We present Diana Prieto from Tierra Viva, a folk dance group from Colombia and Latin America. We had the privilege of having Tierra Viva dancing at the Mercadito de Pachamama on several occasions and we proudly present its organizer to them.
Tell us Diana, how were the beginnings of Tierra Viva?
I started the Project in February 2018. I decided to establish a group where I could dedicate myself to dance. I am from Bogotá, Colombia, where I started dancing folk from an early age. I participated in national and international dance groups with which I had the opportunity to represent Colombian folklore in different countries in Latin America and Europe. Then I moved to Australia, met who is now my husband, and we had my daughters. Then we moved to New Zealand, but something was missing! I always had an artistic need.
Diana's favourite products at Tienda Pachamama are…
I am a Production Engineer. But I always had the need to go back to dance. Then it occurred to me to post on Facebook and invite people to a new group. I got a site to rehearse and I applied for council support. Then I made a regulation for the group, luckily I had some dance costumes that I brought from Colombia and I obtained others from the Colombian association that existed at that time. Basically, that was the way the group started. Then Julián López joined and from then on we have both taken care of the organization. Julián danced in one of the companies where I started in Colombia. He is a fundamental member of the group. He has a lot of experience and trajectory dancing and has a great dedication to promote Colombian culture. The group requires a lot of work so working together as a team makes it easier.
Who are members of Tierra Viva?
The group is made up of people from Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, Peru. We are always ready to receive members of any nationality and artistic level. Everyone is welcome!!
The beauty of the group is that it is not limited to Latinos, but we have people from all over the world who enjoy dance. We have had people from Bangladesh, England, Russia, among others.
Are there any requirements to enter the group?
None of us make a living from dance, it is a group where we are all volunteers and it is very important that people know this. It requires a lot of discipline and love, it is not something that is going to make you a living. People don't need to know how to dance, but they do need to have discipline and commitment to attend rehearsals. This is essential.
What are the challenges you have as a dance company in New Zealand?
Mainly getting the authentic costumes and accessories from each region of Southamerica. Our dances are characteristic of a region and the costumes have details that are very difficult to imitate or have them done here. There are sewing techniques, materials and crafts that are not available here. We can make the designs, but the folk costume is specific to each region. In Colombia, for example, there are people whose profession is to design folk costumes for dances, it is a very specific craft.
Necklaces, earrings, hats are specific to each region. In Colombia we have a hat for each region of the country. Most of the hats, accessories and clothing have been brought from Colombia. Some things have been done here, now with COVID we cannot bring costumes from Colombia. We pay attention to detail and we like our wardrobe looking perfect, authentic and with the original details of each region. I think this is the biggest challenge now, getting the typical costumes for each region and putting together the dance.
Another challenge is getting the commitment of the people who want to belong to the group. As there is no money involved, participation is voluntary. Most of us artists know that it is very difficult to make a living from art. But then we need a serious commitment, it doesn't matter if they don't know how to dance because dance is learned and we have a group where we help each other to learn. But we do need a serious commitment to participate in the trials in a timely manner. You have to put effort and discipline.
If we are going to present a show it has to be professional, so if the group is successful it has to do with the commitment of the group members. Each member before joining the group, receives the group rules where it is clearly explained what the expectations are before joining the group and we ask that they be serious in their commitment. We need group members to be able to come to all rehearsals so we can function as a team.
How do you choose the choreography of the shows?
Since I started the group, one of the objectives was to present a choreography for each region of Colombia. We have a great cultural variety in Colombia! There are many options to choose from!
We have sea, mountains, we stop, cold or warm regions. As there are no seasons in Colombia, you can go from a cold place to a warm one. What I did was choose a choreography from each region, so when a Colombian sees us dance he says, he's from my region! And he can feel identified with us. I like popular dances that reach the heart.
How did the Latino community in New Zealand responded to your performances?
Very well! They have always supported us. What we noticed is that non-Latinos and other communities also highly appreciate and value all the work and effort that we put into each show. We try to make people feel comfortable, identified. We are a very happy and energetic group and I think that is contagious!
How is the dynamics of Tierra Viva?
In the group we try to enjoy the dance and have fun. I think that this is an objective of dance and also that it allows us to see other worlds, other alternatives and a different point of view. Thanks to dance I am a disciplined person. It is not easy, but the fruits are reaped, not only does one become disciplined in dance, but that transcends life.
The group is also like a family, it is a place where you can go back to your place of origin for a little while. Although I started this project, the group is not mine, but belongs to all the members.
The members of the group are very dedicated, dedicated and responsible. The group is all of us, and that feeling of belonging is reflected in the work dynamics. We are very proud of what we have accomplished by working together.
What other events have you participated in?
We have participated in different multicultural events not only here in Auckland, but also in other places within New Zealand such as Hamilton, Tauranga, Invercagil, among others.
One of the last events we participated in 2021 was in a competition organized by the NZ Asian Association, the event is called Viva Eclectica. We performed with the Chinese dance group "Starlight", where we merged the dances of both groups. There were many challenges! The difference between Chinese and Latin American culture was very interesting. The merger had a very genuine process, with a lot of work. We wan the competition! It was very nice to see that the effort, work and commitment of all the members of the group paid off.
In 2020 we got the first place in “The great Auckland Talent expose” It is very nice to see and feel the community support in New Zealand.
How is the group subsidized?
Living in New Zealand is a privilege as they have organizations like Creative Communities that support ethnic groups such as Tierra Viva.
On the other hand, in some of the events we receive donations when we present a show. A large portion of these donations are used to make donations to community members in need. We have helped Latinos with health problems. In addition, for example, during COVID we have sent donations to Colombia in alliance with the Epsilon Collective in Bogotá. This is a foundation that supports families from vulnerable areas.
Another part of the donations goes to pay for the costumes. The wardrobe is very expensive! If anyone wants to make a donation to the group, it is welcome!