A Full Moon for el Festival de Teatro para Niños by Christine Stoddard

Photo courtesy of Teatro de la Luna.
Photo courtesy of Teatro de la Luna.

Season to season, festival to festival, Teatro de la Luna, co-founded by Mario Marcel and Nucky Walder, ping-pongs between the Gunston Arts Center and Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre. One of the metro’s two bilingual theater companies, the Arlington arts organization also ricochets from schools to embassies to libraries and wherever else audiences demand Spanish-language performances.

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From plays to harp concerts to poetry marathons and a dizzing bevy of other events, Teatro de la Luna seems to possess as many forms as its namesake—the moon. But one of the company’s  comforting constants is its Festival de Teatro para Niños, an annual bilingual children’s theater festival boasting a lively array of theater workshops, folkloric dances, and plays for kids.

This year, el Festival de Teatro para Niños took place at Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre on Jan. 17, 2015. Despite the blustery wind, dozens of families braved the cold for six hours’ worth of programming.

From the moment you entered the lobby, the festival’s energy was palpable. Starting at 11 a.m., kids could seize crayons and coloring pages scattered across low platforms on the floor. Empanadas, sandwiches, and snacks filled the lunch counter, while Latin Americans handicrafts were piled high by a rack full of Spanish storybooks.

The first performance included a set of skits, poetry recitation, and songs from Las Lunitas, Teatro de la Luna’s troupe of pint-sized performers instructed by Marcela Ferlito and Alex Alburqueque. A standout rendition of the popular Spanish song “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás,” written by Cuban songwriter Osvaldo Farrés, was just one of multiple displays of talent that day, with more to come.

Next up came dance sets from three Latin American heritage groups: Los Quetzales (Mexico), Matices Escuela de Danzas (Peru), and Club de Danzas Mt. Vernon Community School (El Salvador).

Los Quetzales Mexican Dance Ensemble.
Los Quetzales Mexican Dance Ensemble. Photo courtesy of Los Quetzales.

Los Quetzales, decked out in full mariachi attire, gave a taste of the dances of Jalisco, a Mexican state whose cultural exports include some the things most commonly associated with Mexico: tequila, sombreros, bull riding, rancheras, and much more. The group, directed by Laura Ortiz, danced “Machetes,” “Jilguerillo,” and “Jarabe Tapatío” (known around the world as “The Mexican Hat Dance”) with beauty, flair, and, of course, the delightful adorableness only child dancers can achieve.

Matices Escuela de Danzas, directed by Ana María Cuba, began their set with two tiny dancers—Angelo Pinillos and Camilla Anghelone— in “Marinera Norteña,” the national dance of Peru.  Anghelone, a local dance champion specializing in the coastal Peruvian dance, danced barefoot, as is customary, and captivated spectators with her swift and expressive movements. Anghelone continued to win over the audience in “Festejo,” a festive Peruvian dance associated with the emancipation of the country’s African slaves. Fellow dancers Brianna Tamariz and Darielly Ramírez donned two-piece sequined costumes with equally sparkly scrunchies and anklets, and shook and thrusted to their hearts’ content.

Club de Danzas Mt. Vernon Community School, directed by Ziomara Hernández, finished up the morning’s programming with a Carnaval Salvadoreño—a type of patriotic dance—called “San Miguel en Carnaval.” Dancers Daviana Monge, Lauren Sutherland, Stella Kathman, Milly Palmer-Moran, Molly Quigley, Adryanne Anez Antelo, Lizbeth Gómez, and Nina Cirenza paid homage to the city of San Miguel as they fluttered and kicked in formation. The fact that the girls’ skirts were made from the Salvadoran flag was a cute touch.

Photo courtesy of Teatro de la Luna. JuanTorreblanca
From ‘Siempre  Amigos.’ Photo courtesy of Teatro de la Luna. Juan Torreblanca

After lunch, the audience returned for “Siempre Amigos/Buddies Not Bullies,” an educational play about the perils of bullying. Written and directed by Neher J. Briceño, “Siempre Amigos” starred local actors Sharon Desiree, Marcela Ferlito, and Araceli Má. The cast alternated between Spanish and English lines and between the parts of Greek Chorus and self-conscious  schoolgirls. The sweet, comedic story followed the plight of Lolita, a young girl whose classmates tease her for wearing glasses, “looking like a turtle,” and generally being clumsy. Kudos to Rosita Bécker and Nucky Walder for finessing the bright, simple, and child-friendly production design.

The afternoon marched on with additional perforamnces by Las Lunitas, plus folkloric dances from Grupo Raices (Honduras/Paraguay), Fraternidad Tinkus Cochabama (Bolivia), and Tobas Dinastia (Bolivia). Another performance of “Siempre Amigos/Buddies Not Bullies” wrapped up what was truly a marathon ran in the name of children’s theatre.

Catch Teatro de la Luna’s romantic and captivating night of tango Luna de Tangos (Moonlight Tangos)– this Saturday, January 31, 2015 from 7:00 pm – 10:30 pm at at NRECA Conference Center – 4301 Wilson Blvd, in Arlington, VA. There is free underground parking, and it’s near the Ballston Metro Station stop. Purchase tickets here.