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Hagerstown's multicultural gala a feast for the senses

Hagerstown's multicultural gala a feast for the senses

For a taste of many cultures, the Multicultural Folkloric Gala 2019 is the ticket for you.

This is the fourth year for the event, which features dance groups from Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The groups represent Asia, Europe and Latin America, said Sandra Oblitas, who organized the event.

She extended invitations to a variety of different groups, who were happy for the opportunity to participate.

“They are interested in showing their culture,” Oblitas said.

There will also be dance performances by the Kasandra Cultural Center, a performing dance academy in Hagerstown that showcases Latin American culture through folkloric dance.

Oblitas is the director and choreographer for the dance academy. Last year she expanded the gala to include more diversity in the dance groups, not just Latin American.

“It is three hours of a beautiful show plus a gala dinner. Our gala is not too expensive to enjoy and it’s especially good for kids learning about diversity. We charge just $20,” Oblitas said.

This year’s gala dinner includes food from Pollo Zone in Maugansville, which specializes in Peruvian rotisserie chicken, rice and beans and some Tex-Mex specialties.

A native of Bolivia, Oblitas started dancing when she was six and studied classical ballet, which led to a career as a professional dancer and teacher.

She moved to the United States in 2002 and also teaches classical ballet, Zumba and Aqua Zumba at the Hagerstown YMCA.

Oblitas opened Kasandra Cultural Center in Hagerstown in January 2013 and offers classes in Latin folkloric dance, salsa, merengue, ballroom dance, ballet and more. The center has about 50 students, which includes “baby ballet.”

Dance students perform at the annual gala, which is held at the Baymont Inn Convention Center, formerly the Venice Hotel.

They also perform at different events, such as at the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, D.C. and many local, state and nationwide events throughout the year, “important places to show our culture,” Oblitas said.

“Everywhere we go, we are received well.”

Oblitas said her studio offers classes for youths and adults, who also enjoy the class offerings.

A new classical therapy ballet class for adults starts in October.

Oblitas said when students learn dances from different countries, like Mexico, Bolivia and Peru, they are also taught about the different cultures.

She added that when students wear the costumes of the different countries and perform the ethnic dances, they are representing those countries.

“I feel very happy and proud to work and serve our community sharing our cultures,” Oblitas said.

There are only 300 tickets for this year’s gala, down from 600 last year, when the event was at the larger Hager Hall Conference and Event Center, which has since closed.

Oblitas said they sold tickets at the door last year and had to close the doors when they ran out of food.

With limited tickets, it is best to purchase tickets in advance. The gala’s final dance this year will be a salsa from Colombia.

“We are very, very happy to do this. We have good acceptance in this community,” Oblitas said.

Top photo: Dancers from the Kasandra Cultural Center will perform at the 4th Annual Multicultural Folkloric Gala on Saturday, Aug. 24 at the Baymont Inn, formerly the Venice Hotel, Convention Center. (Submitted photo)

If you go ...

WHAT:  4th Annual Multicultural Folkloric Gala 2019
WHEN:  Saturday, Aug. 24 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
WHERE:  Baymont Inn Convention Center (formerly Venice Hotel), 431 Dual Highway, Hagerstown
COST:  $20; call or text Sandra Oblitas at 240-527-1541 to purchase tickets in advance

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