¡Feliz cumpleaños … a bailar!

The Ecuadorian American Cultural Center will celebrate its 10th anniversary with “Ayazamana: Traditional Music and Dances from Ecuador,” an evening of colorful dresses, exuberant energy and a healthy amount of Bomba, Fandango and Marimba, at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts on Saturday, July 13, starting at 7:45 p.m. 

More than 30 members of the local cultural nonprofit’s Ayazamana Dance Group will take the audience on a tour through the South American country by performing time-honored choreography from the Amazon, Andes and Pacific Coast.

Andes Manta, a group that consists of four brothers, will provide the accompanying music. They play more than 35 traditional instruments, including 6-foot-long pan pipes, bamboo-based flutes and the cajón, a common South American drum.

Tickets are $25 for the general public, but $20 for children (5 to 12), seniors (65+), and students with proper identification. Children under the age of 5 can attend for free.

With about 16.5 million inhabitants, Ecuador is not a big country, but it has tremendous ethnic diversity and a history that includes the Incan Empire, the Spanish Conquest, and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The night’s program will reflect these influences.

Here’s what’s on the schedule.

Surging from 17th-century Spain, Fandango spread to Latin America during the Colonial Era. Today, the dance is widely popular in indigenous Ecuadorian communities, but the rhythms are distinct. It’s appropriate for almost any occasion (i.e. weddings, funerals).

The Shuar People hail from an area stretching from Andean rainforests to Amazonian lowlands on both sides of the Peru-Ecuador border. Their way of life is based on knowledge of nature as a way to maintain equilibrium between humans, animals and plants. On Saturday, Ayazamana will recreate a Shuar ceremony centered on the preparation of Chicha de Chonta, a corn-based beverage. The juicers will sing and dance with lances as they ferment the drink through a process that includes chewing corn to break it down before cooking it. Once ready, the women will serve those present to demonstrate unity.

La Caderona began in Esmeraldas, which has a large African-Ecuadorian population. The dance features responsive choruses and couples choreography depicting courtship and flirting. The marimba is the main instrument, but the cununo, a conical drum and the guasá, a hollow cylinder filled with seeds or rice, are usually part of the sound.

Las Cholas Cuencanas come from the southern Andean city of Cuenca, the birthplace of Incan Emperor Huayna Capac. Wearing multi-creased wool dresses, dyed shawls and straw hats on Saturday, the dancers will depict a courtship beginning with a woman washing clothes in a river. A man will throw pebbles into the water to get her attention.

Toma de la Plaza is an annual festival organized by the Hanan and Urin communities. The groups dance and sing Pre-Colombian Sanjuanitos on the way to a “meeting of opposite sides.”

Los Tsáchilas are cosmos ceremonies involving Los Colorados, men who dye their hair with a liquid made from the achiote plant. The marimba creates a sound that generates energy, purifies the soul and welcomes positive spirits.

El Baile de las Cintas, which is also known as “Tucumán,” celebrates the arrival of spring. Performers weave and unweave ribbons while they prance around a pole. An example of the European-Andean mix, it’s part of Corpus Christi processions and homages to Mother Earth.

El Pase del Niño is a religious ritual dedicated to Baby Jesus with carols, offerings, dances and general partying.

La Vasija de Barro is a musical piece in the Danzante style that’s believed to come from an Incan military dance.

La Bomba is from Valle de la Chota, another area with a large African-Ecuadorian community. Originally, the instruments were handmade from natural materials like goat hide, tree branches, bamboo, pumpkins, gourds and leaves from citrus trees. On Saturday, Ayazamana members will move and groove while balancing bottles on their heads.

The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts is at 35-12 35th Ave. in Astoria’s Kaufman Arts District. There is street parking, and it’s within walking distance of the 36th Avenue stop on the N and W lines and the Steinway Street station on the R and M lines.

Ayazamana: Traditional Music and Dances from Ecuador” is scheduled for the 800-seat Tony Bennett Concert Hall, which features a 40-foot-wide proscenium stage.

Images: Ecuadorian American Cultural Center


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