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Roots and Routes: Afro-Latinidad in Motion Symposium

MONDAY, JULY 14, 2014 | 9:00AM–5:00PM
Sherwood Community Music School @ 1312 S. Michigan Ave.

As an integral part of the Afro-Latin@ Summer Dance Intensive at Columbia College Chicago, the symposium gathers local and international scholars and artists to explore dance and music in the Afro-Latin@Diaspora.

Presenters include:
Dr. Melissa Blanco-Borelli, Dr. Joan Francisco Valdés Santos, Cindy Garcia, Anita Gonzalez, Berta Jottar, Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, Tito Rodriguez of AfriCaribe, Neri Torres, and Sol Solis or Maricza Valentin of Latin Rhythms.


Tuition: FREE and open to the public.  

Advanced registration is encouraged.
>Register here



BIANCA BLANCO grew up in Kalamazoo, MI where she discovered the love of dance at a young age in her first ballet class. She trained daily in ballet, jazz and modern dance. Her training continued at the Interlochen Arts Camp where it was solidified that there was no other path but to dance. Her first job was teaching dance as a young teen. After receiving a full scholarship to Western Michigan University she decided to pursue a BA in dance where she focused equally on ballet, jazz and modern dance and studied under and performed for such greats as Kathleen Hermsdorf, Donald McKayle and Derrick Evans. In 2002 she felt the calling of her Latin roots, after so many years of classical training, and decided to move to Los Angeles to study salsa. She has worked on many movies, commercials and television shows as a principal dancer including Along Came Polly, Luis, Dexter, Taco Bell and more. In addition to dancing another passion of Blanco is community service. Blanco is truly humbled to be a member of CONTRA-TIEMPO, which is an outlet for the classical training, the "sabor" of her roots and her passion for community. In 2011, Blanco launched her own company, Bella Savour, and creates delectable vegan food in order to bring awareness and accessibility to the benefits of a vegan diet.

DR. MELISSA BLANCO BORELLI joined the Dance, Film and Theatre department in the fall of 2008. Previously, she was a Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholar in the Music and Theatre Arts department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has also taught at UCLA, UC Riverside and Citrus College. She holds a PhD in Dance History and Theory from the University of California, Riverside, an MA in Communications Management from the University of Southern California, and a BA in Music and International Relations from Brown University. Her monograph in progess examines mulata corporeality through comparative social dance and everyday embodied histories in Havana and New Orleans from the nineteenth to mid-twentieth century. An edited volume on dance, identity and corporeality in the Hollywood dance film is in progress as well. Before her academic career, Dr. Blanco Borelli worked in the entertainment industry, coordinating soundtracks and music licensing for Overbrook Entertainment (Will Smith's company at Universal Studios), and taught foreign languages (Spanish, French and Italian) to celebrities and students at a private high school in Santa Monica, California. She has taught and performed Afro-Cuban sacred dance in Los Angeles, New York, and Havana, Cuba, and she dances/performs other Latino/Latin American social dance forms: salsa, son, danzon, rumba, tango, cumbia as well as other Colombian folkloric forms. In April 2008, she performed her one-woman show "Mulata Madness" (based on her dissertation research) at MIT and is developing it further for future incarnations. She is also writing/choreographing a performance and film project on sixteenth century mulata hermaphrodite Elena/o de Cespedes.

MEIVER DE LA CRUZ, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University is a 2014 dissertation fellow for the Sexuality Project at Northwestern (SPAN), and a Mellon Grant Recipient for her project “Mid-East in the Midwest: Arab American Dance and Performance, Transnational Embodiment, Archives and Repertoires,” in partnership with the Arab American National Museum in Michigan. Her research investigates how Arab diaspora identities are danced and circulate through movement in the US after 9/11. Meiver also has been a student of stage, social and ritual dances from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) since 1996, and is an accomplished performer with US and international experience. She lectures on the history and global context of MENA dance forms, teaches and performs dance at universities, women’s groups, dance conferences, and for community groups. In 2014 she is choreographing a dance with drones for DEAD SERIOUS, a performance project with Wafaa Bilal and the Nadar Ensemble, debuting in Germany in August 2014.  Meiver is also a Graduate Student Representative to the Board of the Society for Dance History Scholars (SDHS).

DR. JOAN FRANCISCO VALDÉS SANTOS is equally an artist and a scholar. While his formal education is in sports/recreation, science and psychology, he is also a prolific writer, composer and journalist with a wide range of knowledge and experience in Cuban music, art, literature and culture. He was born in Havana, Cuba and currently lives in Durham, NC with his wife.  In 2005, he received his Doctorate from the Instituto Superior de Cultura Física Manual Fajardo in Cuba, where he was one of the 46 members of the Science Council of INDER, National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation.  As vice director of ISLA, Latin American Chess Institute he was also the director of graduate research. He has produced works for several radio and television programs in Cuba and his work was published in the Hispanic Pan-American Anthology of Ovanz,  2006. His most recent poetry publications​ ​are titled Donde riena el amor y la esperanza/Where Love and Hope Reign (Souloworks Press) 2012 and Medicina del alma/Medicine of the Soul 2014.

