Peruvian Dance
Students from the Stage Door Dance Studio practice a Peruvian dance called Huayno Valicha.

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Fabiola Serra, champion Peruvian folk dancer and new Ellensburg resident, is sharing her home country’s heritage and bringing young dance students from the local Stage Door Dance Studio in the mix.  

At 3 p.m. Saturday at the Wild Horse Wind Farm, Serra is organizing a presentation and celebration for Peruvian Independence Day. In addition to the presentation, food and music, some of the country’s folk dances will be on display.

Serra, 33, has taught four traditional Peruvian dances to four Stage Door students — Dima Pogrebniak; Calvin Garrett, 16; Emily Herman, 18; and Avery Bachman-Rhodes, 12. The students practiced for the past three weeks at the Stage Door Dance Studio on Pine Street.

“They practice two hours a day, because they love art,” Serra said. “I really admire them. They don’t even have to doing this, but they really want to.”

Garrett, who has a background in ballroom dancing, said Serra has given him an opportunity to experience a culture he wouldn’t have otherwise discovered.

“It’s not something I’d ever have a chance to learn in my entire life,” Garrett said. “I get to try something that others haven’t. It’s a lot of fun.”

The dances

Three of the four dances will represent a different region of Peru: coast, mountains and jungle. Each regional dance involves a particular style of dress and customs. The group’s final dance, the Marinera Nortena, is popular throughout the entire country of Peru.

“Every dance I know has a meaning,” Serra said. “Whether it represents harvest, a couple getting to know each other, the solstice — everything has a meaning.”

Serra’s mother, Carlota Fuertes, supplied the traditional Peruvian garments the group will be wearing during the celebration. Serra said she is relieved the group was able to get authentic clothing.

“There are a lot of dos and don’ts regarding what to wear,” Serra said. “For example, a woman dancer with two braids tied together is married, while a woman dancer with a single braid is single. For a man, wearing a certain hat or vest means he is single, or married. There’s a lot of small details.”  

Lifelong dancer

Serra knows a thing or two about dancing. A lifelong dancer, she was involved in ballet and synchronized swimming as a child (with two examinations at London’s Royal Academy of Dance). She became interested in traditional Peruvian folk dancing when she was in high school, winning a number of national championships.

“I don’t remember life without dancing,” she said.

Serra attended a veterinarian school in Lima, eventually landing a job involving the development of Peruvian animal farms — “making sure [farms] were on a good path.” Aside from a love of animals, Serra said it was her attraction to country life that brought her into the field.

Compared to Lima, which Serra said is “kind of like New York City,” her job took her to smaller villages, with varying Peruvian cultures and traditions. She said the experience allowed her to better understand the meaning behind the dances. 

“Because I’m a veterinarian, I got to meet people and ask them about their traditions,” Serra said.

Serra came to the United States through an internship with a llama farm in Lynden, Wash. She was introduced to her current husband Seth Harris, after being invited to speak at a llama breeders’ convention by llama breeder Karen Harris of Ellensburg, now her mother-in-law. Upon her return to Peru after the internship, Serra and Harris dated long-distance, with Harris visiting Peru every six weeks.

“I guess I was worth it,” Serra joked.

The couple married in 2008 in Lima, in the company of Serra’s family. Just six months ago, Serra moved to Ellensburg.

Although not licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the U.S. yet, Serra became involved with dance in Ellensburg quickly. After taking a Zumba fitness class (which combines aerobics with Latin-influenced dancing, she soon began instructing the class. She now teaches the class every Saturday.

“I’m glad I can teach my dances and be part of the dance community here,” Serra said. “I’m happy they’ve accepted me into the community.”

Serra is also involved with the Ellensburg Animal Hospital, observing the veterinary staff and, she says, “to keep my skills up.”

Dr. Michael Fuller, veterinarian at the Ellensburg Animal Hospital, said that despite the law keeping Serra from using much of her veterinary experience in the U.S., she’s always ready to help.

“She’s quite a person,” Fuller said. “She’s made a place for herself in Ellensburg. She’s always right there, to help us out however she can.”

Serra said she looks forward to keep sharing her love of dance in Ellensburg as she pursues her veterinary license and settles into a new life in Ellensburg

“People say I’m always smiling,” Serra said. “How can you not love dancing, and learning new things all the time?”

If you go

What: Presentation, dancing and food to celebrate Peruvian Independence Day

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where:  Wild Horse Wind Farm




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