Colombian Salsa swings into Manila

Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - December 8, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Feel like dancing? Award-winning Colombian dancers are in Manila for Salsa: We Are The Colombian Pacific, a series of activities promoting the sultry and sizzling salsa to dance-crazy Filipinos. The Philippines is the second to the last stop of the Salsa: We Are The Colombian Pacific tour which covers 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific.

Salsa is an essentially Caribbean musical rhythm created by Latinos in the Spanish Harlem in New York in the ‘50s. It has grown to become a widely-recognized cultural expression of music and movement, which has permeated as well Colombian society, particularly its urban districts.

But salsa is more than a dance. It’s also a form of storytelling, with writers describing it as a chronicle of urban Caribbean, the lyrics of its songs mirroring the lives of Latin people.

According to the Olga Acosta of the group behind Salsa: We Are The Colombian Pacific, what’s different with Colombian salsa is that there’s more footwork. “It’s a very passionate dance, there’s a lot of hand movement, but in Colombian salsa, you never stop moving your feet,” said Olga in an interview last Tuesday.

After yesterday’s salsa workshops and presentation at the Cultural Center of the Philippines as well as a show at the Resorts World, the visiting group featuring the seasoned dancing pair Jaime Gonzalez and Jennifer Olave of Swing Latino will hold a workshop at the Araneta Center today at 2 to 5 p.m. at the Sapphire Ballroom of the Gateway Suites.

Olga said it’s easy for Filipinos to fall in love with salsa as she’s been aware that Filipinos love to express themselves in dance.

Also, Filipinos and Colombians have a lot in common, thanks to the shared Hispanic heritage and history as former colonies of Spain. The cultural parallelisms are hard to miss.

Unlike the countries they went to prior to the Manila leg like Malaysia and Vietnam, Olga shared that when they arrived here, they immediately sensed a very Latin vibe in the air, a certain familiarity, adding that even a lot of Filipinos could be mistaken for Colombians. “We didn’t really know how the country would look like. When we arrived at the airport, we were wondering, there’s something very Latin here, but we didn’t know what is.”

Charge d’ Affairs Stella Marquez-Araneta of the Colombian Embassy in the Philippines agreed, sharing her own experience of coming to the Philippines for the first time. A former Miss Colombia, who became the first-ever Miss International, Madame Stella was then hired to do a goodwill visit to Asia, with the Philippines as the first stop. She said that she was expecting things to be exotic and oriental. She arrived during the Holy Week, and much to her surprise, it instead felt like home, as the way the Philippines celebrated Holy Week was like how it was celebrated in every town in Colombia.

Meantime, Salsa: We Are The Colombian Pacific also marks the Philippines and the South American nation’s long history of friendship. The diplomatic relations of the Philippines and Colombia can be traced way back to July 5, 1946.

Salsa: We Are The Colombian Pacific forms part of a continuing exchange of cultural activities under the framework of the Philippines-Colombian Cultural Cooperation Agreement that was signed on Sept. 15, 1987.

Last October, Gines Gallaga of the Department of Foreign Affairs said that Philippines was chosen as “Country of Honor” at Colombia’s Bogota Film Festival. The films screened were Joel Lamangan’s Sigwa, Sherad Anthony Sanchez’s Imburnal, Jerrold Tarog’s Senior Year and Remton Siega Zuasola’s Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria. Alvin Yapan’s Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa, on the other hand, clinched the festival’s Precolombino de Bronce Mejor Pelicula (bronze award).

In return, Colombia sent its delegation of salsa dancers to conduct public shows in the country.

Madame Stella said, “There is an ongoing exchange of culture and love of art between the two countries, and we are sure that this visit will continue to enhance the mutually-beneficial exchange.”

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