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.

 

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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!

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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! 

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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!

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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!

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

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

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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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