At noon on February 25, professional tango dancer Mauro Peralta will bring his talent to the University Center’s Sunnen Lounge for the third installment of “Dance to a Different Beat” – an event series hosted by Webster’s Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs (MCISA) department.
The series, comprised of workshops highlighting dance styles from around the world, is meant to “give our students an opportunity to diversify their dance experience,” said Bethany Keller, MCISA’s assistant director. Last September, sophomore dance major Kevin Hamilton shared his hip hop skills at the first workshop. Members of Soorya Performing Arts, a nonprofit organization supporting and promoting Indian art forms in the St. Louis area, came to Webster in November to teach students various styles of traditional Indian dance. Next week, Peralta will give a performance of the Argentine Tango and provide free lessons to interested attendees afterward.
Peralta’s visit comes courtesy of numerous Webster organizations: MCISA, the Department of International Languages and Cultures (ILC), the Center for International Education, the Latin American Student Organization, and the Dance Club. Mercedes Stephenson, adjunct faculty in ILC, called the workshop “a truly collaborative effort.”
“ILC came up with the idea and then we fit it in the Multicultural Center programming,” Stephenson said. “Once we proposed it, we thought about the Dance Department, since it would be a natural fit for them. As a result, we formed a team composed of ILC, [the] Multicultural Center, [the] Dance Department, and also the Center for International Studies. All of them offered financial support, as well as LASO (Latin American Student Organization).”
When it came to deciding on a professional Latin dancer to invite, globally- and locally-renowned tango instructor Mauro Peralta was the obvious choice. Peralta was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he first fell in love with the tango as a teenager. He now lives and works in St. Louis, teaching dance classes and private lessons at his studio just north of Forest Park, though his work has taken him around the world. According to his website, Peralta’s teaching technique “combines elements of classic tango with the traditional embrace… incorporating techniques from gyrotonics, pilates, and yoga to help students develop a better sense of connection between self and partner, and to achieve the best communication through body language.”
Beckah Reed, a professional dancer and mentor for Webster’s Dance Club, hopes that workshop attendees will also find a sense of connection with the art of dance and its relevance to the University’s global mission. “Movement is the first form of communication,” Reed said. “The lungs expand when a baby is born and a baby cries. Movement is the universal language.”
Stephenson agrees: “I hope participants connect with the performers in their representation of universal themes such as love and relationships.”
While dance can be a universal language, it can also reveal much about the culture from which a particular style of dance originated. “How one country or culture moves its hips, eyes, hands, knees, tells us about their history, religion, politics, social status, and heart,” Reed said.
For Stephenson, this is especially true of the Argentine Tango. “Argentine tango demonstrates the intricacies of human relationships in [Argentinian] culture,” Stephenson said. “It reflects societal changes, as well as the aesthetically significant representations of men and women, social classes, and language.”
Robert Franklin, a Webster student and vice president of the Latin American Student Organization, believes that Peralta’s performance has the potential to broaden the workshop attendees’ horizons. He wants event participants “to learn that there are not just American dance styles. There’s more than that. [The American] way of dancing isn’t the ‘best’ way.”
Franklin also hopes that Peralta’s performance inspires students to further embrace the University’s call to global citizenship. “The passion [students] see [in the dance] might make them want to go to Argentina, to travel abroad – see other cultures, become a global citizen.” When you travel abroad, Franklin said, “you can see that the world is bigger than just your front door, or just the city you live in.”
For more information about Mauro Peralta, visit his website www.mauroperalta.com. For more information about the tango event, please contact Maggie Dankert in the Department of International Languages and Cultures at (314) 968-7047 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out more MCISA events on their blog, blogs.webster.edu/mcisa.