More than 1,000 years ago, gypsy tribes fled the military draft in northern India and migrated. Some traveled through Bulgaria into Transylvania and Hungary, and others went south through Egypt into southern Spain. No matter where they settled, the gypsies’ music and dance remained rooted in the traditions of India.

Gypsies made their annual pilgrimage to Camargue in southern France to Saint Maries de la Mer. Two saints named Mary – Saint Marie Jacobe and Saint Marie Salome – landed on French shores in A.D. 42, and they were accompanied by their Egyptian servant, Sarah, a gypsy. That’s the background for the annual fall performance of the Alborada Spanish Dance Theater in Monroe. The troupe will depict a French gypsy festival, one of the oldest in the world. "The Feast of Sarah" features Spanish, Hungarian, and Balkan gypsy dance and music. It will be presented by the Monroe Township Cultural Arts Commission on Sunday, September 18 at the Monroe Township High School, 1629 Perrineville Road. To celebrate Alborada’s 10th anniversary, a "meet the artists" reception featuring tapas (Spanish finger food) follows the performance.

For last year’s performance Eva Lucena, the company’s executive and artistic director, had invited a troupe of Scottish dancers to illustrate the similarities between Spanish and Celtic cultures. The matinee was rich with color, movement, historical background, and good entertainment. This year she has invited a gypsy dance ensemble from Toronto, the Daughters of Sofia Tribal Dance Company, and the Rom Band, to join her troupe.

Together the two companies will create a gathering at the French feast, with the Alborada dancers portraying an extended Spanish family, and the Toronto dancers representing their cousins from the Balkans.

An opening procession features gypsy violins, a Hungarian cimbalom player, black-clad women carrying long tapers, and singers of Spanish religious songs. Both families break out with spontaneous singing.

Back at the gypsy encampment, around the caravan and camp fire, the celebration continues with the lyrical dances of the Balkans and the energetic Hungarian Czardas. Dancers performing with tambourines and zills (finger cymbals) show that Spanish dance has some roots in Arabia.

An unusual ritualistic dance that honors nature, the Ketri Ketri, fuses the Spanish and Hungarian gypsy styles. Early dances of the Spanish gypsies, featuring the Zambra along with Verdiales, Rumbas and Tangos, will also be performed. Interspersed will be religious songs and dances.

If you think McCarter Theater is the only possible venue for first-class dance events, this is a good opportunity to broaden your horizons. Last year this event attracted more than 700 people.

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