Issue - June 2008

June 2008

In this month's issue, read about how Wilson Peñaranda began his career; Elias Burgess brings Alcides D'orbigny Museum of Natural History; Jennine Loiseau invites us to participate of Fête de la Musique; Ivan Montaño tells us about Andean more...

June 2008

Wilson Peñaranda

On the day I arrived in Bolivia the other volunteers invited me to visit a Salsa class in “Academia Nova Danza” . It is a place where people from abroad can meet people from Bolivia. Immediately I was touched by the energy that filled the room when the teacher Wilson Peñaranda entered. From the first moment he taught us that dancing is not just about techniques, that dance brings out something from the inside; it enables us to express our heart and soul through our bodies.

Eva Biard
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Saarbücken - Germany

Cocha-banner: How did you discover your talent for dancing?

Wilson Peñaranda: When I was a child I was very attracted to bright lights; Christmas time was fascinating. When I was locked up in my room I imagined I was a star and that I was in the spotlight. I was always full of fantasy and had an active imagination. For example, there was a TV show I watched as a child with a talking car which inspired many games for me. I used to play outside and embody this car racing through the roads.
When I was 15 years old there was a dance competition for my age group in the state-run boys’ college. The award was a bag full of sliced bread, which was intriguing to me.

CB: Why?

WP: Because I grew up as an orphan with my grandparents in a humble household. My mother died when I was two and my father abandoned me when I was six. I used to help my grandmother sell dishes in the market of Quillacollo, so being able to win a bag of sliced bread meant a lot. In the competition I was turning and turning and turning and turning, nothing more, and I won. I was very surprised. Me? I won? For the first time in my life I felt important.

CB: How did you develop your dancing skills?

WP: I started going to contests in Cochabamba and its environs. For the most part I won, and the girls admired my dancing so that made me happy. I participated in the first National Inter-College Dance Contest for groups in Bolivia. With two other members I performed to `Smooth Criminal´ by Michael Jackson. One partner performed acrobatics, the other one imitated Michael Jackson but I used my own choreography and danced my own style – and we won! The other participants asked me, “How could you win, you have never had a dance lesson?” I, myself, was surprised.
We performed this routine again at the event `Miss 15 Años – Cochabamba´ and a jazz-professor who saw me dancing invited me to his dance academy, but I did not go.

CB: How about projects of your own?

WP: Variety and experience gave me more and more confidence in myself and I opened up my own dance academy, `Adrenalina Danza, ´ on the Prado. After a year and a half, though, the building was sold and it was impossible to find another location that I could afford.
I myself danced with my partner in the Salsa Category to `Mi Cariñito´ from Puerto Rico Power. I really wanted to win this one as well, but we did not in the end. After this festival I was invited to many other competitions. I made choreographies for the `Club de Gimnasia Artística ‘Imperial’´. But at the time I did not have the money to keep my successful group running. I was so disheartened that I wanted to stop dancing.
During this time I ran into a friend, a former student from my academy “Adrenalina Danza”. He was walking with the director of the `Balet National de Bolivia´. This friend told the director that I was a good teacher. The director invited me directly to participate in a workshop with him. A friend encouraging me to continue. We went with several other groups to the `International Festival Danza Cruz´. Seven out of eight choreographies won in a number of different styles. But for the second time my partner and I did not win in the Salsa category.

CB: Your salsa lessons at “Nova Danza” are taught at a high energy level. Is Salsa your favourite dance?

WP: My favourites are the ballroom dances like the Rumba, Cha-Cha- Cha, Tango, and I very much like Salsa, Merengue and Bachata. I was very motivated to specialize in Salsa because of the interesting festivals. I watched the videos of the competitions and was addicted. I developed my own style whilst I was dancing all the other styles. Finally, I won with my dancing partner Vivian Goytia at the event `Competencia Nacional ´Bembe´ de Salsa Bolivia´ 2006 and 2007. The winner is qualified to represent Bolivia in different international championships like the Salsa Open in Puerto Rico or the Salsa World Championships in Los Angeles. Twice we could not go: in 2006, the Bembe management had a timing problem and in 2007, everything was very well prepared but the American government did not cooperate with the visa for Vivian. We were completely demoralized after not being allowed to represent our country after such hard work.

CB: Vivian, how did you meet Wilson?

Vivian Goitia: Six years ago I had my first class with Wilson. Over a very short time I progressed a lot. I danced for one and a half years in Wilson’s Academy and then I left for one year. Later I studied classical ballet for four years.

WP: We experienced a lot together. And in times when everybody criticized me she stood by me and supported me.

CB: Your plans for the future?

WP: I would like to work more in artistic productions and event production management, which is an innovative field in Bolivia. I have some experience with TV shows. Three years ago I was responsible for the choreography of the Bolivian production of `Jesus Christ Superstar´ and a few months ago we performed and filmed Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey´s musical `Grease.´ I took care of the choreography and the general production.

This gives me the confidence to plan the creation of my own business, which is going to be the first performing arts production company of in Bolivia. Its name is `IN-PACTO´ where the Individual artist has a PACT with the company. The idea is to create alternatives for the artistic product and Bolivian talent, to open a market where artists like me can earn money and live decently, a market with respect for professionalism. I am limited by several barriers, like my economic situation and the Bolivian culture, which does not take professional artists seriously. So far, there is no support from the government, but I need technical equipment and other resources. I am working on this idea but patience is not my strong point. I am more the obsessive type and tend to want things immediately. But I have had this dream for over a year and I will keep trying until it is realized.

I am also thinking about how to develop the model of a franchise competition. This could include buying the rights from an organization for the world championship of Salsa so the winners can represent Bolivia. This would allow Vivian and me, as double champions, to be able to travel for international competitions. I would also like to travel abroad because I believe that if I can go to other places and meet other people, I can learn much more. It will enable me to improve the quality of my teaching and to become an example for young artists to keep on fighting for dance, because there are no boundaries for dreams.

Alcide D’Orbigny
Museum of Natural History

It has an active partnership with San Simón University and the French Embassy, and serves as a repository for important scientific specimens. May be small, but it has a comprehensive collection of exhibits ranging from mounted butterflies to a dinosaur skeleton. The museum, which has been open to the public since 2003, was established to teach people more about the environment they live in...

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