Ochavitas at the Austin Puerto Rican Cultural Center

Last Sunday I went to the Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance and Cultural Center in Austin to check out the Ochavitas celebration. It was an awesome adventure, especially since I went in having no idea what to expect.  It ended up being one of the most energetic and colorful events I’ve been to in a long while, so I’m really glad I happened into this.



First, the Tres Reyes came out bearing awards for some of the adults who had contributed to the center and gift bags for the children, which were a huge hit!


Next, this wonderful lady led a song.  I’m not really sure what it would be called, but it was set to a bomba beat, and the basis of it was that she would stop at random people after the chorus and hand them the microphone.  They then would have to do a completely improvisational, rhyming, spoken-word verse in Spanish or refuse the mike, in which case the crowd would sing, No sabes  -, no sabes – , no sabes bomba (there’s an article word in there that I didn’t catch.)  I wish I’d had a better understanding of Spanish, because the crowd response indicated that several of the verses were quite good! 


The students at the dance class did several dances next.  The music was beat-intensive bomba and just sounded happy and full of movement.  Between that and the swirling, colorful skirts of the dancers, I couldn’t help but smile and bop along!


The teacher took some time to explain how bomba worked – apparently, the drummers are supposed to match their beats to the moves of the dancers.  She gave a few seconds of demonstration, completely improv, and it was amazing to see such a collaboration and conversation between the musicians and the dancers.  I’m really fascinated by this approach to music, actually.  After that, the older dancers took at turn at mesmerizing the audience!


One of my favorite aspects of this event was how happy the dancers were.  No matter the age, they all had huge smiles on!


Each dancer took a turn showcasing their skills and style; I love the yellow skirt and her joyful approach to the music.


As a grand finale, the dancers pulled volunteers from the audience and shared skirts and tips as everyone began to move to the beat!

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