Local artists paid tribute to departed loved ones during a celebratory weekend of singing, dancing and storytelling at Arts Mission Oak Cliff in honor of Dia de los Muertos.
The program, held Thursday through Saturday, united the forces of choral ensemble Verdigris with Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico and Arttitude. The nonprofit organizations worked for months to merge their talents into one room and one cohesive experience.
“I loved the combination of the audio and the visual,” said painter Margo Miller, adding that the collaborative performance was unlike anything she’d ever experienced. “I think you can feel the motion … they seem to be weaving in and out of the audience. I like that about it.”
Audience members were transported from their seats in the converted church building to scenes from Mexico to Spain to Cuba as the choir sang and dancers glided around the dance floor within arm’s reach of the audience.
“There’s so much to celebrate and there’s so much to remember and to be joyous about in the lives of our ancestors and our people,” said Sam Brukhman, Verdigris’ artistic director. “This is a perfect place to do it because it’s a secular space that used to be sacred.”
Before the song and dance, another artistic form captured attendees’ attention the moment they stepped into the room. Las ofrendas, or offerings, are a special tribute to the ones that have come before us, and an important part of the holiday.
The ofrendas created by neighborhood artist Ofelia Faz-Garza and Arttitude honored deceased loved ones using photos, small candles and marigolds, a flower believed to guide deceased spirits to visit the living.
“The representations of all of the different ofrendas and the connection of the music was a cool idea that I’ve never seen in real life before.” said Nini Marchese, a vocal performance major at the University of North Texas.
The Verdigris singers weren’t the only ones providing the melodies. Students from W. E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy, just across the street from Arts Mission Oak Cliff, participated as part of their partnership with Verdigris. The sixth-grade choir wowed the crowd with a song perfect for the theme of the night, titled “La Ofrenda.”
Though the audience seemed to enjoy the performance, choreographer Alexandria Hernandez said the event was for a purpose much greater than entertainment.
“We love that y’all came and thank you for supporting us,” she told the audience after Saturday’s finale. “But the performance was in honor of Dia de los Muertos, in honor of the ancestors, the family members that we’ve lost, the pets, the loved ones … and everyone that we want to remember today.”
Story, images and video by SMU student journalist Logan McElroy