Dancer brings her talents to Knotts Berry Farm’s cultural program

Eman Elshiyab, Opinion Editor
September 20, 2011
Filed under Arts

Positioning a feather headdress on the crown of her head, she steps barefoot onto the grass. She begins to chant and pound her feet to the beat of the drum as the music spiritually takes over her body.

A tradition of Mexican culture, Pearla Curz-Chavez, 39, uses the Aztec dance to represents her artistic and cultural spirit but has since turned her passion into a profession.

“It is a very personal and sacred dance,” she said. “It has different meaning to each dancer.”

After moving to Northern California with relatives at the age of 23, she was introduced to the traditional dance and instantly fell in love.

“I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she added.

Curz-Chavez has been sought out by Knotts Berry Farm’s cultural dance program as a professional Aztec dancer and she participates in many dance routines performing at several museums all over the country.

Dressed in tribal costumes, traditional Aztec dancers wear a large headdress made up of pheasant, eagle and other birds’ feathers measuring 5 or 6 feet long, she said.

Along with this tradition, Cruz-Chavez also paints her face with different Aztec symbols as part of each dance routine.

“It is a very spiritual dance,” she said. “It is prayer through the feet and the rest of the body,” she said.

Cruz-Chavez dances to the beat of a variety of acoustic native instruments including wooden drums, blowing shells, flutes, whistles and tambourines.

“The drum leads my heart and it represents something that can never be taken from me,” Cruz-Chavez said.

And metal bells are worn around her ankles and serves as an instrument that represents her every move during performances, she said.

“We do many different steps, a lot of spins, and several kicks and jumps,” Cruz-Chavez said.

As the bells shake to her beat, most of the dance routines are done barefoot. It is a tradition which enables the dancers to  feel the earth under their feet and through the body, she said.

With names such as “White Eagle” and “Wind,” these are just a few of the dances that represents the many different elements of nature and empowers her to become in tune with the earth, Cruz-Chavez said.

And nothing has stopped her from dancing, she said.

“I danced throughout most of my pregnancy with my kids,” Cruz-Chavez said. “I wanted them to feel the music in their blood, the way I do.”

As a mother of three, she manages her time between home and school.

Currently a freshman in the cosmetology program, Cruz-Chavez participated in the hair stylist competition at EC last fall and won first place in both the cutting and dying categories.

While she enjoys all the success the program has brought her so far, she said her biggest supporter and advocate is Patrician Gebert, cosmetology professor.

“She is every instructor’s dream student and is an amazingly hard worker,” Gebert said.

She added that Cruz-Chavez is a very influential woman who many students participating in the program look up to.

“She is such a positive woman,” Gebert said. “I hope I keep in contact with her, because everyone needs people like her in their lives.”

Ashley Young, 26, cosmetology major and classmate of Cruz-Chavez, said she also sees the determination Cruz-Chavez puts into her school work and enjoys learning from her.

“She’s naturally good at what she does,” Young said. “I enjoy taking advise from her about everything and I know she is going to go far in life.”

While she has met many wonderful people so far, Cruz-Chavez is excited to earn her degree and continue to pursue her passion as a cultural dancer.

But ultimately Cruz-Chavez hopes to keep inspiring people all over the world through her cultural heritage.

She dreams to one day dance overseas with her family by her side.

“I am so blessed to be a part of this culture,” Cruz-Chavez said. “I dance in order to preserve my Aztec culture and present how beautiful and rich it is.”

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