatl under Maestra Blanca Guardado.

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