Dominican Republic tour a special experience for CCA dancer

By Diane Y. Welch

Pascalle Rodriguez, a Canyon Crest Academy High School senior, had the dance of her lifetime when she was invited to take part in several professional performances of “Las Mariposas” (The Butterflies) in a three-city tour of the Dominican Republic, from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2, 2011. She performed as part of the Eveoke Dance Theatre’s Concert Company, a team of professional-level dancers, who were invited as cultural ambassadors.

The tour was sponsored by Centro Franklin, the public affairs section of the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic’s capital. Performed in two acts, the dance theatre work was inspired by “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez, a novel that retells the inspirational story of three ordinary women, the Mirabal sisters, who fought against the brutal dictatorship of their country’s former head, Rafael Trujillo.

The dance theatre was co-created in 2010 by Ericka Aisha Moore, choreographer and Erika Malone, artistic director. In the Dominican Republic tour, Evoke’s first performance was at the Festival Cultural Hermanas Mirabal in Villa Tapia, in Santiago, said Pascalle.

“They have all these murals in the village that depict the lives of the Mirabal sisters. We danced during the closing show of a festival that they have each year, to remember the sisters who died.”

Of the four Mirabal sisters, three – Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa – were murdered in a staged car accident on Nov. 25, 1960, because of their relentless efforts to overthrow Trujillo, an oppressive ruler responsible for over 50,000 deaths. The surviving sister, Dedé, is instrumental in keeping this story of heroism alive through a museum devoted to her sisters and by retelling their story.

Eveoke’s second performance was at the Gran Teatro del Cibao in Santiago, one of the country’s largest theaters. This performance was attended by surviving members of the Mirabal family, novelist Julia Alvarez and her husband Bill Eichner, as well as members of the U.S. Embassy staff and members of the Dominican Ministry of Culture, said Pascalle.

The third show was performed at the Centro Cultural Mauricio Baez, a theater constructed by the government of Leonel Fernández, president of the Dominican Republic, located in the Villa Juana neighborhood in the capital city of Santo Domingo.

“A lot of school children came and saw that production, as well as some of the family members. It was pretty amazing,” said Pascalle who is in her second year of dancing with Evoke’s Apprentice Company.

Eveoke visited El Museo Memorial de la Resistencia in Santo Domingo, a museum devoted to the political uprising against Trujillo’s tyrannical reign. Members met with Luisa de Peña Diaz, director and founder of the Museum, who gave them a tour. “There was this big statue about the oppression of the people and how the Mirabal sisters were part of the revolutionary movement. They became known as Las Mariposas – the Butterflies. As we were looking at this statue, a butterfly flew across it and went around our heads,” said Pascalle. “That was my most memorable part of the whole tour.”

At that same time Dedé Maribal was available to meet them in person.

“We were able to talk to her, it was such an amazing experience,” Pascalle said. “She had such a strong presence and was very excited that we were the dancers taking on the roles of her sisters.”

When Evoke needed younger dancers to play the parts of the four Mirabal sisters as youths, several dancers were chosen from the Apprentice Company. Pascalle was chosen to portray Minerva as a young adult from the age of 14 through 17.

In addition to her work with Eveoke, Pascalle is a member of Dance Conservatory at CCA. Rayna Stohl, her teacher, is impressed with Pascalle’s level of commitment.

“Her passion for dance was evident from the first day I met her. I remember giving her a small solo for one of our shows that year, and she worked so hard to give me the quality that I wanted. She is one of those few students whom I have no doubt will continue dancing and do brilliant things; part of this is talent, part hard work, and the rest her heart,” Stohl said.

Recently at CCA, Pascalle undertook the lead role of Elphaba in the show “GREEN One.”

“While working with Pascalle, I demanded excellence, and she had to conquer multiple styles of dance,” Stohl explained. “The biggest challenge for her was moving softly, fluidly. While watching her during the shows, I was mesmerized at her transformation.”

Future plans for Pascalle include a degree course in dance at a major university, after she graduates from CCA in 2012. Pending a dance audition, she has already been accepted into the University of Utah. The University of Indiana also accepted her application with a scholarship. Two years ago, based on a successful audition, Pascalle received a scholarship to take part in the Jean Isaacs’ San Diego Dance Theater summer intensive program.

“Pascalle is a well-rounded artist who carries herself like a true professional,” said Stohl. “There is no doubt in my mind that the sky is the limit for this little dancer.”

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