She is an original member of Garth Fagan’s “Bottom of the Bucket, But” Dance Company, the precursor to Garth Fagan Dance. A longtime educator, she is currently director of community partnerships for the Rochester Central School District. She created Borinquen Dance Theatre in 1981 to serve youth and help them “find the desire to succeed through the discipline of dance.”
In April 2017, she received the 10th-annual Woerner Kollmorgen Award for Community Service at Nazareth College
Borinquen Dance Theatre is very unique. How did you come up with it?
The history of Borinquen Dance Theatre began at the Puerto Rican Festival in 1981 when Garth Fagan spontaneously announced that I would be offering dance classes. When he made that comment, he was telling me to go out into the community and share my artistic talent. I had danced with “Bottom of the Bucket, But” for eight years and had experienced closure with that chapter in my life. His announcement planted a seed and allowed me to go forward to teach and help others and continue dancing but in a different capacity. I started with adults teaching exercise classes but shifted only four years later to focus on youth because of the high drop-out rate.
How has dance helped your students lead a healthier life?
Being part of the dance program helps the students learn that their bodies are like sacred temples. It is important for them to learn that living healthy is vital in order for them to manage the rigor of the classes. Dance is a form of exercise that is good for the mind, the body and the spirit. It is also fun, leads to creativity and allows you to showcase your talent. It also requires a level of discipline, though, that requires students to take care of their bodies through fitness and healthy eating.
You seem very (very) busy. How do you juggle it all?
I try to ensure that I take good care of myself first. So, that means finding time to ride my bike with my husband, going for nice long walks, as well as taking yoga and Pilates. If I can, I find the time to sit down and read a book. I prefer wellness books that reaffirm how important it is to take care of yourself and find a balance for everything I have going on in my life.
Which type of Latin Dance is your favorite?
My favorite type of Latin Dance is plena because of what it represents. The dance is closest to our roots with dancers wearing three-tiered skirts that represent our native Taino-Arawak, African and Spanish influences. Those influences are what make Puerto Ricans unique as a people. We must maintain those cultural connections for our younger generations, which is why I close every Borinquen performance with “La Plena.”
Which type of dance gives you the hardest workout?
For the hardest workout, contemporary and modern dance genres are demanding because it challenges the use of your body and weight, defining shapes, lines and balance. This form of dance requires discipline and a willingness to work beyond your comfort zone. You really have to push yourself and take your skills to another level.
What else do you do to stay active?
As I mentioned, I enjoy bike riding and taking walks as well as taking flamenco and other dance classes whenever possible. I recently took on tap dancing and performed with my students at Borinquen Dance Theatre’s community performance on April 29 to celebrate our 36th anniversary.
What’s the most important thing you do to stay healthy?
I try to eat a nutritious and balanced diet and to pay attention to what I’m putting into my body. I also utilize the Fitbit as a tool to keep me focused on my fitness goals. Eating well and staying active are essential. A fitness instructor once told me staying healthy is 70 percent what you eat and 30 percent how much you exercise. That has becomes my day-to-day practice.
What advice do you have for others?
Find a friend or peer to work with on staying fit. As a team, you can encourage each other, become part of some kind of program and work with each other to fulfill your goals. Sticking to a fitness plan is not easy to do by yourself. That’s why it makes more sense to team up with someone or a group of people whether at the workplace, with a friend or someone who has similar goals. Having a fitness partner also makes staying healthy fun and relieves stress, since you have more of a support system.
Could you share some of your favorite healthy eating tips?
Eating as many fruits and vegetables as well as eating a lot of greens, drinking a lot of water and ensuring you have some type of protein and even some carbohydrates. You should also check your calorie intake, which helps ensure you’re eating a balanced meal. But one must be careful to not take a diet too far or skip meals, which would not constitute eating healthy.
Where are your favorite healthy spots in the community?
My husband and I like to ride our bikes along the Erie Canal. I also like the canal because you can bike or walk and grab a bite to eat at restaurants which offer healthy options. I also like to walk in the Park and East avenues area. Long walks are good just to talk and relieve whatever stress we might be experiencing in our busy lives.
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is a proud supporter of Borinquen Dance Theatre and granted the group a $3,500 Community Health Award in 2017.