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A glance at Fort Worth's Musicarte on the River

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MusicArte on the River

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Panther Pavilion is poised along the Trinity River in Fort Worth with subtle hills and valleys dressed in Texas green grass. Mature trees, eager to offer shelter from a persistent sun, welcome guests with open arms. The downtown skyline hovers in the background keeping a watchful eye on the Trinity.

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Musicarte on the River, Fort Worth’s annual Hispanic heritage celebration, called this riverside locale home for its 2011 production held Saturday, October 15 and Sunday, October 16. For one weekend the picturesque setting was embellished with the works of local artists, proving that man and nature harmonize beautifully when they collaborate.

While Musicarte offered the standard festival staples, it also offered Fort Worth’s distinct charm. The atmosphere was welcoming, not exclusive. The attitude was laid-back, not pretentious. Patrons filled up on tacos and huge hotdogs while perusing artwork in the mercado. Families sprawled out on the grassy knoll in front of the main stage to take advantage of live music and fresh air.

Josh Weathers & The True Endeavors were playing as I arrived on Saturday afternoon. Their sound can be summed up in one word: Texerrific. The band’s Fort Worth influence permeates through their soulful, bluesy music. Purposeful with substance, not shallow or airy, Josh Weathers & The True Endeavors are now on my iPod’s must-have list.

Grooving to JWTE, I quickly changed into my salsa gear and joined attendees camped out under the trees surrounding the International Dance Pavilion. Grace Forrester and Jim Lemay of Fort Worth Salsa organized the salsa exposition and lesson designed to introduce people to the local dance community. Lemay is a dedicated dancer and a natural teacher who has inspired scores of unsuspecting individuals to discover talents unbeknownst to them.

So dedicated is Lemay that nothing can keep him away from the dance floor, not even surgery. Recovering from a torn rotator cuff, he led the salsa segment holding a microphone in one hand while the other rested in a sling. Manuel Jimenez and Stephanie Boudreau started the show with a social dance demonstration and were followed by a choreography from newlyweds Kane and Melanie Donald of My Salsa Dance Studio. Social dancing is attractive because it’s improvisational. The moves aren’t planned and practiced; they’re impromptu and dictated by the song at hand. Choreographed routines highlight the dance in an entirely different manner. The moves are carefully selected to capitalize on the breaks in the music and showcase intricate turns, dips, lifts and partner work. I was scheduled to perform a choreographed cha-cha-cha with David Herrera of Step’N’Move Studio but extenuating circumstances prevented Herrera’s presence. A further testament to the value of social dancing, Forrester took Kane and me by surprise when she called us to the stage to exhibit an impromptu bachata.

Fort Worth Salsa and My Salsa Dance Studio led the lesson and event-goers of all ages learned the basics of dancing salsa. Their smiling faces made my heart swell with joy and confirmed my theory that the world would be a happier place were salsa more prevalent.

Dallas-based Havana NRG took main stage just in time for the newfound salsa dancers to practice their one, two, three… five, six, sevens. The band is a local favorite and can be found every Friday and Saturday night at Gloria’s Restaurant & Bar in Addison and at special events throughout the American Southwest. Gloria’s is a social mecca that satisfies North Dallas’ need for exclusivity with top-shelf drinks and an enforced dress code. Havana NRG’s live performances are well worth the cover charge; just be sure to consult the venue’s website before stepping out of the house. I happen to know from personal experience that dance sneakers are denied access, even if they are black and paired with black dress pants.

Musicarte on the River offered art, music, food and dance in signature Fort Worth fashion. Catch a glimpse of Saturday’s festival fun with our slideshow and reserve a weekend next October to experience the culture firsthand.

Don’t miss a beat from Ashley Balcazar! Read more about dance in Dallas on the Dallas Bachata Examiner page.

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