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Dance Collective show to be a spectacle

13th annual performance honors Hispanic culture with Spectacle of Spirits

The Fort Wayne Dance Collective's "Spectacle of Spirits" opens Oct. 21.

Emma Bachtel

Whatzup Features Writer

Published October 12, 2022

Fort Wayne Dance Collective plans to host a spectacle this spooky season, a Spectacle of Spirits

FWDC’s 13th annual Halloween show will highlight Mexican culture with a beautiful on-stage celebration of Día de los Muertos, “Day of the Dead.”

Honoring Mexican Culture

Día de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico every Nov. 1-2. It’s a “joyful festivity for families and the community” where “music is played at home and at the cemeteries,” according to the official website of New York City’s Day of the Dead Festival. This is a day traditionally meant to honor the souls of loved ones who have passed away. 

“This year’s show might be different from what our community usually sees,” said Mandie Kolkman, artistic director of Fort Wayne Dance Collective. “The dance pieces are truly breathtaking. We are going beyond our traditional approach to present a stunning performance to highlight Mexican culture.” 

Students of Fort Wayne Dance Collective and members of the community were invited to participate in this show through an audition in August. Those selected will be joining FWDC’s professional company in the performance, as well as a few guest artists. 

Guest Artists, Local and Far

One of the guest performance groups is Amaneceres de Mexico, a Mexican folk dance group based in Fort Wayne. The other is Calpulli Mexican Dance Company, coming all the way from New York City.

Amaneceres de Mexico brings members of the Fort Wayne Latino community together to celebrate and pass down Mexican folklore. They perform frequently, so you might recognize them up on stage. 

According to their website, “Calpulli Mexican Dance Company’s repertoire and performances are a celebration of our cultural legacy, past and current. We tell stories using the languages of dance, music, and the Mexican-American spirit to connect on universal messages of love and hope.” They also place a strong emphasis on educating and engaging their community about Mexican cultures through dance and music. 

Challenge Accepted

Bringing all these groups together will be quite a feat, and Kolkman is excited for the challenge. Given the great distance Calpulli Mexican Dance Company must travel, they will be able to be in Fort Wayne only a short time prior to opening night, Friday, Oct. 21. 

“They’re coming in on Saturday, Oct. 15, and we’ll hit the studios on Sunday,” Kolkman said. “We’ll rehearse Monday and Tuesday, and then we’ll be in the theater on Wednesday.”

In this limited amount of time, Calpulli’s artistic director, Alberto Lopez Herrera, will be setting choreography on both the company dancers of Fort Wayne Dance Collective and the dancers of Amaneceres de Mexico. 

Local singers and aerialists will also be featured. 

“Aerialists and live music prior to the show are meant to symbolize monarch butterflies,” Kolkman said. “These are an important symbol for Día de los Muertos.”

Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico around the same time each year, which happens to fall near Day of the Dead. In Mexican culture, according to Monarch Joint Venture’s official website, “Monarchs represent the souls of their ancestors returning to visit them for Día de los Muertos.”

Educating the Community

It is important to Kolkman and Fort Wayne Dance Collective that they are using this show to accurately portray aspects of Mexican culture and educate the community. 

“It has been extremely rewarding as an educator to see the community react to the cultural component of the Halloween Show,” Kolkman said. “It elevates our performance when we can teach our community while entertaining them.”

In addition to educating through the show, Fort Wayne Dance Collective will be taking this opportunity to educate the students at Fort Wayne Community Schools. FWDC has been involved in teaching the movement arts in FWCS classrooms since 1981. During the week following the show, their guest artists will accompany them in teaching students the folk dances of Mexican culture. 

“It’s exciting for students to be able to learn more about other cultures by exploring the traditional movement of those cultures,” Kolkman said. “It can help bring lessons to life.” 

History of the Halloween Show

The 13th iteration of FWDC’s annual Halloween show is quite a departure from how the shows started. 

“It started as part of Fright Night, but now it is a standalone event” Kolkman said.

After being a part of Fright Night, the show became so popular the company decided they needed a larger venue than their studio to seat the audience. This brought them to the Parkview Physicians Group ArtsLab, where they continue to sell out their shows every year. 

Just as Spectacle of Spirits has guest artists, past collaborators for this annual show have included Fort Wayne Ballet, Project Ballet, and Mikautadze Dance Theatre. 

Last year, Fort Wayne Dance Collective highlighted Haitian culture with their show Vodou Unveiled, which featured artists from the Jacmel Arts Center of Haiti.

“When people think of Vodou culturally, they have a different perception of it than what it actually is,” Kolkman said. “It was great to be able to educate people and address their preconceptions.” 

Due to popularity, Spectacle of Spirits will have four showings, which is the most since moving the performance to the PPG ArtsLab. 

Though this is more shows than they have done in the past few years, Kolkman urges audience members not to wait to buy tickets. 

“This show sells out fast,” she said. “So get tickets soon!”

Tickets are available at fwdc.org.

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