ELLENSBURG — The dance is called the Festejo, and as the performers move about the stage, swishing their long, colorful skirts in rhythm to the music, audience members are whisked away to coastal Peru.

The music subsides and the curtains are drawn. Audience members return from their mental vacation and find themselves, once again, in the Hal Holmes Community Center in Ellensburg.

Tusuy Peru's Fabiola Serra, still in costume, steps forward and resumes her role as educator/emcee during an Ellensburg Library summer reading program celebration last week. She explains the dance's origin to the audience - mostly young readers and their parents.

"I want people to know, or at least to ask themselves, ‘Where is this going to take place, and why are they moving like this?'" said Serra. The Festejo, it turns out, is a folk dance from Peru's coastal region and the costumes are derivative of the area's three most dominant cultures: Spanish (courtesy of the conquistadors), African (from the Spanish slaves) and indigenous traditions.

"It is a lot of Spanish tradition, and then you have the African that came with them, and then you have the local. And then you mix it all together and that's when you get Peruvian dancing. ... at least in the coast."

The Aug. 3 performance featured a handful of coastal dances and one, "Movido Tipico," from the jungle region of Eastern Peru.

"Then you go up to the jungle, and it is way different," said Serra. "There is no influence of nothing, there is just a jungle."

The Andes mountains of Peru produce yet another style of dancing all its own.

"Their dancing is very much one-step dancing," explained Serra. "Also their costumes have nothing to do with Spain. Everything, even the drums, is more rustic."

To date, Tusuy Peru has learned the steps for just one mountain dance, but is waiting for proper costumes before performing it.

Tusuy Peru

The group meets at 3:30 p.m. each Tuesday and 9:30 a.m. each Saturday at the Stage Door Dance Studio along the 200 block of Pine Street. The group consists of Serra, Elsa Flores, Gabrielle McNeillie, Heather Clerf and Meg Anderson. In addition, Serra instructs local teens Avery Bachman-Rhodes and Caleb Rudd in the Marinera -  a coastal Peruvian dance for which Serra has won awards in Peru. The teen tandem does not rehearse with the group, but performs the Marinera at Tusuy Peru performances.

For Flores and McNeillie, the performance at Hal Holmes marked their first with the group, though both have a performance background in ballet and other dance forms.

"It's very different from what I'm used to," said McNeillie, 32, who teaches ballet at Central Washington University and Stage Door Dance. "It's a challenge, which is nice."

"I've never performed these kinds of dances before, so it should be interesting," said Flores, a CWU student, the night before the Hal Holmes performance. "It's a lot of shaking, shimmying type stuff."

Consider the first test a success, Serra said, the day after the show. "One lady (at the performance) said to me, ‘I have seen international dances on YouTube all the time. You should be on YouTube, you deserve to be on YouTube."

Costumes

For local Peruvian dance group Tusuy Peru, the biggest expense is costumes, said director Fabiola Serra. She has had to get creative to get the necessary materials to Ellensburg. Serra, a native of Lima, Peru, said this means most of her Peruvian friends and family who visit pack an extra suitcase with costume materials.

“My mom brought all the dresses and outfits (for the group’s July 2010 performance) borrowed from my group in Lima,” said Serra. “But she couldn’t leave them, because they need them (in Peru).”

Costumes are essential to the dances, and Serra refuses to perform without the proper attire, saying that the steps and choreography are only a part of the performance.

“I try to make it as original as I can with the outfits. I try to design everything as original as it should be.”

When she can’t get a direct delivery, Serra will sometimes ask a cousin, who lives in Miami, to tote costume materials to Florida and then ship them domestically to Ellensburg.

“I have one set of four dresses are being made in (Peru),” said Serra, “Hopefully (my cousin) will be able to ship them here from Miami. (From Lima) it would be $200, but from Miami it is only like $50-$60.”

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