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Dance and Identity: Ecuador and Colombia. The Dance Thinker, Issue #27
April 13, 2014

The Dance Thinker

Issue # 27, April 13, 2014



1. The Latin American series continues in this issue with dance history of Ecuador and Colombia.

2. There's a great new page at the website...

3. Links to some of the new chats in the forum.


1. Dance and Identity. The Latin American series: ECUADOR and COLOMBIA

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1. The Latin American series continues in this issue with dance history of Ecuador and Colombia.

If you haven’t read any of our last three issues, you may not know that I’m publishing a series of short articles about dance in Latin America, with emphasis in the figures who have tried to create identity through dance. Today’s turn is for Ecuador and Colombia.

You can read the introduction of the series here:

Dance and Identity. The Latin American series: CUBA and BRAZIL

2. The great new page at the website is about Character Dances. It includes a serious and very complete definition of this type of dances and explanations about the existing confusions regarding the concepts of characteristic dances, demi-caractère dances, character roles and folkloric dances. You can find it here:

Character Dances

3. Links to some of the new chats in the forum:

How to do a pirouette en dehors and en dedans?

How to do a deeper plié?


1.Dance and Identity. The Latin American series: ECUADOR and COLOMBIA

This series about dance and identity in Latin America started in a previous issue of ‘The Dance Thinker’. If you wish to better understand the content that follows, please read the introduction of the series here:

Dance and Identity. The Latin American series: CUBA and BRAZIL

If you want to read the second and/or third part of the series you will find them here:

Dance and Identity. The Latin American series: ARGENTINA and VENEZUELA

Dance and Identity. The Latin American series: COSTA RICA and MEXICO


Despite the fact that there are not many documents available about the development of dance in Ecuador, I’ll try to mention some important events in a short summary.

In her essay about the Ecuadorian dance history, Susana Mariño mentions Raymound Maugé Thonie as a pioneer. Maugé arrives to Quito in 1929 with his company from Paris and is engaged as ballet teacher at the National Conservatory of Music. He is recognized as the originator of the practice of this technique in the city but also as being responsible for “… opening new spaces for dance as a systematized activity and new horizons and expressive possibilities for women (Mariño, 1995, p.95).

Maugé always had the idea of creating a professional ballet school in Guayaquil, and he achieves it two years before his death. In 1948, the Guayaquil ballet school is opened under the direction of Inge Bruckman, who is one of Maugé’s pupils. After her, Kitty Sakilarides and Ileana Leonidoff take over the direction. The Argetinean Angélica Merini directs the school in 1962 and by the end of that decade the school closes its doors. In 1990, it is reopened as the school of contemporary techniques under the direction of the dancer and choreographer Luis Mueckay.

Alternatively, the ‘Escuela de Ballet de la Casa de la Cultura’ (Ballet School of the House of Culture) is created in 1955. Years later, in 1974, it becomes the ‘Instituto Nacional de Danza’ (National Institute of Dance), attended by important dancers of the country like Wilson Pico, who directs the ‘Experimental Modern Ballet’ or María Luisa Gonzales and other dancers who, through there dance, start working over topics like “… worries and social conflicts, the nature of cultural roots and modes, the modern man problems…” (Mariño, 1995, p.96). Within this institute, the ‘Ballet de Cámara del Ecuador’ (Ecuadorian Chamber Ballet) is created in 1980. It splits tough from it later, in 1984.

In 1976 the ‘National Dance Company’ is created. It is first made up of foreign dancers and choreographers but national dancers incorporate to it progressively. Within a frame of exploration through contemporary dance techniques, the company leans towards topics about the political and social reality of Latin America. This is due to the guidance of Marcelo Ordonez, one of its most outstanding directors, who leads the company to the search of national cultural roots.

Finally, the ‘Frente de Danza Independiente’ (Independent National Front of Dance) is recognized as one of the most important contemporary dance companies today. It is directed by Carolina Váscones and Josie Cáceres in Quito. Created in 1984, it defines itself as a laboratory for movement studies.


In Colombia, the main dance genre that has been the object of researches about the creative processes, staging or teaching is the one of traditional dance (folkloric dance). It has been understood as a way of strengthening cultural values and a mean of creating a national identity. Therefore, there are not as many documents that treat other forms of dance because those have been perceived traditionally as imported techniques that explore the physical skills and beauty of movement only. However, due to the global dynamics, new forms of dance are progressively gaining acceptance as bodily tools, through which the moving dynamics of the urban inhabitants can find an expressive way. This is recognizable in the historic documentation available about the Colombian concert dance and its representative figures.

