Mexican folk dancers, mariachi band open Excellence in the Community series

Mexican folk dancers, mariachi band open Excellence in the Community series

OGDEN — It’s the kind of concert that transcends barriers like language.

The last time the Excellence in the Community concert series brought in a mariachi band and Mexican folk dancers to Peery’s Egyptian Theater, it ended in hugs all around.

“I don’t speak Spanish,” recalls concert series founder and managing director Jeff Whiteley. “But after last year’s concert, people would come up to me — they don’t speak English — and they’d throw their arms around me.”

On Monday, Sept. 17, the free concert series begins its third year with a performance by Mariachi de mi Tierra and Ballet Folklorico de las Americas. The concert begins at 7 p.m. in Peery’s Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd.

A similar show last year — featuring the same dancers but a different mariachi band — proved to be one of the most popular concerts in the series, now in its third year. It drew more than 900 people to the 800-seat venue, according to Whiteley.

“We had to turn 100 people away,” he said. “We’ve found that high-quality shows like this bring crowds of people.”

Performing the music at Monday’s concert will be Mariachi de mi Tierra. Mauricio Paez is the musical leader of the band. He formed the group in 2000, and today the seven-piece band is kept busy most weekends performing at quinceaneras, birthday parties, weddings and other celebrations.

“We play at all kinds of fiestas,” Paez said. “We’ll be showing the Mexican culture — the dances, the uniforms, the coloring.”

Ballet Folklorico de las Americas will be performing the folk dances on Monday evening, accompanied by Mariachi de mi Tierra. Ballet Folklorico is the oldest Latin American folk dancing group in the state, according to Irma Hofer, artistic director of the dance troupe.

Hofer, who started out as a dancer with the group in 1983, said Ballet Folklorico has a couple of goals. The first is to help the dancers themselves get to know their own heritage through folk dancing. And the second goal is to share these dances with those in the general public who are outside the culture.

“We’ll do social dances that tell you about the society, the traditions and festivities, and the different religious traditions,” Hofer said. “This way, people see what the culture is all about.”

The group features about 25 dancers, although Hofer says she’d always like to have more. Hofer said they hope to use Monday’s performance to help unite the community.

“The more we know each other, the more comfortable we can get with each other,” she said. “That’s our goal, to get to know each other and overcome the false stereotypes among people. We just try to create ties and show that we’re not that much different from one another.”

Monday’s concert begins the third season of the Ogden version of the Excellence in the Community series. The free performances will be offered monthly — except in December — through next May.

Future concerts include:

Oct. 15 — Hailey Kirkland and Company B, performing songs from Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald and Adele.

Nov. 5 — Joshy Soul and the Cool, performing soul and Motown music.

Jan. 7 — Island Time II, award-winning artists from Hawaii and other Pacific islands, performing the music and dances of Polynesia.

Feb. 4 — Evening in Brazil, playing bossa nova and other classic rhythms and songs from Brazil.

March 4 — Melinda Kirigin Voss and Brian Stucki, performing an evening of songs from Broadway.

April 1 — Dee Dee Darby Duffin Quintet, covering the songs of Burt Bacharach and other ‘70s tunes.

May 6 — Don Keipp’s Cross Town Big Band, presenting a tribute to Duke Ellington.

All events in the Excellence in the Community concert series are free, or, as Whiteley puts it: “The more correct phrasing would be, ‘Your ticket has been paid for by individuals, foundations, corporations and institutions that believe the community will be better for these concerts, and that the concerts should be available to all ages, to all demographics. Everyone is welcome.’”

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