CINDY GARCÍA is an Assistant Professor, dance theorist, performance ethnographer, and playwright in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota. Her article ‘Don’t Leave Me, Celia!’ Salsera Homosociality and Pan-Latina Corporealities won the Gertrude Lippincott Award for the best English-language article published in Dance Studies in 2008. Duke University Press is publishing her book Salsa Crossings: Dancing Latinidad in Los Angeles that addresses the politics of social performances of Mexican-ness, latinidad, and migration in Los Angeles salsa clubs. Her research and teaching interests include the cultural politics of migration, race, and racialization, feminist ethnography, Chicana/o and Latin/o American Performance Studies, and the gendered performances of latinidad in urban libidinal economies. In 2010 she was awarded a Ford Foundation Research Fellowship The American Society for Theatre Research awarded her the Selma Jean Cohen Award in 2009 for Scholarship in Theatre and Dance/Movement-based Fields. She wrote the play How to Make it to the Dance Floor: A Salsa Guide for Women (Based on Actual Experiences), and performed a staged reading in collaboration with dramaturge Dr. Lucy Burns (UCLA) and director/choreographer Margit Edwards (Los Angeles) with critical commentary from Invited Scholar Deborah Paredez (University of Texas at Austin), University of Minnesota, 9/22/2008.

ANITA GONZALEZ is the Head of the Global Theatre and Ethnic Studies Minor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She directs, devises and writes dance theatre works and her innovative stagings of historical and cross-cultural experiences have appeared on PBS national television and at Lincoln Center Out-Doors, Dance Theater Workshop, Tribeca Performing Arts Center, and other national and international venues. Gonzalez was a founding member of the Urban Bush Women. She has choreographed for Ballet Hispanico, taught theater in Central America and the United Kingdom, given professional and educational workshops in Caribbean and African American dance and lectured about the process of developing new plays. Published work includes a co-edited an anthology with Tommy DeFrantz, Black Performance Theory, the book Afro-Mexico: Dancing Between Myth and Reality and articles about performance in Performance Research International, Modern Drama, Dance Research Journal and Theatre Topics. Anita Gonzalez earned her Theater/Performance Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is an Associate Member of Stage Directors and Choreographers, a Member the Dramatists Guild, and a Member of the National Theatre Conference.

BERTA JOTTAR is an ethnographic filmmaker and independent scholar. She obtained her PhD. at the department of performance studies at NYU with her dissertation rumba in exile. Currently she is working on an essay and documentary about the choreographic shifts of the first generation of traditional rumba female dancers in Havana.

RAQUEL MONROE (Ph.D., UCLA) is an Assistant Professor in Dance at Columbia College Chicago.  Her current manuscript blends feminist ethnography, performance analysis, and critical race and queer theories to explore how the performance of black female sexualities in popular culture constructs pleasure and interrogate black social mobility. Monroe is published in the Journal of Pan African Studies and E. Patrick Johnson’s and Ramón Rivera-Severa’s solo/black/woman: Performing Black Feminisms, and Melissa Blanco-Borrelli’s The Oxford Handbook: Dance and the Popular Screen (Oxford University Press, June 2014). She serves on the board for the Society of Dance History Scholars, is a member of the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance, and an enthusiastic salsera, and yoga instructor.

ONYE OZUZU is a dance administrator, performing artist, choreographer, educator and researcher currently serving as Chair of the Dance Department at Columbia College Chicago. Her administrative work is notable for a balance of visionary and deliberate progress in the arenas of curricular, artistic, and systemic diversity, cultural relativity, collaboration and inter-disicplinarity.  Shas has been actively presenting work since 1997. Her work has been seen nationally and internationally at the The Joyce Soho (Manhattan, NY) Kaay Fecc Festival Des Tous les Danses (Dakar, Senegal), La Festival del Caribe (Santiago, Cuba), Lisner Auditorium (Washington DC), McKenna Museum of AFrican American Art (New Olreans, LA) as well as many anonymous site-specific locations.  She has recently been Artist in Residence at EarthDance Workshop and Retreat Center, Bates Dance Festival and Chulitna Wilderness Lodge and Retreat she continues to develop new work.  She is currently exploring the relationship between the body, technology, and earth.

