Dance a history lesson and cultural fusion? New Jersy troupe does all three

Dance a history lesson and cultural fusion? New Jersy troupe does all three. Dancers Leeanne Palamaro, left, Claire Spring, center and Joni Amar portray gypsies in the “Jitana Canastera” dance by the Alborada Spanish Dance Theater, as it prepares for an upcoming performance titled “Inspiraciones.” Aristide Economopoulos. Going to see the performances of the Alborada Spanish Dance Theater, a company of 22 dancers who specialize in flamenco and other dances of Spanish cultural tradition, isn’t just an opportunity to see beautiful movements and vibrant costumes, all set to unforgettable music. It’s really a history lesson, too.

“We create a story,” said Eva Lucena, one of the troupe’s founders who serves as its artistic director and historian. “That’s who we are.”

The history, she said, is not just in the diverse range of dance styles they perform, many of which date back hundreds of years. But, the group, she said, also focuses on choreographing dance performances – often combined with other art forms like theater – that tell historical tales, as well. Some are upbeat and hopeful, while others focus on dark periods, like telling the stories of women who suffered during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, or the expulsion of Jewish people from Spain beginning in the 1400s.

The stories can be emotional, Lucena said, but allowing audiences to learn from the troupe’s creations is part of what it’s all about. “We are always creating something new.”

Based in Metuchen, the group was founded in 1965 by Spanish dancer Maria Alba, Lucena’s teacher and mentor. Today, it’s a grant-funded nonprofit organization that teaches classes, and puts on performances throughout the tri-state, typically for tens of thousands of audience members each year.

About 35% of the dancers in the troupe of from New Jersey, Lucena said, and the members of the group are as diverse as the stories their performances tell. In addition to those of Spanish descent, dancers in the group hail from Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Ireland, Italy, and beyond, Lucena said. And mixing dance styles is integral to what the group does every day.

“Our mission is very much cross cultural,” Lucena said, noting that the group performs Spanish dances that are infused and mixed with all other types of dances, ranging from Argentine tango to Irish step.

Its latest show, called “Inspiraciones,” will see the performers dancing in front of large projections of paintings by Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso and other artists. Putting the show together was “an arduous process, but very rewarding,” Lucena said.

During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, the group rehearsed virtually, and recently reconvened and started putting on shows again, first in outdoor venues and to socially distant crowds. So far, the group has done about a dozen shows since venues have reopened.

Its official home concert season opener is Sunday, Oct. 17 at 2:30 p.m. at the Hungarian/American Athletic Club in New Brunswick. Tickets are $30, and $20 for students and seniors. More information is available online or at 732-598-3979.

A pedestrian was struck and killed along a Totowa highway early Sunday morning by a man driving a Jeep Wrangler, authorities said.

Officers were called to the 277 Route 46 west in the the borough at 3:47 a.m. and found that 24-year-old Ahmed Idid, of Rego Park, New York had been hit by a car, according to a joint statement from the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and the Totowa Police Department.

Idid was pronounced dead at the scene at 4:11 a.m.

The driver of the Jeep, a 31-year-old Morristown resident, remained at the scene. No charges had been filed against him as of Sunday afternoon.

In 2019, I planned to speak in support of repealing the State And Local Tax (SALT) cap, which ended an unlimited deduction for state and local taxes against federal income taxes.

Now I know I was wrong.

The SALT deduction was capped at $10,000 as part of the 2017 federal tax-cut law. Some say the previously unlimited cap avoids double taxation, but the numbers show it was a huge handout to the rich.

Analyses from ends of the political spectrum have found that repealing the SALT cap would overwhelmingly benefit the richest taxpayers. Promoted as protecting the middle class and vehemently demanded by New Jersey politicians up and down the ballot, a SALT cap repeal would be a $100 billion gift to those far outside the middle class.

Liberal-leaning New Jersey Policy Perspective looked specifically at Garden State impacts of proposed tax changes to fund the Build Back Better agenda. It found that the 2017 tax cuts offered inequitable benefits to our state’s most well-off residents similar to those reported nationally. The group stated that this year’s proposed higher income tax rates for the wealthy would make the tax code fairer, but only if the current SALT cap were to remain in place.

The richest 1% of New Jerseyans would receive about 50% of the benefits of a full SALT cap repeal, while the least wealthy 80% (poor and middle-class families) would share less than 10 percent of the benefits.

Contact your federal representatives and tell them you want real middle-class assistance, funding the care economy, a fight against climate change, and a continuing child tax credit to kids out of poverty. All can be paid for partly by preserving the SALT cap.

Matt Dragon, West Orange

Don’t buy Ciattarelli property tax claims

If you want Republicans to vote for you, just tell them you are going to lower their taxes. They fall for it every time.

Gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli is using the same old mantra, and he knows he has little power to lower property taxes, which are imposed by towns, counties and school districts — not the state government.

These entities hire the teachers and the municipal and county employees, and make their own budgets. The state is not a direct part of this process. New Jersey’s property taxes are the highest in the nation because of spending on education. Our schools are among the top ones in the nation, but the system is very inefficient because we have over 600 individual school districts, most with their own highly-paid superintendent and support staff.

The only way to lower property taxes significantly is to consolidate school districts. That isn’t going to happen on a large scale.

The towns will never give up their autonomy.

So, if Ciattarelli wants to take on the towns, good luck to him, but he will end up committing political suicide. He is just another politician telling people what they want to hear, but really does not have a plan or the guts to take on the towns.

Joseph Marra, Seaside Park

Add local senior centers to vaccine mandate

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk from the delta variant of COVID-19 is higher for those above age 65 than in the general population.

That is why a New Jersey mandate issued in August states: “All workers in certain state and private health care facilities and high-risk congregate settings are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be subject to COVID-19 testing at a minimum of one to two times per week.”

In announcing this order, Gov. Phil Murphy stated, “Some of our most vulnerable populations remain at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 primarily due to exposure to unvaccinated individuals.”

The “vulnerable populations” and the “high-risk congregate settings” to which the governor refers to should be expanded to also include non-residential senior citizen center attendees and staff. The age range of users of local of senior centers is from the 60s to the 90s.

To protect the health of both our senior citizens and their families, I call upon Gov. Murphy to do the right thing and require senior center staff and members to be fully vaccinated, something that he has already done for health-care facilities and nursing homes.

Terry Goldstein, East Windsor

I don’t always agree with columnist Paul Mulshine, but his opinions on COVID-19 vaccines (“They’re not a mandate; they’re a choice”) are spot-on.

I believe it is the right of every American to decide whether or not to get vaccinated; however, all choices have consequences. If you choose not to get vaccinated, you have chosen to put your health and the health of your family and everyone you come in contact with at risk, with a possible outcome of hospitalization or death.

If your employer requires vaccination as a condition of employment, and you refuse, you have made the choice to lose your job and seek other employment.

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