From noon to just before sunset on May 7, the Plaza District will light up with the vibrant colors, lively rhythms and joyous movement as Calderón Dance Festival returns for its second year.
Created in the memory of local dance icon Shannon Calderón, the festival celebrates the diverse range of dance in the OKC area.
“It’s a vision that Shannon had for a free, accessible dance festival in Oklahoma City,” Calderón Dance Festival Co-Chair and Programming Committee Member Hui Cha Poos said. “And her studio was in the Plaza District so it was really important that it was close to home.”
Calderón owned Everything Goes Dance Studio in the Plaza District for approximately two decades and performed alongside talents including OKC Ballet, Edgar Cruz and the OKC Philharmonic.
Her prolific dance career was brought to an end in 2015.
“My aunt was diagnosed with a very aggressive reproductive cancer. And she—we found out in October and she was gone in May that same year, basically school year,” Calderón’s niece and Calderón Dance Festival Co-Chair Erika Vasquez said.
It was during some of Calderón’s last conversations with friends and family that the idea of Calderón Dance Festival was planted.
“I met with Shannon,” Poos said. “And I just I don’t know what led me to say it but I was like, ‘What have you not gotten to do? What do you feel like was left unfinished?’ And she said, without a doubt without skipping a beat, she said, ‘Dance festival. A free dance festival with every kind of dance you can think of, as big as you can imagine it.’”
Inclusivity was important to the vision for the festival that she shared with Poos.
“The biggest thing that she wanted to stress was that it is just as important to center every dance form equally, rather than just centering Eurocentric forms or forms that usually get the most attention,” Poos said.
The festival came to life for the first time in 2022.
“The biggest takeaway for me was every single person that had any involvement with dance who attended felt very special, felt very seen that day by a district and that had never happened in the way that it did,” Poos said.
Calderón Dance Festival Programming Committee Member and Owner/Artistic Director of Everything Goes Dance Studio Kelsey Faulk Perez agreed.
“It brought people from all walks of life which was so incredible to see,” Perez said.
“We just felt so powerful that day, so heard, so validated, so we are doing good in this world and we’re doing good in Oklahoma,” Vasquez said.
She said the experience of watching the festival come together was healing for her family.
“My family was there and my cousins were there and Edgar [Cruz] was there and my dance family was there and I just felt so loved,” Vasquez said. “And I just felt Sharon’s presence through everyone. And it was really a special day for us.”
Guitarists Edgar Cruz and the late Ruben Romero both had longtime working relationships with Calderón.
“Edgar and Ruben and Shannon had a very close relationship,” she said. “And they composed a piece called Firestorm. And this piece has, it’s kind of gone viral in my little flamenco teaching in Oklahoma here. And I would say about maybe 200 plus students know the dance and the song now.”
The piece was performed at the first Calderón Dance Festival and will return at the end of Cruz’s set at this year’s event, with dancers joining in to perform the accompanying dance.
“People just know it [and] are going to jump in and be dancing on the stage and around the stage because I don’t think we’ll fit everyone this year,” Vasquez said.
The 2023 Calderón Dance Festival will include dance classes taught by Chris ‘Twix’ Shepard (hip hop), Brandi Kelley (jazz), Cassandra Van Houten (tap), Steve Le (vogue), Lynna Tallchief (creative movement), CeCe Farha (ballet), Ballet Hispanico Too! (community social dance), Michelle Rambo (jazz funk), Tine Kambour (improvisation), Clips n’ Hips- Marti, Rickman & Kelly Forbes (salsa), Marie Casmir (African modern fusion) and REVOSO (flamenco).
Scheduled dance performances include Courtney Reeder (indigenous dance), Pilot Dance Company (modern dance from Texas), OKC Ballet (young adult company), Pentamode Company (improvisation dance), Clips n’ Hips (latin dance), Mystical Hips (belly dance), OKCPS & PCO Middle & High School Dance Programs, Iroko Dance Company (salsa), Paige Fischer and Company, Eterna Primavera (Guatemalan dance group), Hartel Dance Company (modern dance), RACE Dance Company, Treske-Memphis Jookin, Ballet Hispanico Too!, Freedom Dance (majorette dance), Michael J Garcia (popping), Meegan Hertensteiner
Xochipilli (ballet folklorico), and a headliner performance by REVOSO (flamenco).
Live music will be performed on the Art Moves stage, including event headliner Aranda.
The festival is also slated to include a dance battle with cash prizes for first and second place, Plaza District Executive Director Rachael Leonhart said.