The first figure recognized for exploring the new dancing languages is Jacinto Jaramillo, who talks about modern or new dance in Colombia for the first time. Born in Antioquia, this dancer and researcher of folkloric dances leans towards finding new ways of moving as well as alternative bodily training methods, both for him and his dancers. With this goal in mind, he travels to New York and studies with Irma Duncan, one of Isadora Duncan’s heirs. Despite his main interest is folkloric dance, he tries to use the tools from foreign techniques to enhance the expressivity of the dancer’s body, without changing the traditions or intention of what is danced. Yet, he does not teach this new knowledge as an independent technique, but limits himself to use it in the work with students, or trainings for staging.

So, the arriving to Colombia of modern dance as a technique is attributed to the prima ballerina from the Romanian Opera Irinna Brecker. Once settled in Bogotá around the 1970s, she creates her own academy called ‘The Studio’, and instructs dancers of the country for the first time with this technique.

Carlos Jaramillo, one of her students, is recognized as one of the first dancers to create a national modern dancing style, with his piece ‘Pondó’ (shown at the Colón Theater of Bogotá in 1987). This dancer and choreographer from Cartagena, starts his career as a folkloric dancer with Sonia Osorio and Delia Zapata. He also studies ballet and jazz with Rafael Sarmiento in Bogotá and takes classes in New York with Martha Graham, the American Dance Theatre and Hans Zullig (in Germany and Switzerland).

In 1981, Jaramillo founds the school and company ‘Triknia Kábhelioz’. It is settled today in Germany, where the choreographer lives, with the name ‘Triknia Dance Company’. The company is given the merit of creating a type of national modern dance, based on ethnic and cultural Colombian features. Its pieces include Colombian made music by composers like Adolfo Mejía, Luis A. Calvo or Luis Pulido.

In the city of Cali, there’s an institute called ‘Incolballet’ (Colombian Institute of Classical ballet). It offers artistic high school education with emphasis in ballet or traditional Colombian dance and hosts the first professional ballet company created in that city.

‘Incolballet’ is founded in 1978 by the dancer and choreographer Gloria Castro, who dedicates nowadays to its management. M. Castro studies ballet in the ‘Escuela Departamental de Danza de Bellas Artes de Cali’ (District School of Dance of the School for Fine Arts of Cali) under the direction of the Italian teacher Giovanni Brinati and travels later to Italy to continue her studies in the academy ‘Balleto Di Roma’. She also studies modern dance in York with Merce Cunningham at The Cunningham Dance Foundation. At present, Incolballet works with several dance genres such as contemporary dance and traditional dances, both with the school and company. Still, the emphasis stays over classical ballet, with which the company creates pieces that show Colombian cultural features.

Cartagena, another Colombian city in which folkloric dances are the most renowned, hosts a similar institute with artistic high school education, but with emphasis in contemporary dance. Its name is ‘El colegio del cuerpo’ (The school of the Body) and is directed by Álvaro Restrepo and Marie France Delieuvin. Dance is understood here as a way to think about the human being and its social context. Using the body as a tool, this accomplishes a double purpose: “… it promotes a reflection about Colombia and it gives the young people of Cartagena an opportunity to develop their creative and expressive talent” (Peláez*, 2003, p.234).

Álvaro Restrepo is seen as one of the pioneers of contemporary dance in Colombia. After beginning an MA degree, he studies dance and dedicates to it at the age of 24. He is granted a scholarship to attend the Martha Graham School in New York, where he studies for five years. He also studies with Jennifer Müller, José Limón, Merce Cunningham and Cho Kyoo-Hyun, from whom he receives a great influence.

Once in Colombia, he and Marie France Delieuvin create the program for contemporary dance studies of the ‘Academia Superior de Artes de Bogotá’ (The High Academy for the Arts of Bogotá), in 1993. He also founds the contemporary dance company ‘El Puente’ in association with Incolballet, and ‘Athanor Danza’, as the creative core for some of his pieces like ‘Rebis’, ‘Sol Níger’, ‘Yo Arbor’, ‘Gonzalo’, ‘Raveliana’ and ‘La enfermedad del ángel’.

