Based in Paterson, the Ballet Folklórico Perú was formed in 1991 in New York City by three Peruvian-born dancers, Amparo Soria-Iturre and Nélida Silva from the Andes, and Luis Iturre from Lima, who wanted to bring the rich traditional dances of their homeland to the United States.
"The three of us have been dancing since we were living in Peru," said Nélida Silva, outreach coordinator. "This was a tradition. I started learning the dances at the same time I started walking and making sense what my steps were. It was a tradition in my home town."
According to Silva, who is originally from Ancash, Peru and now lives in Weehawken, most of the country's Indian cultures that these dances are derived from are not usually meant as performances pieces, but were part of the cultural rituals or community celebrations.
"They're not necessarily meant to be 'performed', but [through sharing] them with other people and audiences - we became performers," said Silva.
The group has since performed at various theaters, cultural festivals, parades, schools and community centers throughout the tri-state area.
"The reason why [we created this group] is because we wanted to continue this tradition with the younger generations, and share with other cultures what the dances from Peru are," said Silva.
Dancing in NJ
In addition to the dance troop, the Ballet Folklórico Perú also formally established their arts education program in 1999 by opening a Peruvian folkloric dance school for children in Paterson, which is said to be the largest Peruvian community in the United States.
According to their website, "The mission was three-fold: to provide a safe haven for youth in high-crime urban areas; to help keep families together through dance; and to help children maintain the ties to their roots and culture."
Since then dozens of children have learned traditional dances at the school, and many are the Champions of Marinera Contests held in San Francisco, Washington DC and New Jersey. Marinera is the national dance of Peru.
"The school has been open for six years now and every summer there are more than 30 kids at the school," said Silva.
The kids in the program range from ages 5 to about 18, and adult classes are also available at the school.
"Some of the students stay in the group and join the ballet," said Silva. "We have three categories of performers: children, teens, and adults. We basically perform around the Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey area, but from time to time we also go to Florida and Pennsylvania."
Many of the younger students are local residents, but there are a few from Hudson County, and adult students have come from as far as Westchester and Long Island.
The ballet company usually schedules performances during the fall, winter, and spring. During the summer, they focus on the school and participate in tri-state festivals and parades.
They also participate in New Jersey's annual Hispanic American Parade based in North Hudson.
Second time around
This will be the second performance at the Park PAC for the Ballet Folklórico Perú, and will be the highlight event in the Carnival celebration of the Northeast New Jersey Folk Arts Program, which is based at the Park PAC.
The group is also featuring guest performers Peru Andino and Estampas Del Peru, whom they have performed with at other venues.
"It was about two years ago that we did our own show in conjunction with funds from the New Jersey Arts Council," said Silva. "This will be the first time we have guest performers at the Park PAC. We have two dance troops coming from New York and showing one dance each."
The Ballet Folklórico Perú is one of the few authentic presenters of traditional Peruvian dance in the Tri-State area, which include dances from the Amazonian, Andean, and the Coast and Afro-Peruvian communities.
"People who come to the shows are very happy and energized because most of the dances we present are very colorful and very vibrant," said Silva. "At every performance we have people who ask if they can join or where they can learn more about it."
This concert is made possible in part by funding from the New Jersey State Council on Arts/Department of State, the Independence Community Foundation, and the Liz Claiborne Foundation.
For more information on the Ballet Folklórico Perú visit www.balletfolkloricoperu.org.
Tickets for the show are $30 for VIP, $20 for adults, and $10 for children and seniors, and are available at www.parkpac.com or by calling (201) 865-6980, ext. 20. Guests can also call toll free 1-800-595-4849.