NEAR REYNOSA — The mechanic looked like he’d come straight from work, his wife in tow, for an evening at the theater.
But as coarse as Eliel Santiago’s hands may have been, his taste in ballet proved to be anything but.
Waiting to dazzle the Reynosa couple on Thursday at Parque Cultural Reynosa on the outskirts of the city were some of the world’s best dancers: star soloists from the Kiev Ballet, Bolshoi and Kirov Ballet performing parts of Swan Lake, Nutcracker, La Esmeralda, Don Quixote and Raymonda.
“We knew what it was about, we had heard about it on TV, but we wanted to see it and feel it,” Santiago said. “And we did.”
The couple had never experienced a ballet in person before, but thanks to Tamaulipas’ annual, statewide arts festival, they enjoyed a free show at a state-of-the-art theater built for a capacity crowd of 1,146.
That’s the goal of the Tamaulipas International Festival, known by its Spanish acronym, FIT: Bring culture to residents throughout the state — for free or at a low price — that they might not experience otherwise.
“Let’s enjoy this,” Reynosa Mayor Everardo Villarreal Salinas said during the inauguration ceremony Thursday. “This is for the Tamaulipas residents; you are the guests of honor.”
Staged in all 43 municipalities of Tamaulipas, FIT, which began Thursday and ends Sunday, features events like dance performances, plays, art exhibitions and book presentations.
The bigger population centers have events every day during the festival, with the action centered in open spaces like plazas and theaters. The event lineup is less dense for the smaller municipalities, which make do with smaller venues — gymnasiums, even, if need be.
Libertad García Cabriales, director of the Tamaulipas Institute of Culture and Arts, stressed one fruit of the arts surely appreciated in northeastern Mexico, which has been racked by drug violence in recent years.
“The culture and fine arts are bastions for peace, (they) keep unity and respect for life,” the director said in Spanish on Thursday.
The 14th annual FIT is the first year of the festival to be dedicated to a country, Chile, whose ambassador to Mexico was on hand Thursday to extol the virtues of the festival.
“I am impressed by the enthusiasm, vitality and joy that you celebrate the arts,” Roberto Ampuero Espinoza said.
“We also believe that culture is an instrument to combat violence, build peace conditions and generate an environment conducive to social development and economic investments,” Ampuero said.
“We have done this in Chile, and we know that culture unifies and culture is the soul of the population,” Ampuero said.
For Natalia Matsak, a soloist of the Kiev Ballet who is considered among the best in the world, it was her third time in Mexico, but her first in Tamaulipas. Globe-trotting artists tend to stop in Mexico City and nowhere else in the country, but FIT has seen to it that plenty of world-class artists stop by.
Elizabeth Galindo of Reynosa enjoyed the performance of the nine soloists that included Matsak and Denys Nedak, of the Kiev Ballet, and Vladimir Neporozhniy and Anna Antonicheva, of the Moscow Bolshoi Ballet.
The organizers had announced the Bolshoi of Belarus, but the program changed at the last minute because the Belarus dancers did not get their visas in time.
Galindo didn’t notice the difference.
“It was spectacular,” Galindo said. “Their bodies expressed a lot of passion, with a lot of force.”
Martha L. Hernández covers health, business and general assignments for The Monitor and El Nuevo Heraldo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (956) 683-4846.
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