Bronx dance company at New Orleans festival

(l-r) Cynthia Paniagua, Noele Phillips, Melissa Escano and Concepcion perform the bomba dance at the Congo Square World Rhythms Festival last month.
Photo courtesy of Ransom Phelps

What do Puerto Rico, New Orleans and the Bronx all have in common? Bomba!

On Saturday, March 19, south Bronx-based Bombazo Dance Company was featured in the 2017 Congo Square Rhythms Festival, an annual festival held in New Orleans which celebrates culture, heritage and tradition through dance and music.

At the festival, company members performed a drum and dance circle based on Bomba, a traditional musical style of Puerto Rico which involves drummers, dancers and singers and incorporates the island’s African, Spanish and native (Taino) cultures.

The drum and dance circle, more specifically, was a presentation of traditional Afro Puerto Rican Bomba. The performance also made connections to Bamboula, a similar genre which was popular in Congo Square.

This was the second time Bombazo Dance Company participated in the event, after the organization was featured in the festival in 2014.

The word ‘Bombazo’ is defined as a community gathering together to create a ‘Bomba jam’ which celebrates life through dance, song and rhythm.

“This is a great opportunity for those in the borough who want to learn about Afro-Rican culture through performance in a non-competitive environment,” said Concepcion, who founded the non-for-profit dance company in 2008 and holds Bachelor’s degrees in Dance, Biology and Chemistry, as well as a Master’s degree in Dance from NYU. She is also the organization’s artistic director. “I want to continue sharing this knowledge and making these lessons on culture and heritage accessible to the Bronx – because I am very proud of who I am and where I came from.”

Concepcion was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and moved to the Bronx when she was 17, where she has lived ever since. Her father, William L. Tucker, was born and raised in New Orleans before serving in the military as a captain in Puerto Rico, which has also brought Milteri full circle with her dance company.

“There are a lot of deep roots here – for both my company and I,” she added, referring to the history of Bomba in New Orleans. “It is important that we continue to appreciate this part of history while we teach these rhythms to new, upcoming generations.”

Aside from being the company’s founder, she is also a Bomba master dancer, educator, scholar and award-winning choreographer.

This past winter, Milteri also provided Bomba dance workshops to the Ashe Cultural Arts Center and dance students from Tulane University. She has also performed and/or showcased her work at Pregones Theater, Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, among other venues.

The reception from the festival was so strong, Bombazo Dance Company was invited to come back to Louisiana for another celebratory event in the summer at the Whitney Platation in Edgard.

The company’s free drum and dance workshops begin on Saturday, April 8, with an African drum class at 10 a.m., a Bomba drum class at 11 a.m. and a Bomba dance class at noon.

Workshops will be held at 345 Brook Avenue between 141st and 142nd streets, which is also the headquarters location of Aspira of New York, Inc., the state’s largest Puerto Rican youth non-profit organization, an organization which Bombazo Dance Company has partnered with for the Bombazo Dance Company Education Program.

All workshops are free and open to the public. Children under 12 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Registration is required by email at bombazodanceco@gmail.com.

For more information, visit www.bombazodanceco.com

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