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Borinquen Dance Theatre marks 40th anniversary

A local dance company that not only trains young dancers but also provides them with a deeper connection to the Rochester community is celebrating a milestone this weekend.

Borinquen Dance Theatre, which has represented the cultural traditions and origins of Puerto Rico, is holding a 40th anniversary celebration on Saturday.

Borinquen began in 1981, when Nydia Padilla-Rodriguez, the founder of the organization who is also its artistic director, was working with choreographer Garth Fagan who prompted her to offer dance lessons in Rochester.

Borinquen, which Padilla-Rodriguez said is a name that comes from the original name for Puerto Rico, has worked with more than a thousand students over the last four decades.

And Padilla-Rodriguez, who is also a former longtime administrator in the Rochester City School District, said that the instruction the young students get at Borinquen goes beyond dance.

“It’s more about self-development, building their sense of belonging, their self-esteem, believing in themselves, understanding that structure, consistency, discipline, and being part of a program that has so much rigor.” Padilla-Rodriquez noted that experience ”will transfer over to the rest of your life.”

Padilla-Rodriguez pointed with pride to success stories involving her former students including someone who reconnected with her recently, who is now a doctor and offered $1,000 scholarship for Borinquen so someone else can benefit from the kind of training and discipline that the former student got with the dance company. 

Padilla-Rodriguez said that it’s also important to provide a connection for the newer residents of Rochester who have just moved here from Puerto Rico.

“It’s a cultural shock for them…they have a way to connect with the culture and feel like, wow, this is something that I would never have believed existed outside of Puerto Rico,” Padilla-Rodriguez said.

The 40th anniversary is being celebrated in Rochester Saturday night with live performances, dinner and a silent auction. It starts at 6pm at the Harro East Ballroom.

Proceeds from the event will support Borinquen’s mission, “Building the desire to succeed through the discipline of dance.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.