Paseo: Dancing Along the South Bronx Culture Trail

Dancing in the Streets from Adam Perez on Vimeo.

Arthur Aviles is a professional dancer, who often performs center stage at venues like the Bronx Academy Arts and Dance.

But on one cloudy Wednesday morning in Hunts Point, the muscular modern dancer could be found rehearsing on the ledge above the door of an abandoned shop in the historical district of Longwood.

Fifty feet below on Beck Street, choreographer Joanna Haigood directed the Bronx native’s moves, as a Latin version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” blasted from a boom box on the sidewalk.

At one moment, Haigood told Aviles to push off the wall and lean off the ledge.  She drew two concurrent circles in the air, demonstrating how he could use the space around him.

Then the San Francisco-based choreographer lunged up the fence, grabbed the iron-clad bars that cover the cement-filled windows and pulled herself onto the awning to demonstrate.

“It’s different from the stage,” Haigood said sitting next to Aviles overlooking the street. “It’s a lot smaller and you need more control.”

Local artist Arthur Aviles co-founded BAAD! The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance  JAN HENDRIK HINZEL/ Bronxink

Both Avives and Haigood are some of the artists involved in Saturday’s “Paseo,” an interactive South Bronx culture trail designed for a roving audience to celebrate the rich cultural history of the Hunts Point and Longwood sections of the Bronx.

“I think the older people who live here are aware of the cultural richness of the place,” said Aviva Davidson, organizer of Paseo and executive director of Dancing in the Streets, an organization that promotes the Bronx’s dance history. “A lot of the younger people or people who just recently moved here don’t know much about it.”

Paseo is a part of The South Bronx Culture Trail’s two-year initiative organized by Dancing in the Streets and Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education to highlight historical locations in the community. The South Bronx Culture Trail, which is mainly financed by the Rockefeller Foundation’s NYC Cultural Innovation fund, will link known and lesser-known places in the Bronx where some of the borough’s well known artists got their start.

More than 80 dancers, musicians, poets, and actors, including more than 30 community members of all ages are expected to participate in the various live reenactments of historical scenes from the South Bronx that took place between 1945 and 1970.

Audience members are expected to see performances on fire escapes, alleys, bodegas, laundromats, and beauty salons over the span of 11 blocks from Casita Maria through Intervale Avenue and Beck Street, ending at the playground at P.S. 52.

Bronx Hall of Fame inductee and multi-Grammy nominee Bobby Sanabria coordinated all the music performances for Paseo, tracing back the community’s musical history from Salsa and Latin Jazz. From Arsenio Rodriguez, one of the founders of Salsa and Cuban Jazz to “The Last Mambo” King Orlando Marin.

Haigood, whose work focuses on site-specific dances, crafted the dance pieces during her multiple walks through Hunts Point and Longwood and discussions with many current and former residents.

“The purpose of the piece is to expose people who are not from the community to the richness of this area,” Haigood said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of incredible energy here,”Haigood said. “Some of the most extraordinary artists have grown up here and they have invented and created forms of music and dance that have been practiced all over the world.”

Joanna Haigood incorporates local residents into her performances, building on her 32-year dance career. ADAM PEREZ/ Bronx Ink

The event will begin at Casita Maria, 928 Simpson St. at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 6, 2012.  Players from the band, LosPleneros de La 21 will lead participants through Hunts Point and Longwood’s main streets and will end at 5:30 p.m. at P.S. 52. There a dance party will be held, led by Sanabria’s nine-piece ensemble, Ascension.  Admission is free. The audience can join the Paseo at any point along the route.

The Bronx Ink staff will be live-tweeting the event with the hashtag #paseo.