PHOTOS | Riverdale charter school hosts ‘Afro-Caribbean Diaspora Celebration’

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Briana Dominguez, 15, dances the bomba on Feb. 22, 2023 in Riverdale as part of an Afro-Caribbean celebration. Each dancer takes their turn in the middle of the dance circle or the batey. Dominguez said she bonded with the other dancers while practicing movements. “Because I’m Afro-Latina, it warms my heart to do it. Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to dance,” said Dominguez.
Photo Paige Perez
The Bombazo Dance Co, Inc. dancers practice facing the drummers in the beginning of their performance at the International Leadership Charter High School in Riverdale. The performers are mostly in the 10th grade. According to Dr. Elaine Ruiz Lopez, CEO and founder of the high school, most of the student body identifies as Afro-Latino including Dominican and Puerto Rican, and are of West African descent. The dance residency goes until June and students will continue to learn more complex rhythms from different parts of the world. Photo Paige Perez
Keytther Fernandez (left) and Oreste “Kiddore” Abrantes (middle) play the lead drums and Norixa Santiago (right) plays the cúa. Santiago is from Salinas, Puerto Rico, and assists instruction with dancing and playing the drums, maraca and cúa. Santiago said the students’ growth from where they started to where they are now is impressive. “The only biggest problem of our students, of this generation, is that they really don’t know where they come from. Getting them to actually open their minds and see that there is more to it than just to be Puerto Rican, or just to be Dominican,” said Santiago. “As soon as we got them to listen, boom.” Photo Paige Perez
About seven drummers play three bomba rhythms of Puerto Rico: bomba sicá, bomba yubá and bomba cuembé. This is the first year a group of drummers were included to attract male students. Abrantes has been teaching them since October for about an hour once a week. “We love that we see our kids bloom, lighten up, and let go of the stress during the day and everything,” said Abrantes. Abrantes said that in bomba the dancer bows to the drummer and takes permission from them to hit the sounds they want to through their improvised movements. The “primo” or first drummer follows the dancer while the other drummers keep the rhythm. Photo Paige Perez
Milteri Tucker Concepcion (center) poses for a selfie with a group of drummers in a changing room before they perform. Concepcion is the founder and artistic director of Bombazo Dance Co, Inc., a non-profit organization based in the Bronx that teaches Afro-Caribbean traditional and contemporary dance. Concepcion said that though the students come from different cultural backgrounds, it’s important for them to learn how connected they are, especially as young people living in New York City. Photo Paige Perez
Audience members stand to applaud the drummers and dancers. The performance was open to the charter school community, which includes parents and family members, faculty and staff, and other students in support of their peers. Photo Paige Perez
Keytther Fernandez, 17, plays the lead drummer part. Fernandez is from the Dominican Republic and volunteered to be the “primo” because he has prior drumming experience. Fernandez and his sister, a dancer, both performed for the first time and made good friendships. “We [the students] don’t even know each other outside of the group but we became really good friends once we started playing the bombazo,” Fernandez told the Bronx Times. Photo Paige Perez
A table shows cultural components from the Dominican Republic in time for their independence day next week. Photo Paige Perez

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