As the Latin music faded out and the lights were dimmed, audience members blew into multicolored whistles and screamed in anticipation. Green light flooded the stage and dancers in gold skirts struck their first pose.
On Saturday, Nov. 16th, Sabor, Columbia’s first Latino dance troupe, hosted its annual fall show at Roone Arledge Auditorium. This year’s theme was “Carnaval de Sabor!” It permeated every aspect of the performance, from the bright colors illuminating the stage to the vibrant energy that each dancer brought as they graced the stage in their intricate, yet casual costumes.
“[Carnaval] was a good way to celebrate all the different cultures that Latin America offers, so we had kizomba, we had some samba, we had salsas from different parts of Latin America, [and] we had some Cumbias, which are the traditional dances with the skirts,” Sabor co-captain Vanessa Chirino, BC ’20, said.
The show consisted of 16 student-choreographed dances in various genres, including salsa, bachata, merengue, and reggaeton. Before almost every number started, a video was played to introduce the choreographers and the inspiration behind their pieces.
Shortly after the show started, a number titled “Salsa Con Fuego” began. Dancers exuded confidence, energy, and a fiery passion. Audience members remained entranced as each number continued, cheering as the leads spun their follows in “La Fiesta Es Con Todos.”
Later on, “¡Celebrano Cumbia!” was a more cultural and intimate piece, with partners holding each other close. The women wore traditional Colombian skirts, while the men wore casual button-down shirts, jeans, and a hat. “¡Nos Fuimos!” was the final dance of the night and ended the show with a bang. The last few seconds of the piece were a freestyle, showcasing the talent of all the dancers in Sabor.
“We know that some pieces had more energy than others, so we try to take that into consideration. So start very strong, then start going low in energy and very sensual dances, and then go back high in energy and more cultural,” Mateo Gomez, SEAS ’20- and a co-captain of Sabor, said.
Sabor’s showcase is dedicated to celebrating and experiencing a variety of cultures through performance. Each piece was infused with Latin American dance styles. For example, in “Tributo A Los Reyes Del Reggaeton,” several dancers held a string of flags across the stage.
“I really enjoy how a lot of the dancers have brought a lot of their culture. It’s such a good homage to where they came from and it was just really beautiful,” said audience member Yasmin Naji, BC ’23.
Towards the end of the performance, Sabor’s captains came onstage to reiterate their dedication toward raising money and awareness for Relevé, a community service program that for three days during the spring semester, holds programming for underrepresented high school students on Columbia’s campus.
“We give them housing, food, activities. We … help them navigate the whole admissions process and how to fill out applications, how to ask for waivers, how to apply for financial aid. I come from a first-gen, low-income background and so I feel like programs like this really … [help] you prepare [for] secondary education. On top of that, it’s also letting them know that people coming from our backgrounds also have a voice on campus, also are represented, also are here working hard every day to get where we want to be,” Chirino said.
Sabor has given its dancers a community and an artistic outlet on Columbia’s campus. Whether on the stage or off, dancers have found a place to express themselves both physically and emotionally.
“I think that it’s a great way to destress from classes, and it’s something that I really enjoy. It really makes me happy, really makes me disconnect from all this homework and just transfer all that energy into something that is healthy, fun. Having a great group of people is always great to be around,” Gomez said.
Midway through the show, the group played a sentimental video of Sabor members saying a final farewell to their seniors, and dancers came out and embraced each other. The show then ended with a few bittersweet speeches from the president, captains, and vice president. Gomez grabbed the microphone, out of breath from his final performance, saying simply: “We did it.”