Ballet Folklórico de Los Angeles opens the Tenth Anniversay Season of ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! with spectacular performances of regional Mexican traditions.  

Grupo Bella de Vanessa Ramirez, an all-women ensemble from Los Angeles, highlight the performance with traditional songs and dance music. 

The celebration begins with a performance at Isla Vista School on Friday, Sept. 11, 7 p.m., continues at Guadalupe City Hall on Saturday, Sept. 13, 7:30 p.m. and concludes with a performance at the Marjorie Luke Theater on Sunday, Sep. 13, 7 p.m.

Ballet Folklórico de Los Angeles offers a free community dance class for dancers at all levels on Sunday, Sep. 13, 12–1:30 p.m. at the Franklin Neighborhood Center, 1136 E. Montecito Street, co-presented with City of Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation.

Ballet Folklórico de Los Angeles is participating in a four-day residence of performances and educational activities that has become the trademark of Viva’s community outreach.

With a focus on schools and afterschool programs, Viva also works with more than 20 collaborating organizations in the county from Belles Artes in Carpinteria, to SBCC’s English as a Second Language program, to the Santa Barbara County Probation Department to create opportunities for education and cultural sharing. 

¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! was founded ten years ago by Rod Lathim, who was then president of the Marjorie Luke Theatre; Celesta M. Billeci, Miller McCune executive director for UCSB Arts & Lectures; Patrick Davis, who was then executive director for the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission; and Margie and Joe Talaugen, founders of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts & Education Center, to bring high quality cultural programming to key underserved neighborhoods in Isla Vista, Guadalupe and Santa Barbara’s Lower Eastside.

Rod Lathim is proud of the program’s achievements.

“I believe [Viva] is the most vibrant arts collaboration SB has ever seen, reaching our Latino population like no other programming. The local, regional and national funding it has received is a testament to its quality,” Lathim said.
Celesta M. Billeci echoes his sentiment. 

“We are constantly building new relationships with community partners to continue our mission of bringing culturally-relevant arts experiences to Santa Barbara County’s Latino community,” she says. “UCSB Arts & Lectures is a proud partner in this amazing collaboration that celebrates such a rich and unique tradition of music, dance and theater. This season promises to be one of the best. Viva el Arte!”

Viva’s current presenting partners include the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center and Isla Vista School.  
Beginning with vocalist Perla Batalla, Viva has brought more than 42 groups to perform who represent tradition and innovation from a variety of Latin American regions.

Grammy-winners such as Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, Quetzal, and La Santa Cecilia; Smithsonian recording artists and National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage awardees have joined a line-up, which also includes international artists such as Troker from Guadalajara, Mono Blanco from Veracruz, and this season’s Monsieur Periné from Bogotá, Columbia.

Ballet Folklórico de Los Angeles was founded in 2011 by Kareli Montoya and, in a short time, has gained a reputation for spectacular performances based in historical traditions. They have appeared at the Nokia Theater, the Greek Theater, and the John Anson Ford Theater in Los Angeles and have shared the stage with world-famous artists such as Lila Downs, Beatriz Adriana and Mariachi Vargas. 

Montoya’s career began at the age of seven in a community park in the City of Commerce. As a child, Kareli wanted to learn the escaramuza, a traditional Mexican equestrian sport in which beautifully costumed riders perform choreographed routines on horseback.

However, her mother did not share the same vision and enrolled her young dreamer in folklórico dance classes, opening a door to a world that she would inhabit fully. Montoya credits the City of Commerce’s inexpensive community recreation program for making her journey possible and giving her a start in finding her passion.

Her education with a series of distinguished teachers such as Maria Viñegas and Benjamin Hernandez, established her roots at the center of folklórico practice in the Los Angeles scene and she began performing as a professional when she was just twelve at La Fonda, the restaurant owned by Nati Cano and the base for Los Camperos de Nati Cano for many years.

Montoya’s energetic pursuit of her studies next took her to Mexico where she performed with the internationally acclaimed Ballet Folklórico de la Universidad de Colima under the direction of folklórico icon, Rafael Zamarripa. It is this reference to tradition and desire to represent the customs of the pueblo that Montoya and Ballet FolklRafael Zamarriparico de Los Angeles bring to the stage.
¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! is sponsored by SAGE Publications, Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin, the National Endowment for the Arts, the McCune Foundation, the California Arts Council, UCSB Office of Education Partnerships, the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission Community Arts Grant Program, with funds provided by the City of Santa Barbara, in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission.

Additional support comes from The Marjorie Luke Theatre’s Dreier Family Rent Subsidy Fund, the Wells Fargo Foundation, the Stone Family Foundation, the Roddick Foundation, and the William E. Weiss Foundation, Mary and Gary Becker, Patricia and Jim Selbert, and Eric Kronvall.

The program is supported in part by the Santa Barbara Independent, the Santa Maria SUN, El Latino CC, Radio Bronco, Univision, KPFK, KCSB, the Best Western South Coast Inn, Pacifica Suites and Ramada Limited.

Viva is co-presented by The Marjorie Luke Theatre, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts & Education Center, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center and UCSB Arts and Lectures, in partnership with the Isla Vista School After School Grant.

— Beatrice Martino is the performing arts coordinator for UCSB Arts & Lectures.