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Día de los Muertos celebration of ancestry, dance and family

Homecoming show for Livermore-founded Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Carlos Moreno
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Dancers from Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Carlos Moreno performing for Día de los Muertos.

A feature performance next weekend by Livermore-founded dance company Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Carlos Moreno is set to celebrate Mexican culture, heritage and indigenous dance artforms in honor of Día de los Muertos.

Bringing the celebratory and artistic aspects of the holiday to the stage, the one-day show produced by BFM will be presented at the Bankhead Theater in downtown Livermore next Sunday (Oct. 30) at 3 p.m., as part of the Livermore Valley Arts 15th season anniversary season.

The ballet event honors the holiday Día de los Muertos (or "Day of the Dead") that is often observed in Mexico and by the people of Mexican heritage from Nov. 1-2. The holiday typically involves celebratory gatherings and paying respects to ancestors, family members and friends that have died.

The performance for Día de los Muertos will be in two acts.

"The first act really highlights a little bit more of the longtime traditions in Mexico in the regions where these celebrations take place, such as Oaxaca and Michoacan," said BFM artistic director, Carlos Moreno.

"Our second segment of the show then focuses more on what people in the United States and Mexico visualize or think about in terms of Día de los Muertos. We really emphasize this as more of a celebration of life, a celebration of people that were here with us before," Moreno added.

BFM chose to design their performance this way to share with audience members the historical customs that are significant in Mexico by expanding on the typical commercial presentation of Day of the Dead, according to Moreno.

Moreno discussed how BFM was founded by his father, Carlos Moreno Sr., in 1967 in Livermore.

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The production "Día de los Muertos" by Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Carlos Moreno aims to celebrate tradition and honor passed loved ones. Courtesy LVA

"He was involved in St. Michael's Church in Livermore; they were thinking he could teach their kids a few dances and so he did. It was a very exciting, huge success, and he just kind of took off and started more," Moreno said.

Following that success, his father was able to teach Mexican folk dance classes for Chabot College, which led to the founding of his official dance group and later international success. "More students came in and so he was able to expand it and turn it into a dance company," Moreno added.

"We've had the opportunity to tour throughout the United States and Mexico," Moreno recalled. "It's been a lot of hard work but very enjoyable. Initially it started with the interest to get people to learn about the culture and we're still carrying on that mission."

Being a native of Livermore and having the Día de los Muertos production at the Bankhead holds a special meaning for Moreno and other members of the dance crew.

"When the opportunity came up (at the Bankhead), it was definitely very exciting for my father and for my family," he said. "Any chance that we get to come back to Livermore is very special."

More information on show dates and times can be found at LivermoreArts.org.

In other Day of the Dead celebrations in the Tri-Valley, the Pleasanton-Tulancingo Sister City Association will host a gathering honoring the holiday that is free for the public to attend.

Next Sunday (Oct. 30) from 2-4 p.m. at the Amador Recreation Center in Pleasanton, the organization will display a set of Día de los Muertos altars, also known as ofrendas. To find out more information visit, ptsca.org.