Gilded Serpent presents...


Joweh’s “Call to Dance” in Guatemala

Part 1: Arrival

by Chloe Villarreal
posted January 27, 2011

The few passengers and workers who happened to be at the San Francisco International Airport at 4 AM on a Thursday morning blinked bemusedly at the group of women approaching. I guess they had reason: hair in vibrant red waves or multi-colored and up in twists, some flared purple dance pants tied up above black leather boots, a few matching black T-shirts printed with a mysterious phrase: “Joweh R.A.W.” We trudged in pushing trolleys laden with drum cases and a suspiciously long and heavy cardboard box, heading for the Taca Airlines terminal and a 7 AM flight to San Salvador, then a connecting flight to Guatemala City.

So began Troupe Joweh’s biggest adventure yet.

After sometime of planning by our director, TerriAnne Gutierrez, and months of fundraising, we were thrilled to finally be on our way to Guatemala City, on the invitation of the nonprofit cultural arts center ArteCentro Graciela de Andrade Paiz. We would be spending ten days there, teaching workshops at the ArteCentro and performing our show, “A Call to Dance,” for two nights at the Instituto Guatemalteco Americano, accompanied by our drummer, Susu Pampanin.

Troupe in the JungleAfter a short layover in San Salvador, we arrived at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, where we were welcomed warmly by ArteCentro’s general director Silvia Bolaños and dance coordinator Juan Domingues. They shuttled us (using a whole car just for our luggage!) to the Hotel Panamericana in the historic Zone 1, the oldest part of Guatemala City. What a wonderful place to stay! Our rooms were decorated with beautiful Mayan textiles and woodwork, and looked out onto a street that became a busy outdoor market in the evening. In the huge, 1920’s-style dining room, the friendly staff served us delicious traditional food; we loved the caldos and the pepián! We also still crave the pureed black beans, fried plantains, and fresh tortillas served with our breakfast every morning.

Even our exhaustion couldn’t dampen our excitement and eagerness to explore our fascinating new surroundings.

Juan and Silvia proved to be gracious hosts and even better friends, allowing us a glimpse of Guatemala that few tourists got to see. They instructed us in proper haggling etiquette at the Central Market and introduced us to some of their favorite spots to wine and dine.

The most amazing place they introduced us to, though, was the ArteCentro itself.

Opened in 2007 by Fundacion Paiz, the ArteCentro Graciela de Andrade Paiz is dedicated to the development of the community through education in the arts. Through ArteCentro, hundreds of Guatemalans of all ages and backgrounds have been able to learn dance, theater, visual arts, and music for little or no cost. The place itself is beautiful, inviting, modern, full of color and art displays, and often teaming with school age children who giggle and chat in the hallways as they wait for their guitar or acting classes to begin.Guatemala map

Over the next few days several workshops were given by TerriAnne and Susu at the ArteCentro: Cabaret choreography, percussion, zills, as well as a Tribal Fusion taught by Jodi Waseca. The most fun we had was at the close of the week, when we presented a special modern choreography class taught by all of the Joweh members. With Susu being fluent in Spanish, she became our official translator and we all had a blast getting to know our students and working together! We were very impressed with them as they learned to perform a whole Joweh choreography in just two hours!  That night we truly admired these Guatemalan bellydancers for their enthusiasm, hard work, and great senses of humor. After feeling the love, with many hugs, photos, and exchanges of email addresses, we were whisked back to the hotel by Juan and Silvia, to rest up before our big show. (All right, we may have stopped briefly at an undisclosed location for a few rounds of caipirinhas and impromptu singing of 70's tunes, but only to calm our nerves!) We would be performing in Guatemala’s most beautiful, and prestigious, theater the very next day!
Part two coming soon….

Names of troupe members pictured in photo: 1, 2-Chloe?, 3, 4, 5-Nicole?, 6, Susu sitting

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