FYI | Puerto Rican Studio Is a Good Neighbor After Hurricane Hits

What’s up in the dance community

A dance studio that has educated generations of underserved local kids gave its hurricane-distressed neighbors a new kind of leg up last fall.

After Hurricane Maria decimated much of Puerto Rico, Centro Cultural de Bomba y Plena turned its focus from teaching dance and drumming classes to securing and distributing donations of food, water, and other essentials to their neighbors in Villa Palmeras, a hardscrabble San Juan neighborhood. This is where, for more than 40 years, the studio has offered classes in bomba and plena, styles of percussion-driven folkloric music often accompanied by dancers in billowy white dresses. Gladys Cámara runs the center with her father, composer/instructor Modesto Cepeda, whose decades of work passing down the bomba and plena traditions earned him a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.

Before the hurricane, roughly 60 students, ages 3 to 70, attended weekly classes at the studio—among them was San Juan attorney Maru Calderón, who has helped the family handle donations from mainland connections, including former students who have become professional dancers and teachers.

In an area where aid was slow to arrive, Calderón told DSL, “neighbors were saying, ‘Thank you for thinking of us. Thank you for giving us hope.’ ”