In 1997, Álvaro Resrtrepo creates ‘El Colegio del cuerpo’, where he produces pieces like “El alma de las cosas”, in which the dancers use daily life objects. The piece has been described as “… a crucial moment for our contemporary dance (…) we can enjoy it and feel the maturity of our aesthetical expressions…” (Ospina**, 2003, p.87).

Another important figure of the development of contemporary dance in Colombia is Peter Palacio. Born in Barranquilla, he starts his career as a folkloric dancer in the ‘Ballet Colombiano de Jaime Orozco’ (Colombian Ballet of Jaime Orozco). He studies jazz with Cucca Taburelli and takes modern dance classes with Irinna Brecker, together with Carlos Jaramillo who, according to Peter’s words “teaches him to interpret the ideas given by the choreographer instead of copying movement”.

Peter completes his dance studies in the Unites States at the Martha Graham School and at the Tampa University. In Europe, he studies with Nobuyoshi Nakayima (director of the Tokyo City Ballet) and Christine Brunell, pioneer of contemporary dance.

In 1990, he creates the company ‘Danza Concierto’ (Concert Dance), conceived as an interdisciplinary project, with which he organizes ten versions of an International season of contemporary dance in the city of Medellin, from 1996 to 2006. With the company, Peter creates many pieces about identity related issues like ‘Los hijos del sol’ (about the Colombian native people), ‘Quinientas lunas después’ (about the Spanish conquest), ‘Benkos’ (about the African slaves brought to Colombia), ‘Tiempo mestizo’ (about the Colombian cultural mixture), ‘Esa vana costumbre del bolero’ (about the Colombian popular and musical culture), ‘La bella Remedios’ (about a character from a novel by the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez), ‘Recicle’ (about current environmental issues) or ‘Anamorfosis’ (where he mixes movement with technologies).

His starting motivation is to show the national talent and to work with topics that expose the social and cultural context, as a way to strengthen Colombian identity through art. Therefore, he builds the content of his pieces by studying the Colombian culture. One of his dancers, who did a research about his works states: “The influence of sociopolitical contexts that define his pieces can be observed clearly; his proposals aim to refute the cultural prejudices that exist about Latin-American artists” (Congote***, 2011, p.70).

This is why some of his pieces deal with historical data, myths, ethnical issues, the encounter between the European and the American culture, the African settlement in the country, the mixture of cultures and other popular topics that make part of his reality. He works with local composers like Andrés Posada, Luis Fernando Franco, Jesús Pinzón Urrea and Edson Quezada or local musicians like traditional singers. Sets, lighting, and costumes have also been arranged by local artists like Mario Salazar, Ricardo Neira, Raúl Trujillo or Lili Torres.


This text was originally written in Spanish by Yudy Lorena Jiménez***. It has been revised and translated to English by Maria Naranjo for


* Peláez, L.D. Maestro del cuerpo. Revista Semana (1112), p.235, 01 de septiembre 2003.

** Ospina, W. El colegio del cuerpo. Revista Cromos (4462), p.87, 18 de agosto 2003.

***Congote, J., Ramirez, A.,& Agudelo, J. La creación en danza: conversaciones con coreógrafos de danza contemporánea en Medellín. Editorial universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, 2011.

***Jiménez, Yudy Lorena. Análisis del proceso creativo de la obra de danza contemporánea “Comunabenilde”. Hacia la creación de un lenguaje propio. Trabajo de grado para optar al título de Licenciada en Educación Básica en Danza. Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, 2013.


At the end of this chapter, the author*** mentions the presence of contemporary dance in Bogotá, as the core of the choreographic production in Colombia and lists some of the current important figures and institutions. However, she does not give information about the work that is related to identity issues. Therefore, I stopped the translation at that point. I’ll see if I can write an independent article about contemporary dance in Bogotá in a near future… and will let you know.

If you wish to read further… we have some related articles in our website:


(This one is in Spanish): El cuerpo y la danza de IMAGO DANZA CONTEMPORÁNEA

(This one is a book, in Spanish): La creación en danza. Conversaciones con coreógrafos de danza contemporánea en Medellín

That’s it. This one is the last chapter of our series about dance history in Latin America, with emphasis in the figures who have worked to create identity through dance. I hope you make profit of the document.

Remember to feel free to answer this e-mail. Let me know what you think. I’m always opened to comments, suggestions, ideas, wishes...

Written by Maria Naranjo.

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