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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Dancer Adriana Alvarado smiles during "Encounters" rehearsal.

The world is small, and its populace doesn't realize just how close we all are. That is what Jessica Salazar wants to convey with this year's Latin Dance Spectacular.

"I remember many years ago when I was wearing a Mexican-dance dress with a fan and hair comb, and one of my instructors told me that there were many Asian influences in the components," said Salazar, artistic director for the Hispanic Dance Alliance. "It made me want to find out how that happened. So I began studying the history of the trade routes of long ago."

What Salazar discovered is known as the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade route, where Spanish trading ships sailed once every four or six months between the Philippines and Mexico. "The common misunderstanding is that the Conquistadors from Spain brought the fan and the hair comb to Mexico, but that is not exactly accurate. About 400 years ago, and for 333 years to follow, the Spanish ruled Mexico and the Philippines. During that time Spaniards sailed to the Philippines and Mexico to assist with the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade.

"They were not allowed to return to their original countries for six or eight years. And while they were at the other countries, there was a cultural exchange. And that is why there are so many similarities between the Hispanic and Asian cultures."

Sadly, she said, that isn't well-known. "So I decided that this year we would address it in our production."

"Encuentros" is the Spanish word for "Encounters." And that's the title of the Hispanic Dance Alliance's Latin Dance Spectacular. "The dancers will depict the story of how the cultures of Latin America, Asia and Spain evolved through their interactions. And it does show how small the world is."

One of the issues that needed to be resolved was for dance-company members to understand the connection between the three countries. "As I said, there are many people who didn't know about this. And there were a few of my dancers who didn't know. I had to get them to believe before we could even begin working on the production.

"Along those lines, I had to make sure that once they did understand the connection, they needed to respect the Philippine, Mexican and Spanish cultures. I want people from those countries to feel a sense of pride when our dances are performed.

"I realized that I have been trying to show how small the world is through dance with the Hispanic Dance Alliance. And this is the first time I really address that notion through a single production. We are so close. I hear people say 'This is my culture and that is your culture,' but in reality, it is our culture."

If you go . . .

What: "Encuentros," Hispanic Dance Alliance

Where: Kingsbury Hall, University of Utah

When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

How much: $10

Phone: 581-7100 or 688-2559

Web: www.kingsburyhall.com

E-mail: [email protected]