A night of song and dance Local musicians celebrate with Colombian pride in Ellsworth Park

Union City residents sang, laughed, and clapped along to the celebratory beats and voices of the performers of “Colombia Canta,” a musical celebrating Colombian Independence Day.

On a recent Thursday, Mayor Brian P. Stack and the Board of Commissioners, in collaboration with the Grace Theatre Workshop, held a musical concert in Union City’s Ellsworth Park.

“I want to invite the whole community to support art in Union City,” said Rafael Palacios, the show’s director. He also emceed the night, firing up the crowd at every turn with chants and shouts of “Viva Colombia!”

Traditional music, dance

The crowd filled the seats as Rafael introduced the first act, a professional local singer and vocal teacher, Roxana Rey. Her energetic stage presence kicked off the show with a bang.

She mixed in upbeat Spanish love songs with a ballad about the peace and harmony of Colombia, “Colombia, Tierra Querida.”

Sarmiento showed admiration and love for this country, while interacting with the crowd and drawing them into the essence of celebrating culture and values on the beautiful night.

“There is a big Colombian community in the area,” said Rey. “In my opinion, the celebration is a way to embrace our country and feel ourselves closer to the land that gave us life.”

Young women in long white dresses twirled around men in sombreros and red scarves, as the evening’s next act, Orquidea de Oro de Colombia, lit up the stage with traditional folk dance.

“I have found in dance, a very important ground not just of self expression, but also for social relationships,” said the group’s artistic director and performer, Phanor Teran. “In particular, folklore dance reflects the traditions and culture of a particular group of people and more important makes the connection between different cultures.”

For the last 13 years, under the direction of Nurys Capello, the group has had much acclaim and was invited to participate in different activities across New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Phanor Teran believes their goals lie within forming relationships with other cultures through the performing arts: “We expect to share our culture and traditions with all other cultures in the world, to learn from every traditional dance culture and show them ours.”

The night settled in and the flashing lights brightened the stage for young singer Natalia Artaga, whose sweet voice carried the crowd through popular songs from Evanescence and Selena, followed by Rey again in a duet with Brittany Santos.

“She is one of my best students,” said Roxana. “We have performed many times, and every time it is a joy and a source of pride that such a young lady is able to project her voice the way she does.”

Hispanic pride

Local celebrity and musical comedian, Pancho Velez finished the celebration with laughs improvisational singing. Along with director Rafael Palacios, they thanked the crowd and remarked on how important this Independence Day celebration was to Colombians and the community of Union City.

“I actually enjoyed the comedian, who was the last act,” said Sherylene Diaz, who expected an enriching show about Colombia’s past. “Besides being hilarious, he promoted unity among us all by mentioning Colombia’s current unfortunate dilemmas, but spreading the word of support and peace.”

Rafael Palacios, who is also the president of the Colombian Circle of New Jersey eagerly expressed his pride in his country and the performers: “Because it spreads Hispanic pride and expands more ties in the community, and as an organizer, the show went great and the public loved it. The artists all felt respected and supported.”

Diaz agreed with the director when reflecting upon the songs about Colombia’s beautiful past: “It’s essential to keep the culture alive in the U.S., we all have a story, and by sharing it, it makes our nation more open minded”

More to come

Bringing the performing arts into the community is one of the main goals behind the area’s 6th Annual Union City Theater Festival in the Park, which takes place all summer long between the trees at the corner of New York Ave and 24th Street. Residents of the city never have to shell out a penny for the show, and if they arrive soon enough, the city provides folding chairs for seating.

Upcoming shows for the Theater in the Park series at Ellsworth Park include Randy Pradera, an ESL teacher from Emerson High School. On July 31, this lifelong resident of Union City accompanied by his guitar will sing some of the best known Latin ballads and boleros.

Also, Sarmiento will perform once again on August 14th at 8:00pm, for a full concert.

For more information, call (201) 348-5746. Comments on this story can be sent to: current@hudsonreporter.com.

Young women in long white dresses twirled around men in sombreros and red scarves, as the evening’s next act, Orquidea de Oro de Colombia, lit up the stage with traditional folk dance.


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