RAMÓN H. RIVERA-SERVERA's research focuses on contemporary performance in North America and the Caribbean with special emphasis on the ways categories of race, gender, and sexuality are negotiated in the process of (im)migration. His work documents a wide array of performance practices ranging from theatre and concert dance to social dance, fashion, and speech. His teaching ranges from seminar courses on Latina/o and queer performance, sound and movement studies, and visual cultural studies to workshop courses on social art practices, the performances of non-fiction, ethnographic research methods, and performance art. He is author of Performing Queer Latinidad: Dance, Sexuality, Politics (University of Michigan Press, 2012), a study of the role performance played in the development of Latina/o queer publics in the United States from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. The book received the 2013 Lambda Book Award in the LGBT Studies, the 2013 Book Award from the Latino Studies Section of the Latin American Studies Association, the 2013 Outstanding Publication Award from the Congress on Research in Dance, and a Special Citation for the 2012 de la Torre Bueno Book Prize in Dance Studies from the Society of Dance History Scholars. He is currently conducting research for two book projects: Exhibiting Performance: Race, Museum Cultures, and the Live Event, which looks at the ways race has been collected and exhibited in North America and the Caribbean since the mid-1990s and Choreographing the Latina/o Post-Modern: Puerto Rican Moves in the New York Dance Avant-Garde, a cultural history of Puerto Rican participation in the New York City experimental dance scene since the 1980s.

AfriCaribe was created in 2000 by EVARISTO “TITO” RODRIGUEZ in an effort create an organization in Chicago that would have the unique intent of celebrating the African influence in Puerto Rico and other countries of the Caribbean. His vision came to fruition in the form of an umbrella organization that provides educational and cultural programming through four main programs. These are the academy through which professional dancers and musicians teach traditional drumming and dance of several Puerto Rican Bomba rythyms; the performance ensemble that prepares and presents various styles of folk music from Puerto Rico and the Caribbean through song, dance, drums and other percussive instruments; the production company which will be responsible for annual events including folklore conferences; and the education department that will provide workshops and lectures by members of the organization and other invited professionals. 

ARIF SMITH is a doctoral student in performance studies at Northwestern University.  His research investigates notions of blackness, masculinity, and diaspora.  Currently, Smith’s work centers on dance and music in the Lsusopone African diaspora, exploring how Portuguese colonialism has shaped constructions of race and gender among Cape Verdean migrants in the United States and Mozambique.  Smith is a dancer and musician trained in African-rooted performance genres such as eskista from Ethiopia, kizomba from Angola, and rumba from Cuba, He is a Mellon Cluster Fellow in Comparative Race and Diaspora, and a member of Buya con Bomba, an Afro-Puerto Rican bomba ensemble based in Chicago.

NERI TORRES, a native of Cuba, is the founder and Artistic Director of IFE-ILE Afro-Cuban Dance Company in Miami, FL, a non-profit organization committed to the sharing and promotion of Afro-Cuban dance. Born in Havana, Cuba, Torres is trained in modern, ballet, Yoga and Afro-Cuban dance. She holds an MFA in dance and a minor in film from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Ms. Torres has taught at the University of Miami, Florida International University, Miami Dade College among other institutions. Currently, she is a dance lecturer at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. Neri Torres and her dance company have toured extensively around the world. From 1996-2001, Ms. Torres toured as principal dancer and choreographer for Gloria Estefan. As an actress and personality, Neri has worked in the movies: For Love or Country with actors Andy Garcia and Charles Dutton, and The Lost City directed by Andy Garcia, which she also choreographed. In March 2013, Neri received the State of Florida Folk Heritage Award from Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner for her significant contributions to Florida’s cultural heritage through her outstanding achievements as a performer, teacher and advocate of Afro-Cuban traditional dance. She’s a member of NDEO and the International Council of Dance. Ms. Torres research focuses on the impact of traditional dance forms in modern cities as well as on the influence of Cuban emigration in the widespread of Santeria religion and derivative culture around the world.

MARCIZA VALENTIN, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Chicago’s Latin Rhythms Academy of Dance & Performance & Latin Rhythms Dance Company, has been studying dance for 26 years, and teaching for 23 years. In 1999 Maricza earned her BA in Dance from Columbia College. Maricza co-founded her own Latin dance company in 1999, Latin Rhythms Dance Company (LRDC). In August of 2000, Maricza expanded the success of LRDC by co-founding a dance studio in Chicago, Latin Rhythms Academy of Dance & Performance (LRADP). Today, Valentín runs a 4,500 square-foot studio in Chicago’s West Loop with co-owner Sol Solis. Over the course of 14 successful years, the studio has trained thousands of everyday students, teachers, and professional dancers, many of whom have developed into esteemed performers. They’ve created seven performance teams in several disciplines, with students who come back in flocks year after year for the opportunity to be trained by Latin Rhythms faculty. As the Artistic Director of one of Chicago’s strongest Latin dance companies, Maricza has proven herself as a connoisseur of choreography, in addition to her reputable teaching accomplishments. She is Co-Artistic Director of the Chicago International Salsa Congress.