Dancers from across Venezuela took to the streets of Sabana Grande Boulevard in Caracas last weekend to round off the capital’s week-long “Caracas on foot” dance festival. Primarily held to commemorate “International Dance Day,” the event was also a celebration of the various public parks, squares and sidewalks which have been regenerated by the government for recreational public use.
Celebrated on Friday and Saturday last week, the event saw the whole boulevard come alive with over 180 brightly dressed dance collectives, who performed a range of dances from Argentine tango to Venezuelan traditional folk dance, with hordes of Venezuelans turning out to watch the exhibitions or join in themselves in spite of the heavy rain.
“The aim of the festival is to generate an organised platform for dance groups in Caracas which will allow us to show our exhibits in the public spaces which have been recovered by the national government,” said Reinaldo Mijares, one of the organizers. “It’s a way of accompanying the policies which are being advanced by the Ministry of Culture,” he added.
Previously considered a no-go area, the once shabby Boulevard of Sabana Grande was revamped by the government in 2010 and has since become a focal point of public life, with Venezuelan families flocking to the area of a weekend to enjoy the zone’s colourful street culture, including artists, musicians and dancers.
Differing from the usual image of the Latin American dance festival and its towering Brazilian samba dancers, last weekend’s exhibitions were given by Venezuelans of all shapes and sizes, with women, men, children and senior citizens all performing for the crowds. “It was a totally inclusive event,” continued Mijares.
Throughout the week leading up to the open-air dance event, the government put on a series of free dance activities and shows for the public, including dance classes in the publically owned “La Estancia Park,” dance performances in the Teresa Carreno Theatre, and a free public performance by world-renowned flamenco star, Joaquin Cortes, in Plaza Ibarra in central Caracas, where thousands of Venezuelans turned out on Thursday evening to watch the flamenco star give a live rendition of his “Calé” piece, meaning gypsy.
The dancer told journalists that he was “delighted to be able to bring dance and music to the people and not just to representatives of the elite”.
“I’m a rebel with a cause, I’ve always wanted to bring dance to the world, and above all to the people… I think this initiative to give the performance in a public space in Caracas is wonderful… What better way to give the people music?” said Cortes prior to the concert.
Text by Rachael Boothroyd for Correo del Orinoco International